Thursday, March 28, 2019

How to make Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup, it's Sweet and Spicy

It's time to harvest Ginger in the Tropics whilst it is at the  peak of freshness in the ground. It is very easy to grow here and last week Mr. HRK dug up enough fresh ginger to fill two buckets. set to work drying it, freezing it, and cooking it up into Stem Ginger in Syrup which ensures that we will have soft and delicious cooked ginger and a sweet ginger flavoured syrup to use in cakes and slices, with other fruits, and in desserts and on ice cream. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Salmon Fillet with a Finger Lime Caviar, Almond, Dill and Caper Sauce

Native Finger limes are in season and when I was given some from our local Farmers market by a very generous friend, I had to use them. Once picked, these Australian indigenous rainforest fruits are quite perishable, and the tree doesn't yield fruit for very long either, so they are a very precious commodity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pickled Roasted Fennel

Fennel is  a very aromatic and versatile vegetable, with a slight aniseed or licorice flavour, lending itself to steaming, grilling, braising, baking, roasting, eating raw, and pickling, just to mention a plethora of culinary uses. In other words it is extremely versatile and also very healthy, a key ingredient to Mediterranean cuisine. The fronds of the fennel are similar to dill, and make a great garnish.

However if you enjoy pickles, chutneys and relishes I know that you will love this recipe for Pickled Roasted Fennel. The flavours are magic, enhanced by roasting the fennel,  and the pickle can be served as an accompaniment to most meals. Believe me, it will be a wonderful standby to have in your refrigerator to add some excitement to any meal you serve, regardless of how simple it may be.  It is surprisingly easy to prepare as well. I use the whole fennel bulb, and although the stalks are a bit tough after roasting, they can be chopped up after baking and put into other dishes such as soups, stews and mince dishes for extra flavour. Just the crunchy bulb and a few of the fronds are best for the pickling process.

After the pickling is finished, I patiently leave mine in the refrigerator for a week or two  before opening to let the flavours really develop.

Unfortunately fennel is a vegetable that is difficult to grow here in the Tropics as just like dill, it develops a kind of white powdery mildew during the warmer weather. However the Baby Fennels are abundant in the supermarkets at present so I am taking advantage of it. I envy you if you live in cooler climates and can grow this amazing vegetable throughout the year. If I can grow some dill and fennel in our garden and harvest it before the warm weather in September begins, I am very happy.


2 small fennel bulbs, about 500g (1lb 2oz) in total (stalks removed)
1 onion
80 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) white wine vinegar
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
110 g (3 3/4 oz) or 1/2 cup caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Let's Pickle:

Preheat the oven to 160 deg C. fan forced or 180 deg. C normal (350 deg.F).
Slice the fennel.  Slice the onion thinly.
Put the vegetables into a baking dish large enough for an even layer of your vegetables.
Drizzle the oil over the vegetables, sprinkle with the fennel seeds and salt, and mix all together with clean hands.
Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the fennel is soft and just starting to brown around the edges. You will need to keep an eye on it depending on the heat of your oven.

Making the brine:

(Next time I will be doubling the recipe as more is best, and this also makes a great gift)
The recipe makes two large sized bottles of pickle.

Make your brine by combining the vinegar, water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and bring the solution to the boil. Remove from the stove.

When the jars are cool enough to handle, put 1 garlic clove, a few peppercorns and 1 bay leaf into the bottom of each jar. Select a pair of small clean tongs to carefully pack the roasted vegetables into the jars.

Cover with the hot brine, making sure the vegetables are completely submerged.

Gently tap each jar to remove any air bubbles on your work surface. Also slide a clean butter knife or even a chopstick around the inside to release any hidden air pockets. When the jars are filled with the vegetables and brine, clean the rims of the jars with paper towelling. and seal immediately.

Leave the jars to cool on the bench top on a cutting board.  Leaving the jars for a week in the refrigerator before opening will improve the flavour.

Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 months. I keep mine in the refrigerator to be on the safe side.

The Bees live on

Buzzzz. By the way, our bees remain very happy and contented in their temporary bird box residence and are working hard. Mr. HRK moved them again on Sunday at dusk. The "bird box hive" is sitting on the new hive which will be their permanent home. They are now facing the same direction as the new hives. When it comes to the actual relocation into their new hive, they will endure some upheaval, so it is important that they are as settled as possible until then. When there is a clear weather forecast for Mackay, a bee expert will come here to help us move the bees, find the Queen bee and make an assessment of what else needs to be done. More about that story in a later post.
p.s. I am also collecting honey recipes as hopefully there will be lots of honey.

Thanks for dropping by,


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Spiced Carrot Hummingbird Cake with Labneh Icing

This is my take on the traditional Hummingbird cake, the main difference being that I have used grated carrot instead of mashed banana. For a start, the Hummingbird cake is made with oil rather than butter, and should contain more fruit than flour. The mixture doesn't need to be beaten just stirred, generally contains spices and nuts, and is delicious with a cream cheese icing. However I have chosen and love Labneh icing for a healthy and delicious alternative. It is my favourite icing at the moment. So dear reader, I hope I haven't committed a huge food mistake by calling this a Hummingbird cake, as I thought just a Spiced Carrot cake didn't do it justice at all. It is a cinch to make and moist and delicious. Living in a hot, humid climate can present challenges with storing softly iced cakes. This one keeps beautifully in the refrigerator in a covered container, and can be baked the day before serving if necessary. If using the Labneh icing, though, and I suggest you do, that will need to be prepared a day before the cake is to be eaten.

 I love a recipe with a good story, so here goes. The Hummingbird's origin is thought to be Jamaica in the late 1960's, hence the bananas and pineapple, and was originally called the "Doctor Bird Cake", which was a nickname for the Jamaican indigenous hummingbird called the Red-billed Streamertail. Not only does this bird have a long beak that probes into flowers, "like a doctor inspecting a patient", but some food historians also said the cake was named after the bird because it was sweet enough to attract hummingbirds, although most cakes probably are.

A Red-billed Streamertail, the national bird of Jamaica
 Back in the 1970's, there are countless references to the cake being judged in baking competitions across Southern America. I read that this cake has stood the test of time, and is still very popular in the United States.  I would love to hear from any American readers if this is still the case.I know it is still a very popular cake here in Australia, as we also love pineapples and bananas and nuts.


500g Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup (60g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp each mixed spice and ground ginger
440g can crushed pineapple, drained
3 eggs at room temperature
3 peeled carrots, finely grated
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (375ml) sunflower oil
1/2 cup (90g) chopped pistachios, and extra to serve
1/2 cup (110g) sultanas


As  part of the preparation for baking the cake, I would do the following things before mixing any ingredients:-

1. Strain the juice from the can of pineapple through a fine colander into a bowl, and leave it until ready to mix the ingredients.
2. Grate the carrot in your food processor, and leave it in a bowl until ready.
3. Chop the pistachios in your food processor, and leave them in a bowl until ready to mix in the ingredients. By using the food processor, but not for long, you will have a nice mix of roughly and finely chopped pistachios. Grating carrots by hand, and chopping pistachios by hand is too laborious for me, especially on a busy day. Also, I don't have a good safety record with graters. 😅 It makes this cake a cinch to make, as it is all mixed by hand.
4. Crack the eggs into a bowl, or take them out of the refrigerator the night before, as early as possible so that they are at room temperature to use. I realise though that if you live in a cool climate you probably don't need to keep your eggs in the frig at all.

Labneh Icing:

One day ahead of serving: Combine the yoghurt and 1/2 tsp. salt flakes in a bowl. Line a fine sieve with muslin or a clean Chux cloth and set over a bowl. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the prepared cloth and fold up the edges to cover the yoghurt. Press down the yoghurt mixture with a plate and chill overnight to drain. The next day, place the labneh in a bowl with icing sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

Labneh before adding the icing sugar and vanilla. At this stage it can be eaten as a cheese.
Making the cake:
Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C. Grease the base and sides of a 20 cm round cake pan and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Into a separate bowl, combine the drained pineapple, eggs, grated carrot, caster sugar, and oil. Add this mix to the sifted flour mixture and stir to combine.

Stir through the pistachios and the sultanas. Pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake the mixture uncovered, for 1 hour, then loosely cover with foil and bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. My cake only took 70 minutes to cook in a fan forced oven. Yours might take longer. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread icing over the cooled cake, then sprinkle with extra pistachios. If you have edible dried rose petals, you could also use those or any edible fresh flowers. This cake lends itself to lots of floral decoration.

As I write this it is teeming with rain outside, the thunder and lightning has relented, so I have just turned on my computer.  Some modern weather forecasters would call it a rain event, but here we just call it a storm.

Thanks for dropping by, it's time for a cuppa and some left over cake.

Best wishes,


(This recipe is based on one from 100 best Delicious recipes.)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Vietnamese Prawn Salad with Queensland Crystal Bay Prawns

Crystal Bay Prawns are farmed near Cardwell in Far North Queensland, and they are what I used in this salad as they looked so fresh and delicious when I was shopping at the supermarket. I know that wild caught prawns are preferable, however farmed prawns ensures a constant and reliable supply for retail outlets. I was in the mood for seafood, as I often am, and with the hot and muggy weather we've been experiencing the idea of not needing to cook was also very appealing. I also didn't feel like rushing around and driving over to the local seafood supplier we often buy from.

Thankfully autumn has now arrived, with frequent rain showers keeping the temperatures cool. 29 degrees today which is perfect. I hope it lasts. Mr. HRK and I ate all of this salad in one sitting. It could be served as an entree for four people, however if serving it as a main for 4 people I would double the quantity of prawns. To my way of thinking, 22 prawns (500g) with salad is not enough for four people to eat for a main course. What do you think?

Fresh Crystal Bay Prawns

2 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs white sugar
2 limes, finely grated rind and juiced (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 long red chilli, finely sliced (2 if you like it really spicy)
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
500g cooked king or tiger prawns, deveined and peeled (approx. 22 prawns depending on size)
1 Lebanese cucumber
60 baby rocket
250g grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 to 1 French shallot, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup finely shredded coriander leaves
2 tbs chopped roasted peanuts or cashews


Combine the fish sauce and sugar in a shallow bowl and stir to dissolve sugar.Add the lime juice, grated lime rind, garlic, chilli and shredded kaffir lime leaves. At this point taste the dressing to see if it is to your taste. You can always add a little more sugar or lime juice if needed.

Add the prawns and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile halve the cucumber length ways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice on an angle.

Combine the rocket, cucumber, tomato, shallot, and coriander on a platter. Add the prawns and drizzle over the marinade. Top with peanuts.

Serve and enjoy.

It's been a really busy couple of weeks. Mr. HRK has moved our bees in their bird box twice now, a metre at a time, so that they don't become stressed and lost. One more move, and we should be able to move them into their new beehives, custom made by Mr. HRK. I'll be writing more about that later with photos.

This is a photo of the bees in their current hive, a bird box which they adopted, after we moved them again last weekend. You can see that the hive is tied to the palm tree now and quite close to the base of the tree. The bees seem very happy and when it rains, they completely cover the honey comb on the outside to protect it. Otherwise they are out foraging all day, and fly in at night.

I was excited this week to discover that my Tillandsia Air Plant is flowering for the first time in 3 years. It is related to the Bromeliaceae family of plants which also flower,  however this purple fragrant flower is beautiful and very hardy.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been mostly writing. It's been busy and I have been loving it. It hasn't left much time for creative cooking though unfortunately. I've been mainly cooking recipes from my HRK blog, tried and true. I promised myself (a New Year's resolution) that this year I would finish the book we are writing about my Great Great Grandfather, a Scottish landscape artist, named Thomas Dudgeon Esq., and his daughter Ellen Stella (Granny), that I started over 5 years ago.  Mr. HRK has been researching my ancestors for 30 years or so now, so I have been organising the mountains of paperwork and writing his story in blog form as a starting point. So my friends, if you have Scottish blood running through your veins, and an artistic bent, or just enjoy Scottish, British or Irish 19th century history you are welcome to take a look at the latest chapter.  Click here for the link.

Thanks for visiting and I hope the week treats you all kindly.

Now it's back to writing on my other blog.