Thursday, 31 October 2019

Fresh and Seasonal Asparagus Quiche Recipe


What a great start to November, some rain and some beautiful fresh produce to enjoy. Fresh seasonal asparagus is the star of this dish.  Asparagus spears cooked whole in a quiche retain a light crunch and give a delicious flavour, a herald to springtime. Does canned asparagus really come from the same vegetable? While it's in season I am embracing the availability and the price of this precious vegetable. The asparagus I used only cost $1.00 per bunch yesterday at the supermarket. Sadly I can't grow it here in North Queensland,  however in the the southern states and in the Northern Hemisphere I imagine the quality and price would be even better. I love a delicious quiche for lunch,  do you?

If you have the time, and love making your own shortcrust pastry I would certainly do that for this quiche, however if you are time poor and asparagus-rich, good quality pastry is available from delis and some independent supermarkets, even though I will admit that I had already bought mine from the supermarket and couldn't waste it. I discovered this recipe when I was watching the vibrant Alice Zaslavsky on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Morning breakfast program last week, when she was featuring a selection of delicious dishes using fresh asparagus. This was one of them.  Alice's original recipe said to use a 20 cm quiche dish, however I found that too small for this recipe when I first made it, but waste not want not. I made a very small quiche minus the pastry using the leftover filling that wouldn't fit in the quiche dish, so I think just a normal size 23 cm quiche dish is more suitable. I suspect this was just a typo, and honestly, Alice would need to be up cooking at 3.00 am on the same day that she appears on Morning Breakfast and looking as "fresh as a daisy", so a typo on her website is very understandable.

If however you would prefer to eat a quiche minus the pastry, no problem, just lightly grease a quiche dish and pour in the eggy filling and add the asparagus spears, and it will still be delicious. I have another favourite classic and easy quiche recipe, no pastry,  that I often make for a quick lunch, which is minus the bacon but has 2 cups of chopped vegetables in it, and I think that chopped fresh asparagus would also be perfect in that one. Here is the recipe for it if you are interested; My Easy Vegetable Quiche recipe

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

1 packet of shop-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed, however home made would be much better
2 bunches asparagus, bottom ends snapped off
1 bunch spring onion, white bottoms finely sliced ( reserve the greens for another recipe)
2 rashers bacon, use streaky if you wish, finely chopped (optional)
50 g butter
1 sprig of dill, finely chopped, not essential but nice if you have it
1/4 bunch of chives, finely chopped
A few good scrapes of fresh nutmeg, or 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg spice
Pinch of sea salt
200 ml double cream
4 whole eggs
100 g grated cheddar cheese, or gruyere for a more up market result
Torn Goats cheese (optional) and chopped herbs to garnish if you are entertaining

Method:

Preheat oven to 220C
  1. In a 22-23cm quiche dish, pat the pastry into each corner, leaving the overhang.
  2. Dock the base with a fork ( Alice says this is just a fancy way of saying "poke") We used to say prick with a fork! How terminology changes. This is a technique used with blind baking, so that the steam can escape preventing the pie crust from puffing up in the oven.
  3. Pop the baking paper on top of the pastry, fill the dish with rice or dried beans or baking weights, and blind-bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your oven timer is on, time flies.


Rice used for blind baking. I keep this in a coffee jar in my pantry and just keep reusing it, but only for blind baking
4. Meanwhile, start on the filling. Saute the spring onion and bacon in the butter, set aside. Whisk the double cream with eggs, sprinkle in chives, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

5. Pull the blind-baked pastry base out of the oven after 20 minutes, remove the baking paper and rice (don't spill the beans), and return the pastry case to the oven for another 10 mins.

6. Once the base has baked through, sprinkle grated cheese, cooked bacon and spring onion, push in the asparagus (either whole, or chopped into rustic pieces) then pour over the cream and egg mix, being careful that it only reaches the edge of your pastry, not over the top of it.

7. Turn the oven down to 150C and then bake the quiche for 35 minutes or until egg mix has set. Test with a skewer that it comes out clean. Mine needed 40 minutes.This depends on the size of your dish really.

The decorative foliage that I have used on my quiche is edible and out of my garden, yellow Tarragon flowers and leaves, and red Pineapple sage flowers which by the way are delicious and very attractive on the bush. I can't grow dill here because of the humidity, and I forgot to buy it so my quiche is dill-less, however it works a treat if you have it. It still tasted amazing without it. With a recipe like this you can make the budget edition, or go all out and be as fancy as you like with cheeses, pastry, herbs etc, they will both taste delicious. Speaking of delicious, and my previous comment about canned asparagus, I can still remember back in the 1980's when we thought a toasted cheese and canned asparagus sandwich was delicious, and was sought after. Can you?

Thanks for dropping by and I would love to hear from you if you have taken the time to read this far.

Best wishes and have a great weekend.

Pauline

Monday, 28 October 2019

Gran's Scottish Shortbread recipe



You can call this Christmas shortbread, Scottish shortbread, Plain shortbread, Delicious shortbread, Granny's shortbread, or Vintage shortbread. What's in a name anyway, because the main thing is that this is a delicious recipe and a cinch to make. If you have plain flour, icing sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in your kitchen cupboards, you can make it. The only obstacle could be the 7 inch or 18 cm diameter tin needed to bake two shortbread circles in, but I will talk about that later.

 I have torrents of Scottish blood running through my veins, so when I made this I thought of all my Scottish ancestors, my dear Mum and also my favourite Great Aunt Eilleen (not on the Scottish side) but a great cook, who always produced delicious shortbread at Christmas time, which is the traditional time in Australia to eat shortbread.These are mouth wateringly good and have the distinctive buttery flavour unique to shortbread.




So this was a practice run for me my friends, as in case you didn't realise, it's only two months until Christmas (sorry) and I always like to introduce at least one  new cooking achievement at Christmas to surprise our family. This will be it. This is a very old recipe, which was given to me by a friend, also called Pauline,  who is a long standing member of my Book Club group. I've only just joined this group and am really enjoying it. Book club Pauline made this for the first book club meeting I attended, and then again at the third one held at her beautiful home, as part of a lovely afternoon tea spread, as it was one of the lady's birthdays. Pauline said that she was given this recipe by her Gran, and it was the first  sweet thing she ever cooked after she was married, and now it is the only biscuit she ever cooks. I feel very privileged to have been given this recipe, so thank you Pauline. 

I am really enjoying the Book Club, and what strikes me as special is that everyone who attends is valued for their individual opinion about the chosen book we have all read, and every comment is treated with interest and respect. It also doesn't matter if you haven't managed to read the whole book, as the conversation is always stimulating and quite intelligent, and afternoon tea is always delicious, a definite plus. The latest book we read was a collection of short stories by Western Australian author Robert Drewe, titled "The True Colour of the Sea". Each story was linked to water in some way. I haven't read a collection of short stories for a long time, but I loved this author's quirky writing style and how he engaged the reader from the first page. Well worth a read.




The only potential problem for me with this recipe was that because it is very old, it requires two x 18cm or (7 inch) shallow cake tins which can't be bought anymore. Perhaps they can be found in the cities where there are more specialist kitchen shops or at garage sales or op shops. I had two of them which were my Mum's but they are now in Cairns in my daughter's house. Cake tins, saucepans and cutlery sets have often been passed down through generations, however the healthy emphasis on decluttering has possibly curbed that tradition. When Mr. HRK got wind of my cake tin dilemma, he sprung into action and was off to the Incredible Tip shop before I could say Jack Robinson, looking for some stainless steel to make two specially designed cake rings, similar to the  egg rings we used to poach eggs in but much larger. Do you remember those? I remember them being difficult to clean. In the end he found what he wanted at Bunnings, of course, and I now have two custom designed aluminium cake rings, 18 cm in diameter, with a lip for easy removal. Perfect for the task in hand. I told him he should patent the design, but he is a very modest handyman.





Both of them fit on my large biscuit tray and they worked a treat for cooking the shortbread. Having said all of that my friends, a shallow 8 inch cake tin would probably work just as well,  as most of them have a  7 inch (18cm) diameter base anyway. With a high sided tin though, it is trickier to remove the shortbread triangles from the tin. The cake rings are both perfectly circular although the photo makes one look a little bent.

I  have a family Scottish tartan which my Mum and her Granny were very proud of, the Royal Stuart tartan. I was pretty excited about it as well,  and then we visited Scotland and it was everywhere in the tourist shops but of course I bought a scarf anyway, which makes a rare appearance in the North Queensland Winter, ha ha, or in these shortbread photos.



Mr. HRK also has a Scottish tartan, the MacGregor clan tartan; his ancestors originated from the unruly MacGregor clan in the Scottish Highlands, the name was even banned at one stage, not nearly as refined as mine ha, ha. I could tell you the very interesting story of how shortbread was really launched  in Scotland by Mary, Queen of Scots, but can be traced back in a variety of forms to the 12th century,  and how it is still traditionally offered to the "first footers" at New Year. However look it up here on Historic UK if you are interested in knowing more. There is plenty written about this iconic Scottish biscuit, and I love the history of foods, but I think we need to cook don't you?




Let's Cook:

Ingredients converted from the original imperial to metric measurement:

3 oz (87 g) sifted icing sugar

6 oz (175 g) softened butter
8 oz (225 g) sifted plain flour
pinch of salt

Equipment:

2 x 18 cm (7 inch diameter) shallow cake tins

Method:

Dust  2 x 18 cm (7 inch) diameter shallow cake tins with plain flour. I dusted my biscuit tray with plain flour, and greased the cake rings.


Heat oven to 140 deg. C


Beat together 3 oz sifted icing sugar or icing mixture, and 6 oz butter until pale and creamy. If the butter is softened, this takes hardly any time at all.




Add a pinch of salt to 8 oz plain flour and sift it.

Fold flour into mixture, about a quarter at a time.




Remove mixture from the bowl and bring together on a floured bench.




Divide into 2 equal portions and press into the cake tins.




 I then rolled it with a small bottle to smooth out the surface.





Mark around the edges by pinching the mixture between thumb and forefinger (not essential if this doesn't make sense).




Take a cocktail fork or skewer and press about a dozen holes into the mixture. Shortbread always looks very attractive and tastes sweeter if sprinkled lightly with caster sugar before popping it in the oven. I omitted that step but I will do it for the Christmas version.

Bake for about 40 minutes (if you like it even crispier/crunchier cook for a bit longer). Mine took 50 minutes and was perfect, but definitely check it after 40 minutes. It should be very slightly browned.

Remove the tins or the biscuit tray onto a wire cooler and immediately cut into 12 triangular pieces as with a pizza.

Allow to cool in the tins.




If you don't have scales that show imperial as well as metric measures, the following is pretty close:

3oz = 87 g   6oz = 175g   8 oz = 225 g

Shortbread continues to be a lovely gift to bake for friends at Christmas time, and wrapped in tartan or  presented in a beautiful biscuit tin, with a tartan ribbon, I think it is still considered to be special holding a certain mystique about it.




Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes,

Pauline



Saturday, 19 October 2019

Hungry for a batch of Hearty Beef Goulash



There was a cool weather change coming through, possibly the last before the onset of summer so I decided to appease my craving for beef and cook a goulash, the process for this one being very similar to cooking a casserole. There aren't many unusual ingredients in this dish, which is a factor I look for now as I keep a good stockpile in my pantry which I hope will serve as the basis of a lot of the things that I cook. Green capsicums, tomato puree and  Blade steak were all I needed to purchase. I had everything else on hand which was great. Winner! This goulash recipe was originally written for 4 people, and I had cooked it for four and loved it, so this time I decided to do some batch cooking. The Hungarian word for goulash is gulyas meaning 'herdsman', and the dish originated in Medieval Hungary. I am taking a lead from this and if serving this to family and friends, a very rustic presentation of this dish is perfectly acceptable.



Thankfully, I have the time now to cook food in large batches. I'm telling you nothing new when I say how expensive it can be to buy and cook healthy food, however it is the only way to go. There are ways around this such as shopping at local farmer's markets whenever possible, and also doubling the quantities in dishes such as stews, casseroles, lasagnes, and goulashes and freezing half of what you have cooked. How many times do you find that a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons out of a can of tomato puree, or coconut milk for example, and then you are left wondering how to use up the rest of the ingredient, or it stays in the Refrigerator unused and ends up being tossed out.  It was easy to increase the quantities to feed 8 people for this recipe,  however it is easily halved to quantities for four people if you wish. I cooked it three days ago, and I have frozen half of it. On a regular basis if I cook more than we need to eat I freeze it in portions for those "no cooking" nights when the kitchen is closed, which we all need occasionally, or eat it during the week as leftovers. A dish like this definitely improves in flavour when it sits for a day or two in the refrigerator before being eaten. It is an economical way to eat and stretch the budget these days. As we head into summer, it will be nice some nights to enjoy the convenience of taking a cooked meal out of the freezer and defrosting it, without having to cook in a hot kitchen. However, I do enjoy a good barbecue as well, don't you?

I love that this recipe uses live Apple Cider Vinegar which is great for our healthy gut, and also tempts the blade steak to braise well and provide a lot of rich flavour. This is such a Dr. Michael Mosley trademark, which you will recognise if you have read any of his books on how to live with a healthy gut. A traditional Hungarian Goulash is a soup and stew combined so there will be more liquid in this casserole than the traditional kind, all the better to mop up with some nice bread I say. Traditionally, flour isn't used to thicken Hungarian stews.

Let's Cook:


Ingredients:

Serves 8


8 tablespoons olive oil
2 large white onions, chopped
4 large carrots, cut into batons
2 large green capsicums, deseeded and sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 kg diced braising steak, I used grass fed blade steak, diced for me by the butcher
2 tablespoons paprika
6 tablespoons tomato puree
6 bay leaves
800 ml organic beef stock, or a bone broth you have made yourself
2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons live (raw) apple cider vinegar

Let's Cook:

Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C.


Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large stove top casserole dish or Scanpan frying pan with a well fitting lid and fry the onions gently for 5-7 minutes. Add the carrots, capsicum and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. I used my Scanpan for this dish.




Dry your meat with some kitchen paper or a chux to avoid excess splattering. Place 2 tablespoons of oil in another pan over a high heat and brown the meat on all sides in batches adding more olive oil as you need it. I cooked the beef in four batches in my favourite cast iron frying pan on a high heat.



I seasoned each browned batch of meat  and added it to the vegetables in my Scanpan, along with the paprika, tomato puree and bay leaves.



Pour the stock or broth into the pan used for browning the meat and stir for a minute or so, scraping the bottom, to incorporate all of the brownings and juices from the meat.



Add the juices to the casserole dish, along with the tomatoes and the vinegar. Bring the goulash to a simmer, then either transfer the  mixture to a large casserole dish for the oven or cover the one you are using, and place it in the middle of the oven for  2 1/2 - 3 hours, taking it out occasionally to give it a stir, and adding more water if it is drying out. My Scanpan was perfect for slow cooking this dish in the oven. It will look like there is a lot of liquid, but trust me it will thicken up beautifully over the cooking time.

Serve your goulash with a bowl of full-fat organic Greek yoghurt or sour cream, a generous serving of green vegetables and a bowl of reheated new potatoes and butter sprinkled with parsley. As we are conscious of our carbohydrate intake now, I often cook potatoes and pasta in advance and let them cool, as reheating previously cooked potatoes increases the amount of healthy resistant starch in them, which is much better for us.  Any condiments such as good quality sauerkraut, pickled cabbage, or pickled fennel could also be served as a vegetable side to compliment Goulash as is customary in Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Poland.

Thanks for dropping by, 

Best wishes,

Pauline








Thursday, 10 October 2019

Aussie Shearers' Pikelets on the Run


Eating freshly cooked pikelets after school, with butter dripping from them, is a fond childhood memory of mine. I made this batch of pikelets and a batch of my Aussie Damper scones early on the morning of Bee day, the day we extracted our first batch of honey from our bees, (my last story on my blog). I was  thinking that we would all need a good morning tea after the work was done, and I was right. I'm always thinking ahead with food.

The honey hadn't been processed for consumption by morning tea time, so we made do with delicious strawberry jam, a gift from Ingrid's wedding, the second wedding we attended in Brisbane. The jam was made from beautiful strawberries  purchased from the Wellington Point Strawberry Farm, Wellington Point, in the Redlands, just outside Brisbane and was made lovingly by Noela, Mother of the Bride. Then the following evening we celebrated our honey haul with our friends P & J, with these pikelets for dessert, and they were delicious and so was the honey. They are versatile little creations, mini pancakes really,  and so easy to make. They are also a very economical treat made from ingredients in most pantries and can be whipped up in minutes.

Everyone needs a good pikelet recipe in their repertoire, a quick solution to the question often asked,
"What can I make for morning tea" ? This recipe is a goodie, however I think it is important to buy good quality Self Raising Flour such as White Wings, or make your own by mixing 2 teaspoons of Baking Powder to 1 cup of Plain flour and sifting it well.. The pikelets need to rise and this magic happens after they are flipped over the first time. I found this recipe in the September edition of the Australian Women's Weekly and their recipes are to be trusted. They called them Shearers' pikelets which appealed to my rustic Aussie side so that is what I have called these, although I was tempted to call them Beekeepers' pikelets as that is what we are.


A fresh batch of Pikelets
I may have mentioned before that my son and his family including our little grandchildren are living in the Falkland Islands for three years, so I am learning to be a Grandmother from a distance.  He is the Agronomist over there and as part of his work day he sometimes finds himself in a shearing shed, so I hope someone provides a nice morning tea like hot pikelets for them all sometimes. I thought of him when I was making these. The shearing sheds over there are a lot colder than the ones here though.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

Makes 28 pikelets

2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
20g butter, melted
butter, to serve





Method:

Sift the SR flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt.

 Whisk the egg, milk and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix well. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes.

Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat and lightly grease with the melted butter.

Drop dessertspoons of the batter into the pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and the base is golden. Turn and cook on the other side until golden.

Spread the pikelets with butter while hot, or serve with strawberry jam and cream for a
Devonshire tea with or without scones.

Below is a batch of Aussie Damper Scones just out of the oven.



Have you ever eaten pikelets before and do you prefer them just with butter or with jam and cream as well? Either way they are delicious.

Warm wishes

Pauline

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Extracting Sweet Honey from our Beehive for the First Time, it's been a buzz.



It's Bee day, and after 10 months of Beekeeping, relocating our beehive and monitoring it's health,  we are ready to rob the hive (in the most gentle way) of it's golden, pure and beneficial honey.

First things first though,  the hive needed to be smoked  to calm down the bees as removing the frames containing the beeswax and honey was going to disturb the hive and upset the bees.


Mr. HRK and his bee buddy Bruce, decked out in protective gear, set to work smoking the hive and assessing the frames to determine which ones were ready for collection of the honey. 


Each frame needed to be inspected individually on both sides to determine whether it should be removed from the hive and used for honey. This frame was full of capped honey cells and could be used. The aim is that a frame should be  at least75% capped before harvesting it for honey. In tropical areas where the humidity is high, it is essential to take only combs which have been fully capped. Whilst we don't have high humidity levels here yet, it is still an important rule to follow.



Throughout this story I will be talking about honeycomb and beeswax. Just to clarify, honeycomb is the structure of hexagonal cells made by the bees mainly of wax (beeswax), which will hold their larvae and store the honey to feed the larvae and themselves, in addition to the pollen they collect. Beeswax is the wax secreted by the bees from which they make the honeycomb. Once the honey is removed from the beeswax by the beekeeper, the wax can then be processed  and used in the manufacture of many products.



Before removing the frames the bees need to be removed from the frame. The simplest method of removing the bees from a frame is to apply smoke, remove the frame and then shake the bees off into the hive.  The remaining bees can be gently brushed off with a special brush. That is what Mr. HRK is doing in the photo above.  After each frame was assessed and Mr. HRK and Bruce decided to use it, they were removed to a separate box and covered with a towel so that the bees wouldn't follow the direction of the frames. Yes the bees will follow their precious honey once it is removed from the hive.




These are closeups of the honeycomb frames removed from the hive.




Extracting the Honey

 After the frames not to be used were placed back in the hive and the hive closed up, four beeswax frames  were taken to Mr. HRKs workshop for some serious scraping down of the frames.



This proved to be the messiest part of the whole process for us. Next time we will use  layers of cardboard on the concrete below to catch the drips and then the cardboard can be placed in the compost heap to complete the recycling process. Live and learn.



This proved to be quite hard work as frames covered in luscious honeycomb are heavy. The bucket collecting the honey and honeycomb was soon moved onto a milk crate so that Mr. HRK wasn't bending down as much and each frame was gently scraped with a special scraper so that only the capped cells were removed. He's trying not to scrape the foundation wax, note the holes oops!





Frames that are scraped this way and put back into the hive with honey still on the foundation are called "stickies" or a sticky. Not to be confused with a nice French dessert wine!!



Our young friend Dylan who lives nearby is supervising the process.


It will take about 3 weeks for the bees to clean these stickies up and start building new comb. The honey left on these stickies is after all the bee's food source so we wouldn't want them to go hungry.


The bucket of honey and beeswax was then covered and placed in the sun to warm it up so that it would be easier to separate and strain. Some of the moisture will also evaporate off.

The beeswax and honey was strained through two colanders, and then through a washed stocking into a large pot. Here's Dylan helping Mr. HRK to strain the honey. What a very helpful assistant he was.

Quite a few adult beekeepers that we have met were exposed to beekeeping in their family at an early age and developed a passion for it.







We now have a pot of  golden and pure honey.

The remaining Beeswax then needed to be rendered. Mr. HRK boiled it in water, to purify it and the beeswax then floated to the top as it cooled.



Below is the circular disc of beeswax waiting to be stored. It will still need to be processed further before it can be used. I am looking forward to using the beeswax in lots of interesting ways. In the photo you can see a dead bee that has been caught up when the honey was being extracted. Throughout this process, unfortunately it is inevitable that a few bees will be stuck in the honey.

 

Removing the frames and then replacing them causes the hive to become quite messy with some comb and honey dripping on the walls of the hive making it difficult for the bees to work in there as they can become stuck to the honey. Bees are very clean, tidy and meticulous about the state of their hive, and for the next few days the workers will be very busy cleaning up the hive so that their mates can get back to work making more honey.

Meanwhile the bees have to wait somewhere for the housework to be completed  so a lot of them are waiting outside until they can enter the hive again. This only really occurs late in the day and during the night, as during the day they are out foraging.

A cluster of bees
They also need lots more moisture than usual now, as they will use it to clean the hive and now there are bees drinking all day from our bird bath. We haven't seen them doing that before, and the weather is also warming up.  It is also quite interesting to observe how they are scaring the birds off from using the bird bath. It is a takeover by the bees. It is so interesting that our regular birds such as the Willy Wagtails, the Blue Faced Honeyeaters, the Friar birds, and Pee Wees who are naturally territorial  are daunted by the bees. Nature is amazing.

Everyone needs a little bit of sunshine and water, our garden does, our birds do and so do our bees.

Bees drinking from the birdbath and not a bird in sight. They prefer water that isn't crystal clear.

This time we harvested 6 kilos of honey from 3 1/2 honeycomb frames. We will now need to check the other frames in a couple of weeks as more may need to be harvested. Meanwhile our family and friends will benefit from a free sample of our honey. Mr. HRK and I think it is amazing honey, and  a consequence of our bees sourcing pollen from a variety of trees and bushes in our local area, as they can travel up to 5 kilometres to feed.

I would love to hear from you if you are reading our bee story and tell me of your bee experiences or even ask questions if you wish. We don't call ourselves experts by any means,  we are just learning as we go and are very fortunate that friends like Bruce and Keith have been very generous with their time and information along the way. Mr. HRK is the real expert but I am learning a lot as I try to write this story and take the photographs. The sharing of information among people who share a common passion makes the world go round. The method used to extract the honey in a tropical region like ours will be different to that used by beekeepers in cooler regions of the country. I have also tried not to use too much technical language about the processes, it will possibly creep into our bee stories along the track.

There is a comments box at the bottom of my blog however if this won't work for you, you can safely email me directly through the email search box on the right hand side panel on this blog. Just scroll down until you see it.

To my blogging friends I am really behind with reading your blogs which I love to do. Hopefully I will get to them soon.

The first story I wrote about our beehive back in July was very popular and can be found here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes

Pauline

Saturday, 5 October 2019

A Tropical Spring Carnival of Flowers, and a Bruce Highway Road Trip through Queensland




A long Queensland road trip mostly along the Bruce Highway, not exactly Route 66 but almost, and two weddings and admittedly we are still catching up on sleep in our own bed, bliss. We drove North from Mackay to Cairns in one hit (735 klms), just stopping for drinks and meals and then back to Mackay two weeks later after our daughter Shannon's fairytale wedding. We were home for four days, refreshed and caught up,  and then headed south for another wedding. 

We drove to Maryborough in one stretch (718 klms) from Mackay, with rest and food breaks of course, and stayed overnight in a motel and as this was something of a budget trip, and no restaurant reviews intended on this trip we dined that night at the Maryborough Returned Services Club (RSL). Mr. HRK loved it. He loves a bargain and good food at the best of times, and the RSL didn't disappoint. Of course it was full of locals playing Trivial Pursuit and Keno I think, but the variety of the dishes in the buffet was impressive and delicious at $12.00 a meal and the fast service a perfect fix for weary travellers like us. Of course there was a la carte available if you wanted a good steak and had the time to wait. Red wine was half the price of normal restaurant prices and then the dessert deal was a coffee and dessert for $5.00. I normally don't eat desserts in these situations now, but I couldn't go past the Lemon Meringue Pie, a large slice and absolutely delicious. No photos sorry.  We had smiles all over our faces when we left. It was good to connect with the Maryborough locals as well. It's a shame that RSL Club restaurants seem to be closing down in a lot of towns now. Given it's popularity in Maryborough, they might still have their place.

Interior of the RSL Club Maryborough
 I have a real soft spot for the Returned Services League. When I was just 21, I entered the Queensland Girl in a Million Quest, the main aim of which was to raise money for those serving in the Defence Forces and the Returned Servicemen from the World Wars and there were still quite a few still alive from World War 1 as well.  I  raised a lot of money by Pub Raffles, Cent Sales, cake stalls (yes even back then) and donations and it was a very worthwhile way of helping the less fortunate families affected by the World Wars. It wasn't really a beauty contest but a very worthwhile cause. I won the regional Rockhampton competition and went to Brisbane for the State Finals which was indeed an honour and was televised, and this experience brought me into contact with lots more returned servicemen when I visited  quite a few of the RSL Retirement Homes. It was a very memorable year, before I moved to Brisbane to work and live. Anyway I digress. Mr. HRK and I drove onto Brisbane (259 klms) from Maryborough for a couple of appointments,  and then up to Toowoomba for an overnight stay with Mr. HRK's sister, only 129 klms.

A glimpse of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers
Back to Brisbane for a beautiful wedding at Northshore Harbour, the same night as Riverfire, and a sail past by a P&O Cruise ship filled with cheering passengers during the pronouncement of the wedding vows was surely a highlight.The next day on Sunday we started the long drive home. An overnight stay in Rockhampton with my brother was a welcome respite and my sister in law Avy, effortlessly created an amazing home cooked meal for us and her visiting grandchildren of baked chicken,  spaghetti bolognaise, baked vegetables and and a delicious salad made with a freshly picked lettuce and beautiful tomatoes from a neighbours garden. She's a chip off the old block when it comes to cooking. My brother and I share a love of all things seafood, thanks to our Mum, and although he didn't have any freshly caught mudcrabs at home and he often does, he had some fresh Crystal Bay prawns from near Cardwell. Early next morning I made us prawn sandwiches, which were delicious for lunch on our way home to Mackay that day. 

For those of you who have no understanding of Queensland distances that totals 3,682  klms we had travelled. Phew, it was great to catch up with so many people, but it's good to be home. I think we might be getting a bit too old for that much road travel, and dear friends are you impressed with how I have managed to weave talk of food into my travels when that wasn't the whole reason for this story.

However what a great way to see our amazing state of Queensland, even though it is so very dry and drought stricken.  I wish more politicians could do such an extensive road trip instead of flying from A to B to really see what is happening in our state.   A lot of people complain about the poor state of the roads along the Bruce Highway,  the main one which connects the south of Queensland to the North, however there seem to be roadworks occurring near every town now which is encouraging. Toowoomba where Mr. HRK grew up, is the driest that he has ever seen it, and yet amazingly their Carnival of Flowers was still spectacular. We came home to our own Spring Tropical Carnival of flowers on a much smaller scale and now I am slowly regaining my gardening mojo. I never really lose my cooking mojo, do you, however it was nice to enjoy some meals cooked by others, and the wedding food was impressive, both in Cairns and Brisbane.

Here are a few photos of my plants and orchids in bloom that we arrived home to and I'll finish with a few from the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.

These are recently planted annuals and petunias

A Desert Rose growing as a bonsai


A delicate Cattleya



These are some of the lovely  Phalaenopsis orchids in flower. If you would like to know the specific names of them, please contact me and I will be happy to tell you.



Below is a soft cane dendrobium that my gardening friend Anne gave me a couple of years ago.This is the first flower it has produced. So delicate.




More photos of my Dendrobium Aggregatum below just because I love it and I now have two that are flowering.




The stunning pink flowers of the Fraser Island creeper. Pretty as a picture.


Below is the tough and resilient Brazilian Walking Iris. It's leaves walk away from the main plant and put down roots for new plants. A great plant for difficult areas, and sloping ones. It is such a pretty flower but they only seem to last a day. This plant is ideal for mass planting if space allows.



Below, this a beautiful soft cane dendrobium flower which is flowering for the first time on our lychee tree. I thought I had lost it as for most of the year they look as if they are dead. But then they rally and an advanced one is a mass of flowers. Glorious. Dendrobiums are happiest growing on trees.


The ever reliant red Hippeastrum bulbs growing in harmony with rosemary.



So my friends there you have it, our very own carnival of flowers in Mackay. Now we will move up a notch to:

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

Whilst we were in Toowoomba, we managed to visit the Carnival of Flowers with Mr. HRK's sister. This floral spectacular is always beautiful, and I am so appreciative of the hours and hours of work which has gone into making this annual event such an important one for Toowoomba, during dreadful drought conditions. I just love the beauty of the mass planting of annuals which can be achieved in a park.



This blue flowered bush was full of Italian bees and if anyone can tell me it's name I would love to know. Perhaps I can grow it in our backyard, our bees would love it.There wasn't a name label for this one that I could see.





Thomas the Tank Engine was a favourite for the young and not so young. Mr. HRK and I had fun taking a make believe ride on it for a photo  for our little grandson.



If you would like to see some more photos of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Nanna Chel from Toowoomba always does a lovely report on them in her blog Going Grey and Slightly Green

Thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes

Pauline