Monday, November 25, 2019

Ratatouille, Chicken, and Haloumi Traybake

"It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving."
Mother Teresa

This traybake ratatouille is based on a healthy Mediterranean combination of vegetables, and is my go to when I have fresh eggplant and capsicums on hand. I cook it a lot. I've added chicken fillets to the original vegetarian ratatouille recipe here, however just serving the vegetables and haloumi with a grain such as Burghul or brown rice is delicious for dinner. This dish is so versatile and can be served warm or cold, and also makes a simple  packed lunch.   I only ever use eggplant purchased from the farmer's market, or which is gifted to me or grown in our garden, as it should be fresh to avoid the bitterness which develops with age. Of course it can be salted to remove the bitterness if necessary, but that is another step.

I love a  tasty Traybake, so easy if you are cooking for friends or family, and not much cleaning up afterwards.

Let's cook:


Serves 4

3 chicken breast fillets, each one sliced into 3 pieces
225 g haloumi cheese, cut into 8 slices
2 capsicums  ( 1 red and 1 yellow) if you are impressing guests, but two red will work, deseed these and cut into chunks
250 g eggplant ( about 1 medium sized eggplant) cut into chunks
1 medium peeled onion, cut into 12 wedges
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Australian garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced thinly, plus extra to serve
1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Let's cook:

Preheat the oven to 220 deg. C fan forced, or 200 degrees C.

Place the  onion, capsicums and eggplant in a shallow baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Toss everything together with your hands and arrange into a single layer in your baking dish.

Add the sliced chicken fillets (9 pieces)  throughout the vegetables ensuring the chicken is covered with the vegetables. Bake for 25 minutes. Take the dish from the oven, and if needed turn the vegetables and chicken over, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Sometimes I eliminate this step if it looks ready for the next step.

Remove the dish from the oven, carefully stir in the basil, dried oregano, garlic and can of tomatoes.
Arrange the haloumi on top, drizzle with the remaining oil, and season with more ground black pepper and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when the haloumi is hot and lightly browned.

This recipe is adapted from the The Fast 800 Recipe Book which is based on low-carbohydrate Mediterranean style recipes, by Dr. Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison. If you make the vegetarian version of this without the chicken, you can pat yourself on the back that it is only 321 calories.That leaves plenty of room for treats later with Christmas on the horizon. Also different vegetables such as zucchini or cauliflower or broccoli could also be substituted. I'm all for using what I have on hand in a traybake. This is such a versatile recipe and so delicious, and Mr. HRK doesn't even notice that it has eggplant in it. Another of my recipes with eggplant working undercover and absorbing beautiful flavours.

It would also be delicious, served with the Rosemary and Garlic sourdough Cob bread from my last post.

Hope your week is going well and that you enjoy this simple recipe.

Best wishes


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Pull apart Sourdough Bread

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food"

The aroma from a sourdough cob loaf, fresh from the oven can only be improved upon by adding long sprigs of rosemary,  and roasted garlic and butter and reheating it a day later. I had all of the essential ingredients to make this after I had made three loaves of sourdough bread the day before, and the cob loaf had turned out beautifully. I had locally grown Eungella garlic, a large rosemary bush growing in our garden,  a couple of bush lemons in the crisper from a friend's lemon trees, and all of the other ingredients which are staples in my pantry so it was meant to be when I saw this recipe in the monthly edition of the Mindfood magazine. My goodness it is so good to be alive and to be able to enjoy this Mediterranean taste sensation, made from sustainable local produce and simple homemade bread, however a bought artisan cob loaf would still taste great and do the trick.

My bread making day seems to have evolved into Thursday, sometimes fortnightly, which means we have nice fresh bread for the weekend. I hate wasting any of the sourdough, despite what my recipe says,  so often I end up making more bread than we need.This means a loaf goes into the freezer sliced, and I can also play around with making a cob for fun and experimenting. This cob and the subsequent rosemary garlic bread has been a  fun thing to do, with a very tasty result. Beware my friends, breadmaking can become quite a passion.

I adjusted the ingredients in this recipe to suit a single cob,  when catering for my family, however just double the ingredients for two cobs or more if you are entertaining friends. One cob easily feeds 10 people for a dinner party as a side to the main meal.  In my books you can't have too much garlic or rosemary flavour so add a bit more to this if you like it as well. Next time I will add two sprigs of rosemary to each incision, as I have so much of it growing here. However just three sprigs per loaf still infuses the loaf with an amazing flavour.

My sourdough is turning out really well at the moment, thanks to the warmer weather I think, so this version of garlic bread was delicious. I am using my homemade creation of a banneton, the basket used by artisan bakers for making cob loaves. I will invest in a real banneton at some point. However at the moment so that the bread will keep it's shape whilst it is rising, I use a round cane basket, originally a Christmas basket, line it with a thick tea towel dusted with flour, cover it with a clean shower cap to keep in the heat and moisture, and then cover it with another tea towel and rise it in the morning sun. If you haven't seen my rye sourdough recipe, you can find it here.  For a cob loaf, I often replace half of the rye flour with white breadmaking flour so that it is lighter.

Here is my garlic rosemary cob loaf straight out of the oven and heading for the dinner table. Remove the rosemary, place it on a nice serving board, slice it up and enjoy.


1 garlic bulb
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large cob sourdough loaf
75g  butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3-4 long rosemary sprigs
salt for seasoning

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 200 deg C (180 deg fan forced). Place the garlic bulb on a thick sheet of foil, you might need two sheets to prevent leakage.

Drizzle the garlic with the sherry vinegar and oil and then season with salt.

Wrap the foil securely around the garlic, then place on a baking tray and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until garlic is tender. You could bake two garlic cloves to use in something else or just add more to your bread if you love it.

Meanwhile, make three incisions along the top of your cob loaf, being careful not to slice all the way through.  Place your loaf on a lined baking tray.

Wait for your garlic to cool off slightly so as not to burn your fingers, and then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins, into a small bowl.They will just pop out.

Add the butter and lemon zest and mix to combine.

Spread the garlic butter into the incisions in the bread, and press in the rosemary sprigs.

Season pepper and sprinkle some salt flakes or Himalayan salt across the top of the cob.

Increase the oven to 220 deg. C (200 deg C fan forced). Bake your beautiful loaf for 10 minutes, until crisp and golden on the outside and delicious on the inside whilst the aroma permeates your whole house.

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you have a great weekend doing whatever you have planned.

Best wishes


Friday, November 15, 2019

Basque Burnt Cheesecake

This cheesecake is the signature dish of the La Vina restaurant in San Sebastian, located in the northern Basque country of Spain. Whilst most locals know this as the epicurian region of Donostia,  famed for it's pintxos, pronounced "Pinchtoz", a kind of tapas, this cheescake is the signature dish of the La Vina restaurant, located in the narrow alleyways  of the old town of San Sebastian .

Recently a friend of mine holidayed in San Sebastian and ate Burnt Basque cheesecake which she said proudly, tasted just like the one she  makes quite regularly from this recipe in Matt Preston's COOK BOOK of 187 recipes. He says in the book he was given the recipe by the owner of the La Vina restaurant, Santiago Rivera, and after a few tweeks he is happy that this cheesecake tastes just like La Vina's masterpiece, and is unlike any cheescake he's had anywhere else in the world. The surface is glossy dark, and yet inside is creamy and soft. You are allowed to burn it just a little bit. It's a winner my friends.

When I think of beautiful San Sebastian, I think of food of course, as I attended an incredible Basque Cooking Masterclass there five years ago with my daughter Miss S. She is now Mrs. S. It was held by SSF San Sebastian Food in a fully fitted out underground kitchen. Mr. HRK decided to climb hills and take photos instead.  Miss S and I had an amazing time, we loved it,  and were the only two in the class, such fun. I've just found the recipe book from the class again, called the Basque Cooking Masterclass and am feeling inspired to cook another dish from the class in the not too distant future, so stay tuned for that. Here are a couple of photos taken at our Spanish cooking class.

This is the beautiful Miss S. in the foreground doing some preparation with one of our chefs cooking in the background.

The temperature rose in the kitchen when our chef started to flambe prawns in whisky. They were delicious.

Below is an authentic San Sebastian pintxos, named The Gilda, one of the most famous pintxos ever. It appears on every bar in San Sebastian and was named after Rita Hayworth's title character in the 1946 film. The ingredients are Anchovy fillets, green pitted olives, guindilla or pickled green peppers, eaten with toothpicks. We made some of these at the cooking class. Then I made them a few months after we returned from Spain and they were delicious. The Gilda recipe didn't make it to the blog so I should rectify that.

Basque Burnt Cheesecake

So here I have an amazing and very easy authentic Spanish cheesecake recipe for you to try on the weekend, if you feel like spoiling yourself with something soothing and not so sweet. Honestly it doesn't taste too sweet at all and is a cinch to whip up, doesn't need too many ingredients, and has an interesting story attached, don't you think? I love it, and I know you will too.


600 g cream cheese, at room temperature
4 large range free eggs
300 ml double cream
260 g sugar
3/4 tablespoon flour

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 220 deg. C. Line a 23cm springform cake pan with baking paper, ensuring that the paper is at least 3 cm above the tin. The cake will rise like a souffle during cooking.  Don't be too disappointed when it falls, it still looks and tastes great.

Leave the cream cheese out of the refrigerator the night before if you think of it, otherwise just let it lose it's chill so that it mixes up quickly. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of your electric mixer until it is smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one into the cream cheese before adding the next one.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl combine the cream, sugar and flour. When all the eggs have been added to the cream cheese by your mixer, add the cream mixture and beat until your mixture is smooth and lump free. Ensure the cream cheese at the bottom of your mixer bowl is completely mixed in.

Pour the mixture into your lined cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The cake will still be wobbly in the middle but if a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean the cake is ready. However if it is cracking slightly across the surface, it should be cooked.

Now here's the interesting thing. Your cheesecake should have an authentic, glossy brown Basque crust on top looking slightly burnt, but be careful not to let it burn.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool before removing it from the cake pan.

The cake is best eaten on the same day of making it. However the next day after being refrigerated, leftovers still taste amazing.

To serve:

I served the cheescake with chopped strawberries macerated for a few hours in balsamic vinegar. A delicious contrast of flavours. Apologies I have no photos of the finished product with strawberries, I was just keen to get it to the table and forgot about a photo. Next time.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes


Monday, November 11, 2019

Reviving the Prawn Cocktail, drizzled with Marie Rose Sauce

  When done right, a Prawn Cocktail is the perfect starter for Christmas lunch or dinner, Good Friday seafood brunch,  or just anytime. Combining a delicious seafood sauce named Marie Rose with a small salad of crunchy Iceberg or Gem lettuce, might be a bit retro from the 1970's, but it is still one of the most delicious ways to serve freshly cooked prawns, or rock lobster, a perfect Summer starter. On a hot Saturday, when cooking wasn't appealing at all, I revisited this dressed up prawn salad. Whilst it is traditionally served as a first course, it can easily be upgraded to the main event by adding a few more prawns, some fresh oysters if you love them like I do, and a little more salad as your base. I am fortunate to have access at this time of year to delicious locally caught prawns, however it doesn't matter whether the prawns are small or large. I sliced my larger prawns into three for easier eating.

This delicious Marie Rose sauce is the secret to a memorable prawn cocktail. Nigella Lawson says that the Marie Rose sauce originating in England, is the same as the Thousand Island Dressing, however the latter is the condiment spread on the Reuben sandwich, whilst Marie Rose is traditionally served with the Prawn cocktail. It was invented by British cook Fanny Cradock, but who was Marie Rose, I am still searching.

The legendary Margaret Fulton, back in 1968 in her signature Cookbook, suggested serving a seafood cocktail with 2 chilled oysters, and 1/3 cup cooked prawns, drizzled with cocktail sauce. I prefer to eat my oysters separately au naturel with just a squeeze of lemon juice rather than in the cocktail,  and 1/3 cup of prawns just doesn't seem enough anymore, however it depends on how many you are catering for I suppose, and the cost and availability of prawns. I allow 3-4 prawns per person and added four oysters on the side for good measure. Mr. HRK detests oysters, his aversion matches my passion for them, all the more for me I say. So I gave him a couple of extra prawns to compensate.The appealing thing for me about this dish besides it's deliciousness, is that no cooking is involved, the sauce can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, the salad prepared in the morning and the prawns shelled the same day as well. Just assemble, adorn and eat. It's that simple, enjoyed with a nice chilled white wine of course.

Prawn Cocktail:

Serves 4

1/4-1/2 of  a freshly washed crunchy, and chilled Iceberg or Gem lettuce, sliced thinly
1 Lebanese cucumber halved lengthways,  seeds removed, and sliced thinly across
16 prawns
12 fresh oysters if you like them

Marie Rose Seafood Sauce:

This is my recipe for Marie Rose Sauce which I often make well in advance allowing it time to chill and the flavours to infuse.It can also be served in a bowl as a delicious sauce to accompany a seafood platter.

Serves 6 easily


1 cup (300g) whole egg mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Tomato Sauce or Ketchup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (definitely not bottled)
2 teaspoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika


1. Combine the mayonnaise, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and paprika in a small bowl or a decorative mug, if you are serving it on the side for a seafood platter.

2. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill. This sauce recipe will keep covered in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

If it is hot weather, I place my serving glasses in advance in the refrigerator to chill as well.

Assembling your Prawn Cocktail;

Fill your serving dishes 3/4 full with lettuce and sliced cucumber.

Top the lettuce with the chopped prawns, and drizzle over enough sauce to cover the prawns. Sprinkle very lightly with a little more ground paprika.

Add a sliver of lemon to the side of the glass, and a wedge on the plate, and add an edible flower for some extra adornment if you wish. My nasturtiums are in flower so I added one of those to each glass to match the prawns.

Thanks for dropping by and please stay safe away from bushfires if you are an Aussie.

Best wishes,


Saturday, November 9, 2019

In My Kitchen - November 2019

I have been inspired by Sherry at Sherry's Pickings, to join her monthly In My Kitchen blog series, so that I can share some of the activity, excitement, new additions, gifts and general news that are all part of my daily life at home in my kitchen. It has been one of those busy weeks, with a lot happening but no time to write about it until now. I have been sitting on this post since our daughter's wedding, when with a little time up my sleeve after the wedding I went shopping and found some delightful and interesting products, all produced in the Far North Queensland Cairns area. It really is a hive of activity up there with produce from the Atherton Tablelands being used in lots of the cottage industry and commercial products. So some of these products are now in my kitchen,

The Spice Girls, inspired by the singing and dancing kind,  have an amazing variety of herbs and spices to be found on the shelves of the independent suppliers in Cairns and on the Tablelands. Beautifully packaged and reasonably priced I couldn't go past the Sweet Paprika.

The Daintree Spice Co. products make wonderful gifts for friends and south of Cairns their products are hard to find. The Daintree  is a beautiful and peaceful part of the world which brings out the hippie in a lot of people, including me, not that I was ever a real hippie, honestly. I love adding the Lemon Myrtle salt and pepper when I am cooking up a batch of chick peas from scratch and lots of other things as well.

I bought Charley's Chocolate at Jonsson's Farm Market in Cairns, a Market in a building, but only supplying local produce. It can be a bit expensive but the quality and diversity is superior.

I love these fruit vinegars that I found at Jonnson's and a local Cairns butcher's shop. Delicious with strawberries as is a delicious Balsamic Vinegar  when I have it.

No Worries Mate, the packaging sold these lollies to me, what a clever marketing idea, however truthfully the lollies weren't great, not that I'm an expert on lollies. The Espresso Coffee ones were the best. Nice and catchy for the tourists though, and they make great gifts.

I had a lovely surprise a couple of days ago when this wooden shortbread mould arrived in the mail.  It comes from Scots Connection in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and took less than a week to ship. P& J very generously bought it online for me as a surprise after they just happened to visit Mr. HRK and me for morning tea on the day that I baked my first batch of shortbread and I wrote a blog post about it. How very thoughtful of them and now I need to practise using the mold to produce authentic looking Scottish shortbread. No pressure though.

This Garlic Braid was also a gift from a good friend last week as a thank you for hand pollinating her vanilla bean flowers each morning for her over three weeks whilst they were on holidays. She just lives around the corner from us so it certainly wasn't an imposition and we enjoy doing it. It's good to keep our pollinating skills up as I hope our vanilla bean vine decides to flower again one day. The garlic is grown organically up in the cooler mountains of Eungella, inland from Mackay and the braid is cleverly made by the Holistic Pantry. We are always very excited when Eungella garlic appears at our local market.

I lovingly started making sourdough bread again this week and this is one of the loaves made from mostly rye flour. I made two others in loaf tins as well. I was a bit rusty but the bread tastes delicious so now it must be a weekly ritual.

My kitchen isn't complete without one of my orchids to keep my company. This phalaenopsis has been out in flower for a few weeks already.

I could keep writing but it is a very hot day here today, the hottest we have had so it's time to find a cold drink, a cool spot and a good book to read and perhaps a nap. I am thinking of all the poor folk who are affected by bushfires at present and my heart goes out to them.

Stay cool and hydrated my friends and I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes,


Friday, November 1, 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:


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


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.