Monday, December 16, 2019

Homemade Creamy Whole Egg Mayonnaise and a Creamy Blue Cheese Dip

It's the Silly Season and all of the Christmas parties are  happening right now, and this often means taking a plate of nibbles along. I would like to share with you the most delicious dip recipe based on Blue Cheese to make your life easier. This dip can also be made well in advance so will be a perfect addition to your Christmas Day celebrations as well. So instead of taking along a cheese platter, why not take this Blue Vein Cheese dip with crudites, you will be very popular when you do.

At this time of the year, the cost of food goes up at the supermarkets, and I find myself buying extra  food items as Christmas cooking is high on my agenda. This becomes expensive and one of the items  added to many party foods is mayonnaise. Save yourself some money and make this mayo at home and you will know exactly what ingredients are in it. No preservatives at all. It is a cinch to make, it emulsifies in seconds, and is delicious. I made a double batch this time as I know I will be using more of it over Christmas. This is the easiest method for making mayonnaise, and I promise you that once you have done this, you will never spend the money to buy Whole Egg Mayonnaise again.

I used 80 g of my homemade mayo in this Blue Cheese Dip recipe, so I thought I would post both of them together. My trusted friend from Tropigal blog shared these two recipes with me, so thanks Julie.  I am also making my Prawn Cocktails for Christmas Eve, and this mayonnaise will be delicious in  the Rose Marie sauce.

Homemade Mayonnaise Ingredients:

1 egg
1 tablespoon mustard - Wholegrain or Dijon
1 tablespoon acid e.g. Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt to taste
1 cup Light Olive Oil

Put all of the ingredients into a tall receptacle, such as the one that comes with the Stick Blender, or your Easiyo yoghurt container (which is what I use) and blend from the bottom up with your stick blender. It emulsifies in seconds.

N.B. Experiment with oils, but Virgin Olive Oil is too strong.

Store in the refrigerator for as long as needed or as long as it lasts.

Blue Cheese Dip

80 g mayonnaise I used homemade mayo from the recipe above
80 g Blue Cheese, finely chopped if it's a hard cheese
80 g sour cream
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
pinch of salt

Whizz it all up.

This dip tastes even better the longer you chill it before serving.

Life is pretty busy at present before Christmas holidays, so this will be my last blog for a while, I think, unless I find some time and just need to write. I know I will be cooking, that's a given.

Thank you to all my blogging friends, who have taken the time to share their recipes and lives with me and also to those who take the time to read and comment on my blog. Your interest and kind comments make it all worthwhile. It's been a great year, and I've enjoyed your online friendship. Have a wonderful and meaningful Christmas everyone, and I hope 2020 brings you good luck, good health, happiness and rain.

Best wishes


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

It's All about Christmas In My Kitchen

Here in Tropical North Queensland, our verandahs and patios become as much a part of our kitchen and eating area as our inside kitchen does. We spend a lot of time outside in our outdoor kitchen. So I thought as part of my In My Kitchen series for Sherry's Pickings, it was appropriate to showcase my latest orchid which is flowering in my outdoor kitchen. I had moved it to the front garden to hang under our mandarin tree, hoping that aspect would encourage it to flower and it has. However it is a sad part of life that passers by take a fancy to beautiful flowering plants in pots and walk off with them. Fortunately this hasn't actually happened to me but it has to other keen gardeners in our neighbourhood so I'm not taking any risks.. So my beautiful purple Vanda Pachara Delight is now brightening up my outdoor kitchen.

During the last couple of weeks, I have been preparing for Christmas. Christmas cooking has become a tradition for me each year, and most years as a minimum I  prepare a large pot of mango chutney, a large Christmas Fruit cake and a Plum Pudding. My dear Mum used to be the provider of all of these Christmas goodies each year, and whilst I really enjoyed the results, I regrettably couldn't be there to  be involved in the preparation. She also kept chickens, baked bread and preserved her own chutneys and relishes in abundance. However thankfully she handed down her recipes to me, and I have become her I think in some ways, not as good a cook perhaps, but taking on the same simple values. She was a wonderful role model for me, and each year as I spend time in the kitchen, and embrace our Christmas traditions, I think of her, and I also hope that I continue to be a good role model for my children as well. Because I have already shared the recipes for these goodies on my blog, I'll just share a few new photos and the links to the recipes for new readers. I am rushing to meet the deadline so that I can submit this to Sherry's Pickings In My Kitchen series. Heck, I've just realised I have until the 13th December, a reprieve, so that's good at least I've started and have a week to finish this. (Written a few days ago.)

It's mango season and it looks like it will be a good crop. Last week I was out picking green mangoes with a friend for the annual batch of mango chutney.

Here's moi picking mangoes
These are the unripe (very green)  Common mangoes collected sustainably from trees in a nearby park, peeled, ready to be chopped for the chutney.

A pot of Mango Chutney on the outdoor gas burner, simmering away for this year's edition of mango chutney. Here is my Mum's recipe if you would like to give it a try. It is delicious. I made 15 jars from this batch, I haven't labelled the jars yet so a photo of them would be pretty uninteresting.

My Mum says in her Christmas cake recipe if a spoon will stand up in the mixture, it is the right consistency. I love that old fashioned wisdom now. And in this photo, this is her original tablespoon used in all of her cooking, standing up in the mixture.

Here's the cake in her original very large Christmas cake tin,  ready to go into a slow oven. It cooked beautifully and I am still adding a little rum to it occasionally for preservation purposes of course. If you do look at my Christmas Cake recipe, I triple the amount of Rum these days. I think it must have been on ration when these recipes were written, ha, ha. In my recipe post link, I have cooked the mixture in smaller cakes for gifts, however it also works very well in a large square baking tin.

My plum pudding fruit mixture is still soaking in brandy on my kitchen table, with the newly acquired bottle of reasonably priced JP. Cheney French brandy sitting besides it for frequent topping up. I'll let it sit for about four days and then make the mixture and boil it. Here is the original recipe if you would like to take a peek. I have never deviated from this recipe as we all just love it, although this year I am making half the mixture as it will be a small family Christmas, the smallest for a long time.

Then at the end of a long cooking or working day, what could be nicer than a relaxing cup of Lavender Latte for a change. I first saw this promoted on Not Quite Nigella's amazing blog where she made a beautiful lavender, blueberry and lemon cake using this in the ingredients. I haven't made the cake yet even though I was intrigued, but I bought a couple of packets of the latte mix and it will be added to Christmas presents this year. I love Lavender, however we can't grow it well here.

Every year at Christmas we buy a bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream, not the copycat stuff, as this  was a Christmas tradition for Mr. HRK's Dad to buy each year. So we have it already in the kitchen, and we will make a toast to him as we sip a wee glass of Baileys after Christmas lunch and Dinner.

Mr. HRK roasts his own green coffee beans, and this batch are an Ethiopian bean called Yirgacheffe Special Prep. Here they are freshly roasted and waiting to be put in the coffee grinder for our morning cup of coffee. Our Rancilio coffee machine makes a delicious cup of coffee from these beans.

We are not really Coffee Snobs, this is just the name of the Australian company that gives us the best service and we can buy our beans very economically and sustainably through them. The beans arrive in zipped cotton bags, and I am thinking of converting these bags into beeswax wraps. Not pretty but quite frugal, don't you think?

When we need a second cup of coffee during the day we are now making a plunger coffee with our newly purchased plunger. Why buy instant when we can use our own coffee grinds in the plunger?

Yesterday, my day was turned upside down, in a good way really, when we realised that our beehive was ready for another honey extraction. Our local bee expert paid us a professional visit to advise Mr. HRK on a couple of things, and when the hive was opened it was obvious that the bees have been working very hard, despite the dry weather and all of the frames were full of honey comb. So Mr. HRK and I scraped the frames during the morning in the garage, strained the honey throughout the afternoon in the kitchen, and then started bottling last night. The photo below is some of the frames which have been scraped of comb and honey are ready to put back in the hive. Mr. HRK has just put them back in the hive this morning. So my kitchen has been the centre of our cottage industry honey operation since yesterday. We don't have a licence to sell honey as that gets complicated so some of it will be Christmas presents.Thankfully most of the work is now done and I have time to write this. Phew!

This is a tub of beeswax straining through a stocking, waiting to be melted down and purified in the slow cooker.

Next thing,  I need to prepare some sourdough for our next loaf of bread in a couple of days. But first I need a nice cuppa.

Best wishes


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Golden Almond, Pear, Raspberry and Maple Cake

Cakes are healthy too. You just eat a small slice.
- Mary Berry

This is a Matt Preston upside down cake recipe, which I found in his book, 187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular. That would be really nice Matt. I've already made the Burnt creamy cheesecake out of this book, and that made me quite popular at the time, and I think this cake might as well, it's a keeper. I'll be making it again.When I saw the recipe, I felt a cake challenge coming on as it steps outside my comfort zone, with ingredients like almond meal (no flour at all), oat bran,  canned pears, and frozen raspberries or fresh if you can get them. Then I discovered it has also been published online for Delicious magazine, albeit a couple of variations to the original printed recipe which I compared and then came up with this recipe. Once I managed all of that I decided it would perfect to bake for yesterday's afternoon tea and I'm so glad that I did,  as it was my turn to host Tuesday Mahjong.  Gosh it comes around quickly.

Yesterday was the hottest day we have experienced in Mackay for some time. At 36 deg. C and with the Mahjong ladies arriving at 1.00 pm the air conditioning was turned on for the first time and Mahjong was played in our lounge room. There were just four of us yesterday so we played for 3 hours, just stopping for afternoon tea and cake, and everyone won a couple of games  so it was a very enjoyable afternoon. We really moved into the Mahjong zone. Mr. HRK was the perfect barista on duty, and drinking his espresso coffee flat whites adorned with coffee art, and eating cake in the airconditioning was a treat. Do yourself a favour and make this cake, it exceeded my expectations and was delicious. And it was cinch to make. It is half fruit and half cake and the frozen raspberries make it blush unashamedly. I wasn't expecting so much colour. I couldn't find any fresh raspberries in the shops here this week, otherwise I would have served it with fresh raspberries as well and they would have made the photo even more attractive. Never mind, it tasted great.

Let's Cook:


Serves 8-10 but only just as they will want two helpings

100 ml light olive oil, plus extra for greasing the cake tin
2 tablespoons good quality authentic maple syrup
3/4 cup (125 g) brown sugar (or white)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (100 g) almond meal
1/2 cup (75 g) oat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
350g of canned pear pieces, weight of fruit after draining the can (or two large poached pears)
40-60 g frozen raspberries, or fresh if in season ( I used 60 g frozen for this one, hence the blushing colour. 40 would be fine)
creme fraiche, ice cream or mascarpone to serve

Let's Cook:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. fan forced
Lightly grease the sides and the bottom of a cake pan or loaf tin with olive oil or oil spray, approximately 30 cm x 12 cm, and line the sides and bottom with baking paper. (I used my large loaf tin which is these exact measurements that I bake my large loaf of bread in.)

In a large bowl combine the maple syrup, sugar, olive oil, vanilla and eggs.
Stir with a spoon or whisk until well combined.Stir in the salt, almond meal, oat bran, baking powder and cinnamon.

Dice 150 g of pear into small pieces and stir it through the cake batter.

Cut the other 200 g of pear into small wedges and arrange on the bottom of the pan in a row. (This might already be done for you in some brands of canned pear, it was for me.)

Scatter the raspberries into the cake pan and pour the batter on top.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove your cake from the oven and leave it to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a  knife around the inside of the pan.

Place a serving plate or board over the pan, turn it upside down on your bench, and gently remove the pan. Because of the baking paper it will slide out easily.

Remove the baking paper.

Serve the cake warm or cold on its own, or with creme fraiche, mascarpone, or with ice cream if it is for dessert. I thought it tasted really delicious when it had cooled down on the kitchen bench with creme fraiche. Even plain Greek yoghurt as a healthier alternative would be delicious served with it.

To my blogging readers, keep cool in the Southern Hemisphere, and warm and dry in the Northern Hemisphere.

Warm wishes


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Making our Beeswax Wraps the Easy Way

Life is the flower for which Love is the Honey:-
Victor Hugo

Our beehive and bees are doing well although Mr. HRK feels it might be ready for a new Queen quite soon. As the hive swarmed to our backyard sometime over the last Christmas period, and we don't know how old the Queen was then, we are calling in a professional beekeeper next week to give us advice. Meanwhile we have harvested two lots of honey, which is a lovely flavour and a nice colour, all of the first batch and some of the second has been gifted to friends and family, and we have made two lots of beeswax from the honeycomb. We have just made a small batch of beeswax wraps as a starter and we're researching the best way to make beeswax candles. Making and using beeswax wraps is just one way I can reduce the amount of plastic usage in our home and change the footprint that we leave on this earth. If you would like to catch up on how we moved our beehive and extracted the honey, my previous stories about this can be found at these links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

This is the story about our first attempt at making beeswax wraps, and overall we are happy with them. They wrap well, wash well, cling well to whatever they are wrapping, and firm up nicely in the refrigerator without cracking. However I feel there is still room for improvement in our tropical climate, as when folded and stored in a drawer they become  just a little bit sticky. If they are left to hang up with the air circulating around them they are not as sticky. Perhaps I need to store them in the refrigerator, I am open to advice on this my friends if you have made some already. I was inspired by the story that I read on Going Grey and Slightly Green, where Nanna Chel the talented blog author, attended a Beeswax Wrap making demo in Toowoomba, Queensland as part of a War on Waste workshop.  I have basically used the same recipe that the workshop presenter Suanne from Green Dandelion in Toowoomba  presented at their workshop.

However  Suanne said that achieving the perfect beeswax wrap consistency can be tricky. You are telling me Suanne. The wax coating needs just the right amount of stickiness to grip, and just the right amount of flex so that it does not crack when moulded. She also emphasised that the type of beeswax you use can make a difference.  Our remaining Beeswax after extracting all of the honey needed to be rendered. Mr. HRK boiled it in water to purify it, and the beeswax then floated to the top as it cooled. I think our beeswax is very good quality, with no additives at all, as Mr. HRK boiled it down beautifully, in water, and it came out looking pure and golden. It also brought a lovely, slightly sweet and gentle aroma to the house, very similar to a beeswax candle burning.

Rendering our Beeswax
Below is the circular disc of beeswax after rendering waiting to be stored. It will still need to be processed further before it can be used. 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.

The only ingredient I needed to purchase to make the wraps was the Pine Rosin which is the ingredient which helps the wraps to stick and wrap better which after all is what they are meant to do. After some research, I purchased my Pine rosin online from Ballina Honey in New South Wales. I bought 400g of Gum Rosin Powder (Colophony, Pine Resin), for $26.00 plus $4.00 postage, from Ballina Honey, and it arrived within the week packaged in a brown paper bag (no plastic), in a sealed envelope. However if you want to give making beeswax wraps a try, I believe that premixed bottles of beeswax, coconut oil, and resin are available for sale at the Green Dandelion in Toowoomba, Queensland,  and no doubt at other places all over the world.

Firstly I bought some good quality cotton fabric (synthetic doesn't work) at Spotlight and washed it. Then we cut the fabric into squares using pinking shears to reduce frayed edges. In addition you will need a medium sized glass mason jar, Beeswax, coconut oil or you can use olive oil, avocado, argan or jojoba oil and the Pine Rosin. We used a solid glass Mason jar in a saucepan, and a small unused paint brush,  and double boiled the ingredients to mix and melt the ingredients together. Now there are several ways to make the wraps. You can do it in your kitchen oven at 150 deg. heat on a paper lined baking tray. Pour some of the melted beeswax onto the fabric and using a silicon brush or the back of a dessert spoon, spread the wax over the fabric. It doesn't need to be even as the oven will do the rest of the work for you.
My friends, the normal kitchen oven method isn't the method we used, oh no no no, not us,  as Mr. HRK wanted to be involved and suggested we process the fabric and beeswax in the barbecue outside on our patio. Part of the rationale behind this was to remove any risk of making a mess in our kitchen which I saw as valid, being our first attempt and the whole thing a bit of an unknown. So we melted the beeswax ingredients in a glass mason jar in a saucepan of water on the gas burner right next to our Barbecue, and brushed the beeswax onto the fabric on a large piece of granite leftover from our kitchen renovations. Hows that for innovation and further recycling eh? The thing is that all cottage industries, and projects completed at home can be changed to suit the people and layout involved. So here's how it went.

Tools laid out and prepared by Mr. HRK.

Beeswax recipe for making Beeswax wraps:

There are various ways to measure out the ingredients needed:

The Basic Ratio is 1 part Pine Rosin (2 heaped tablespoons)  to 4 parts Beeswax (8 Tablespoons) if you melt the beeswax first. Then add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil ( or you can use Argan Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado or Jojoba), This is enough to make quite a few wraps, depending on the sizes you prefer.
If you want to start small and test if it works for you, the following is exacting and is enough to cover one piece of fabric measuring 25 cm x 25 cm. Just increase the amounts for the amount of fabric you wish to use:
  • 17 g beeswax
  • 5 g Pine rosin
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the marble in the barbecue to about 150 degrees.

We placed the Pine Rosin, the Beeswax, and coconut oil in a mason jar in a saucepan of water and waited for it to melt. When melted, we turned off the gas, but left the jar in the saucepan so that it would stay liquid.

Meanwhile fabric was measured and cut by Mr. HRK with my orange dressmaking pinking shears.

Place fabric on the preheated piece of granite, and when the beeswax has completely melted, use a spoon and drizzle the mixture evenly over the fabric. Then using the paint brush or basting brush, spread the mixture quite thick and evenly over the fabric, including the edges and corners. If you put too much on, it will just stay on the granite after the wrap is removed and soak into the next one.

Leave the wrap on the granite or in the oven if you are using for about 2 minutes to reheat.This will also melt out any bumps or clumps. Remove wrap from the warm granite or oven tray and hang up to let set and to dry.

Here's our first Beeswax wrap hanging up to dry on a wire hanger on our patio. Looking good.

Another beeswax wrap featuring bees is finished.

Just continue with this process until all of the beeswax is used or you can store it with the lid on for later.

It's a wrap, and covering a bowl as it is meant to do, instead of Glad Wrap.

A few tips for using them:

To use beeswax wraps,  wrap up cut up fruit and vegetables, lunches including sandwiches and bread rolls, and use them to cover your plates and bowls.
To wash them, use a mild detergent in cool water. Pat them dry with a clean tea towel and dry them in the fresh air.
These aren't suitable for the dishwasher, the microwave, or the washing machine.
Better not to use them for covering raw meat.
Keep them out of direct sunlight, such as on the washing line.

Using Beeswax wraps is a different concept to what we have been used to with plastic. This is our first attempt at this and went well considering. I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips or tricks or experiences with them, and we are keen to make some more. If I am making the next lot on my own without Mr. HRK's help, I might try making them using the oven method.

When you have enough of these for your household use, they can also be incorporated into a gift and used as wrapping paper.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes