Friday, 24 April 2020

Anzac Biscuits and Anzac Day in isolation


On Anzac Day in Australia, always the 25th of April,  we remember those heroes, the personnel of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,  who have fought to defend Australia's freedom in the past, and also those who are still serving in many capacities to protect our country. This year Anzac Day seems even more poignant than ever as we remember our family members who served in both World War 1 and World War 11, the Vietnamese War, and others, whilst we observe all of the remembrance messages from our lounge room. This morning at 6 am, Mr. HRK and I participated in the RSL (Returned Services League) Light up the Dawn Anzac Day service from our driveway with Locky.


We saw 10 people in our street participating, united in spirit, remembering all those who have served and sacrificed for the lifestyle we enjoy in Australia today.  I am so thankful to be living in this great Southern Land right now. However it is important that we also remember and thank all of the amazing people who are still keeping our country functioning during COVID-19, another war of sorts, especially the health workers in the hospitals including nurses, doctors, allied health workers, the paramedics, and also the teachers who are trying to hold classrooms of confused students together. My son-in-law Daniel is a nurse, and our daughter Shannon is a Speech Pathologist, both of them working in a very large hospital where there have been cases of the virus. Worrying times, and there are so many dedicated people to thank.


This photo is of a batch of Anzac biscuits I baked last year, with a slightly different recipe, however they were still delicious but not quite as crispy if I remember correctly. That recipe is on my blog from back then as well.

Yesterday before Anzac Day, our household was slightly chaotic as the dishwasher decided to stop working, so Mr. HRK, alias Mr. DIY spent a large part of the day on the kitchen floor, exploring every nook and cranny of the dishwasher. In a kitchen like mine where a lot of cooking is done, the dishwasher is an essential piece of equipment and I admit I take it for granted that it will be there to perform and clean up for me. Well this morning, Anzac morning, it still wasn't working. Mr. HRK has finally come to the conclusion that a new part needs to be ordered online, at some expense, although still cheaper than calling out a technician so I did the largest washing up this morning that I have done for a long time. I've given myself permission to avoid any unnecessary baking and cooking whenever possible until the dishwasher is fixed. 

Whilst the dishwasher and Mr. HRK were in disarray, I was focussed on producing a crisp batch of Anzac biscuits, chewy wouldn't do. They had to be crisp. So I was working around him, and thankfully biscuits are one of the quickest and easiest  sweets to bake, all going well, so we both survived the experience. This is my biscuit recipe, and I am putting this on my blog for you my freinds, and for me as if I don't make another batch before next Anzac Day my memory could be a bit fuzzy as to what recipe I actually used. 12 months is a long time. There was a lot of Anzac biscuit baking being done yesterday in Australia according to my friends on Facebook, with lots of  suggestions for the best biscuit floating around and thankfully  my recipe worked very well. Baking Anzac biscuits is just another expression of the importance we place on the commemoration of Anzac Day. My son Matthew who is working and living in the Falkland Islands with his family at present, sent me a photo this morning of the batch of Anzacs he made, which I think were to make him feel as if he is participating in the commemorations. Every year he has always attended the Dawn Service in Australia, and in the Falkland Islands normally the Australians and the New Zealanders would attend the Anzac service at the Cenotaph in Stanley, the capital where he lives. I was so proud of him, he produced a crispy batch and a chewy batch to suit all tastes he said. I suspect the crispy batch were a little burnt, ha, ha, but that is besides the point. They all still looked edible.

 Let's Bake, it's not too late.

Anzac Biscuit ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar, white or brown (I used white castor sugar this time. My friend Robyn used brown, with the same result)
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g (4 oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method:
  • Melt the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and then add the syrup
  • Add the Bicarbonate of soda to the melted butter and syrup. Wait for it to froth up. If it doesn't, you know that the bicarb soda is old and needs replacing
  • Mix the oats, sifted flour, sugar, and coconut together in a large separate bowl
  • Add the frothy syrup and butter mixture to the dry ingredients
  • If the mixture seems to be a bit too wet but it shouldn't be, just add a little extra flour and mix into the dough until it is a good consistency to form into balls
  • Place tablespoon fulls of the biscuit mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper
  • Press down the biscuits slightly with a fork which may need to be dipped in flour, until they are the shape and size that you want
  • Place your  biscuit trays filled with biscuits in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, this will stop the biscuits from spreading on the tray which can happen with Anzac biscuits
  • Bake in a moderate oven, 180 deg. C, for 15 minutes until nicely browned. They will crisp up when they are taken out of the oven to cool. Leave them to cool on the biscuit tray until they firm up. If your oven is a really hot oven though, reduce the temperature,
Makes about 25.

Taking a leaf out of the book of the soldiers and military personnel we are remembering, together we will get through during these difficult times. Stay safe and united everyone.

Best wishes,

Pauline




Monday, 20 April 2020

Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia Bread



I've been busily baking sourdough bread these last few days, and given the empty flour shelves in the supermarkets, I'm not alone, although I would take a guess not everyone is baking with sourdough. Focaccia is a great way to start your bread making journey if you are keen to give it a go, either with instant yeast or with sourdough. It doesn't take as long to proof or rise as loaves of bread, the technique required is pretty simple, and this recipe feeds a lot of people. Focaccia is delicious to eat with cheeses, cured meats, pesto, olives, and all those delicious snacks we enjoy with a glass of wine or a cold drink in our backyards late in the day. No need for bought savoury biscuits.  I'll be honest with you, this was my first attempt at making focaccia and I was really pleased with it.


There are a few tricks to ensuring your sourdough bread dough performs and my friends I learn something every time I bake a loaf of bread. The main thing I learned this time was to choose a baking tin which is deep enough for the dough to rise whilst it is still covered by a damp tea towel, without it rising up to actually come in contact with the tea towel.  Mine was a touch shallow. Some people blame their flour when their bread doesn't rise enough and bake properly. Really flour should last for years unless it is weavil ridden. The yeast or the Sourdough starter needs to be very well prepared and bubbling well before you use it. If you aren't sure, a good tip is to place a teaspoon of your activated starter in a small glass of water, and if it floats to the top it is ready. Two days ago I was feeding my starter who I have named Beryl again, preparing her for a loaf of multigrain bread. Whilst she was bubbling away quietly, I wasn't convinced she was ready. When I did my scientific experiment of placing a teaspoon in a glass of water, it sunk to the bottom straight away. Oops! Obviously she wasn't ready. That evening, after a good feed of flour and water in the morning, I tried my experiment again even though she was bubbling away very well,  and the teaspoon of sourdough stayed afloat until all of the air bubbles were removed. My starter was ready. That night I prepared the ingredients for a loaf of bread and let it proof overnight in a large bowl in my warm laundry, sitting on the hot water system. It works for me. We had a loaf of multigrain bread by 10.30 am next morning. 

This is it. If you would like to make a large loaf of sourdough bread, my recipe is here. Use either wholegrain, wholemeal or rye strong bread  flour according to the recipe.


This was the same morning I had also decided to make Rosemary focaccia. It worked out well as I had two lots of sourdough starter and dough ready to go, I was only making one lot of mess in my kitchen for two lots of bread, and all of the ingredients were out of the cupboard ready to used for both. It was a very economical use of my time, the ingredients and the oven. They both rose pretty much in sync as well which was great.

This is how I made my Rosemary Focaccia. There are also plenty of recipes around for how to make this with instant yeast if you don't have a sourdough starter which will still be delicious. To substitute instant powdered yeast for sourdough starter, replace 100 g of starter with 5-7 grams of instant ;powdered yeast, or 12-15 grams of fresh bakers yeast. I am lucky that we have a large bush of rosemary growing in our yard which I couldn't do without. It seems easy to grow in most places from what I have seen on my travels.

Timing:
Steeping the rosemary: 12 hours
Mixing and kneading: 15 minutes
First rising: 2 hours
Proofing: 1 hour 30 minutes
Baking: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

Makes 1 large focaccia, about 940 g., leftovers can be frozen. It reheats well.
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 30g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 500 g (4 cups) plain flour
  • 330g (1 1/3 cup) lukewarm water 
  • 100 g (scant 1/2 cup) liquid sourdough starter that is very active and bubbling, or substitute 5-7 grams of instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant powdered yeast (which I used) or if you can get it, use 7 g (2 1/2 teaspoons) fresh bakers yeast, in addition to the sourdough starter
  • 10 g (2 teaspoons) salt
  • Sea salt flakes for sprinkling
The night before, remove the leaves from the fresh rosemary sprigs and mix them with the olive oil. Leave them to steep overnight at room temperature.

I kneaded my dough by hand so I will give instructions for using a stand mixer and doing it by hand.

KNEADING IN A STAND MIXER

Put the flour, water, sourdough starter, yeast, and salt in the bowl. Knead with the dough hook for 5 minutes at low speed, then for 10 minutes at high speed. Add the rosemary and the steeping oil around 3 minutes before the end of the kneading time.

KNEADING BY HAND

Put the flour  in a large mixing bowl and make a large well in the centre. Pour in half the water, then add the sourdough starter, yeast, and salt. Mix well, then add the rest of the water and knead until all the flour has been incorporated. Add the rosemary and the steeping oil. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise for 2 hours. Midway through the rise, deflate the dough by folding it in half. By the end of the rising time it will have increased in volume.




Put the dough in a shallow baking pan lined with baking paper. Stretch the dough with your hands to make a flat piece that fills a 40 x 30 cm pan, or 16 x 12-inch pan. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to proof for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Ensure the pan is deep enough for rising.



Place a baking tray on the bottom shelf of your oven and preheat to 230 deg C. (or 450 deg. F.) Use the tips of your fingers to press small holes over the surface of the focaccia. Pour a little oil into the holes and sprinkle with salt flakes.



Just before you put the focaccia in the oven,  pour 1/4 cup or 50 g of water into the baking dish in the bottom of your oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, turn out the focaccia , and leave to cool on a wire rack.


Stay safe and healthy,

Warm wishes

Pauline

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Beef and Eggplant (Aubergine) Fatteh Recipe or Middle Eastern Nachos

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength".
-Marcus Aurelius


The fresh Mint is still to be added

Fatteh is an Arabic word meaning crushed or crumbs, and often refers to a dish consisting of fresh, toasted or stale flatbread covered with other ingredients. Day old homemade pita bread is often used for fatteh recipes. What a clever creation this dish is, a Middle Eastern version of the universal family favourite, Mexican Nachos. If you can grow eggplant, well you are half way there, but either way this is an easy and economical dish to prepare. If you would  like to add even a bit more heat to the meat mixture, why not chop up and throw in one of those largish red capilano chillies, they are quite sweet really. 

This recipe is originally from Nigella Lawson's recipe book "At My Table", which amazingly I don't own although my daughter does, (I gave it to her) and the recipe is a favourite of our friends Mr. P & Mrs. J where we first tasted it. I love watching Nigella Lawson's cooking shows and she has a BBC series called "At My Table" which I haven't seen yet, and I believe she makes this dish for the series. With a lot of  families isolating at home now, and children at home for the forseeable future, and with no restaurants opening anytime soon, we are all looking for easy, economical but tasty meal options. It occurred to me that the time is right for a dish like this. Treat yourself, it's a cinch to make and so tasty. You can also prepare it as part of a larger Middle Eastern style feast for the family, something different, by assembling some other Middle Eastern Dips around it such as Baba Ganoush and Chickpea Hummus, with chopped up vegetables, nuts, olives and  dried biscuits and hey presto you have a party atmosphere. Variety is the spice of life and I think we are all seeking some variety in our lives at present.

If you are lucky enough to have plenty of flour in your house and lots of yoghurt, you can also bake your own pita or flatbread. Jamie Oliver has a good online recipe for this. Mr. HRK and I have made this flatbread before but I don't have any photos to show you. It's a good recipe. 

Other variations to this dish could be to substitute chickpeas or minced lamb for the minced beef.

Ingredients:

For the base:

4 pita breads, approximately 250 g. ( split open, and cut them into triangles resembling nachos)

For the topping:

500 g Greek yoghurt
5  tablespoons tahini, at room temperature
3 tablespoons lemon juice (1-2 lemons) the real stuff, not out of a plastic container
2 cloves minced garlic, after peeling
1-2 tablespoons sea salt flakes, to taste

Eggplant layer:

500g minced beef
3 tablespoons regular olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped ( about 125 g.)
1 large eggplant, cut into small cubes (350 g)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika or Aleppo pepper (plus more for sprinkling)
1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes to taste

To Sprinkle Over:

125 g pomegranate seeds
50 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon finely shredded mint leaves
Paprika

Let's Cook:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 deg. C/180 deg. C Fan Forced. Spread the pita triangles onto a large baking tray and toast for 10-15 minutes, they need to be crisp like nachos triangles. Set them aside for a moment
  2. Beat the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl, and set aside while you cook the eggplant-beef layer. This bowl of yoghurt will later warm up over a saucepan.
  3. Warm up the oil in a  wide, heavy based saucepan (like a Scanpan) and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium low heat for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to low and keep cooking the onion until it is a soft and pale caramel colour. This will take approximately another 4 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up slightly, and throw in the aubergine cubes and mix them well with the onion. Keep stirring these vegetables for about 10 minutes so that they don't burn, and until the eggplant is softened and cooked.
  5. Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each of the paprika or Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes. Over a high heat add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it has lost its red colour. Turn down the heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and all of the ingredients are well combined and smelling wonderful. Take off the heat and cover. (This step with the mince could be precooked to save you time.)
  6. Now for the Tahini-yoghurt sauce.
  7. Pour some just boiled water into a fresh saucepan, enough to come about 3 cm up the sides, and put over a low heat on your stove. Sit the bowl with the tahini yoghurt mixture on top of the pan, and make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Beat well until the yoghurt is just above room temperature with the consistency of lightly whipped cream.
  8. It's time to assemble this creation.
  9. Arrange the crisp pita triangles on a large round plate, about 32 cm in diameter. Top with the beef and eggplant mixture, followed by the yoghurt-tahini sauce. Sprinkle with the paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and lastly decorate with finely shredded fresh mint leaves. 
  10. Eat with your fingers, nachos style however some people might like a fork to gather the last bits and pieces on the plate. It's finger lickin' good.
This is one of those dishes where the whole is greater that the sum of its parts.



Keep safe and healthy,

Warmest wishes,

Pauline

Saturday, 11 April 2020

The Collateral Beauty of the North Queensland Blue Tiger Butterflies in our backyard over Easter



This Easter, the trees are alive with Blue Tiger Butterflies, well our backyard Melaleuca is anyway.
When I saw all of these beautiful butterflies in our quite old but remarkable paperbark tree, I started to see them everywhere throughout our garden, and even when I was out walking with Locky our dog in our neighbourhood. I found myself thinking about the collateral beauty in our lives that we all need to be focusing on now to get us through these difficult times. It just might help.  When we lose someone or something precious to us or just forget about our ego, and the need for commercialism in our lives, we can try to think of the beauty of the things we actually have but sometimes are difficult to actually see. That is the collateral beauty in our lives. 

Mr. HRK took these photos and I thought I would share them with you as this is quite a remarkable butterfly event. For a start, we haven't seen our tree flower like this for a couple of years, which is all out of sync. We have never seen such a migration of this butterfly to this extent before either. After a little bit of research, we discovered the Blue Tiger Butterfly is migrating North to a warmer climate for the Winter. We are obviously in their flight path though as they are settling in, at least whilst our tree is in flower. Breeding is during the warmer months, and is generally timed to coincide with the wet season when new growth on the host vines is available for the caterpillars to eat. Makes sense doesn't it?


 The caterpillars have evaded being eaten by the birds and other predators whilst down south, as the butterflies breed on a plant poisonous to birds but not to them, so the birds leave them alone. The main host plants for this butterfly are the Corky Milk Vine and the Mangrove Milk vine. The sap of the milky vines is toxic and the larvae feed on the toxic plants but are able to store the toxins in their systems making them unpalatable to their predators. Consequently  they often survive for months and are able to migrate to coastal North Queensland en masse. I wonder if they will make it to Cairns.

 Isn't nature amazing?



When I was gazing up at them yesterday, I could also hear a faint buzzing from our bees, which are also enjoying the nectar of the beautiful flowers. There is plenty for everybody however it is much easier to see the butterflies than it is to see the bees amongst all of the foliage. Our beehive isn't far from this tree at all.




Below is a photo of the Orchard Swallow Tail which is also gracing our garden at present. However it is more of a loner than it's tropical neighbour, the Blue Tiger. I suspect though that it's larvae is guilty of demolishing some of the leaves on our citrus tree and more ornamental plants. She is quite beautiful though isn't she?



Thanks for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed reading my amateurish but well meaning attempt to bring you an interesting story from our garden. I am mainly a food and travel writer, but sometimes a nice garden story presses the right buttons as well and I always learn something. I hope you have as well. If you have some extra information to add to this story, I would love to hear it.

I hope you can find the time to enjoy the collateral beauty around you today in these challenging Covid 19 times.

Warmest Easter wishes

Pauline

Friday, 10 April 2020

My Malaysian Fish Dish Recipe




Instead of queuing up for fresh fish and prawns today, and paying a fortune, I cooked this Malaysian Fish Dish curry for dinner tonight for the two of us, and it was delicious, and there are leftovers tomorrow to look forward to. This recipe is a riff on a family recipe I found the other day, handwritten on a piece of paper in one of my Mother's recipe books. I'm pretty sure this is one of the dishes she cooked when there was a party being planned or visitors were coming for dinner. It's a cinch to make, using simple ingredients, yet packed with flavour. 

Exotic herbs and spices were hard to come by when I was living at home, a bit like flour, sugar, and toilet paper are now. Instead of making our own curry powder, Clive of India or Keens worked well, and they still do.  However the other two ingredients which give this recipe it's amazing flavour are the Mango Chutney and the dried ginger. I use my homemade chutney however if you don't have any, a good fruit chutney will do. We are also lucky enough to have fresh ginger growing in our backyard and so the ginger we have dehydrated and ground up ourselves is what I use.

I enhanced the earthy curry flavour by adding a handful of fresh curry leaves. We have a large tree growing in our back yard, and I use the leaves whenever I can when I cook. It is an attractive tree and provides a good privacy screen as well, but it does need to be pruned regularly. If you don't have any growing you can easily leave it out of this recipe, however bunches of curry leaves can generally be found at Farmer's markets, or if you know any families living near by who are from India or Sri Lanka, it is highly likely that they have a curry tree growing in a pot or in their backyard as it is an essential ingredient in Indian home cooking. I realise though that now is not the time to approach people uninvited. I also added some fresh tomato to the original recipe which gives a lovely flavour and some colour to the dish.

 Let's cook:

Ingredients:
Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes

1 tin of Pink or Red Salmon (Pink is much cheaper)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons curry powder
Handful fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered or granulated garlic
1 chopped large fresh tomato
4 tablespoons mango or other fruit chutney
2 cups full cream milk
1 chopped large red fresh chilli for some extra heat (optional)
White pepper and salt to taste
Coriander or garlic chives for garnish (optional)
Serve with rice

Method:

Melt the butter in a pan on the stove, and add the curry leaves and lightly fry for a couple of minutes. Add the flour to the butter to make a roux.
Add the curry powder, mango chutney, and the milk.
Simmer this mixture on a low heat and stir for 3 minutes while it thickens.
Stir in one chopped tomato.
Add the Salmon, Garlic, Ginger, Pepper and Salt and stir together.
Add more milk if necessary until it is the right consistency.
Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Serve with lemon wedges, chopped mild chilli and rice.



During challenging times like this simple home cooking suits the budget and makes mealtimes with the family very enjoyable. 
Happy Easter and enjoy whatever it is you are doing at home. 
Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes,
Pauline

Monday, 6 April 2020

Memories of Peru In My Kitchen

 I thought I would share some of our happy experiences in Peru and Chile with you, as part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Sherry's Pickings. Some photos are from my kitchen, and some are taken in Peru. When we travel we don't take really large suitcases because we have to hump them around ourselves, and we don't buy a lot of gifts for others or mementos for ourselves anymore either as really we don't need a lot of extra stuff anymore. Having said that, a few purchases were made.

This photo is of happy times for us taken at Machu Pichu on a cloudy and wet day, with these amazing cloud shrouded peaks in the background. Of course it's a mistake to think that all there is to Peru is the magical, mysterious Machu Picchu. The Lost City of the Inca is, of course, a standout and never fails to disappoint, but there is more to this land of hidden treasures, and its intriguing people.

We arrived home from our travels to Chile, the Falkland Islands and Peru on 3rd March, 2020, after travelling for 7 weeks. To this very day Mr. HRK and I feel so relieved that we were due to 
fly home from Peru via Chile when we did. When we were travelling we only watched a minimum of British and U.S. television and as far as we were aware at that stage Covid-19 was at pandemic levels in China, with some cases in Great Britain and the U.S. and that Australians were being told to be cautious. On our flights home some people were wearing masks, and as our daughter is a health care worker she was already worried about the Australian situation and encouraged us to wear masks. We went shopping for  masks in Arequipa in Peru but by that stage there were none available. Obviously the population in Peru was on alert by then, but this wasn't being communicated to us. We didn't realise that Covid-19 had the foothold in Peru that it did. The situation escalated very quickly. Thankfully it wasn't peak season for tourists in South America, and most of our tours had a maximum of only four people. Also we missed a couple of tours in our second week because of illness, confined to our hotel room for three days,which in hindsight I look on as possibly a good thing as far as exposure to Covid-19 was concerned. Anyway, on arriving home we self isolated for two weeks, were tested for the virus,  and not a lot has changed for us with all of the restrictions still now in place.


I do like a nice tablecloth and you can't have too many as far as I am concerned. The fabrics and designs in Peru are so colourful and interesting. We bought this one in Pisaq, in a small shop in a laneway off the main street, and after I had gone back a couple of times I bought it for what I thought was a reasonable price however it is so difficult to negotiate when the shopkeeper doesn't speak much English and we don't speak Spanish. We paid 135 sol, which now is approx. $65.00 with the Australian dollar taking a nosedive, it cost less then, but everything is costed for you in American dollars when purchasing so the mental calculation required can be challenging. Anyway I really liked it, and as we were in a hurry because the bus was waiting for us, we bought it and rushed for the bus. Mr. HRK felt we had paid too much for it so his mission then was to find another tablecloth for less, to average out the cost more. Which he did. 

I really liked the pattern, which features the ubiquitous PACHEMAMA. She is the Goddess revered by the indigenous people and is known as the earth mother. In Incan mythology, she is also the fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and presumably causes earthquakes. So this lady has many roles and is represented everywhere. I thought it was appropriate to buy a tablecloth with her symbol embroidered on the cloth and a few Llamas as well.


A brown Llama and an Alpaca. All very photogenic.
Because I couldn't bring a beautiful Llama  home to keep I had to buy one. Llamas are related to the camel and are the oldest domesticated animal in the world.The black Llamas are the most revered in Peru. Llamas have much longer necks and are generally larger than their cousins the Alpacas, which are prized for their wool.
 My very friendly alpaca, and so very cute



A Llama


Tourists feeding the  shaggy Llamas

Their smaller fluffier cousins are the Alpacas, in this photo below. I hope I've got this right about who is who.






This was the very colorful second tablecloth that thrifty Mr. HRK bought at Yucay, from a lady selling them at a table near the restaurant where we had lunch.  He bought this one for 80 Sola or 38 Australian dollars, so that averaged the price out for tablecloths and he walked away very happy with his purchase. All of the vibrant colours are typical of many garments and merchandise on sale in Peru.


I found these  colourful Ceviche Oven mits in a shop near Machu Pichu which are now in my kitchen. I was quite taken with them and they were very reasonably priced I thought. I didn't eat any Ceviche in Peru, but I did in Chile at Valparaiso and it was fresh and delicious with zingy flavours. The Chileans and the Argentinians have constant verbal battles about who makes the best Ceviche. I haven't tried one made in Argentina, but the one I had in Vaparaiso would be very hard to beat.


Mr. HRK bought this vibrant wall hanging for me on the floating islands at Lake Titicaca which was one of the tours I missed due to illness. He was feeling sorry for me for missing the tour so it was a lovely surprise when he arrived back at the hotel in Puno with this.  Pachemama is featured prominently on this one as well. He watched the local women actually weave this one so that was very special for him, as a lot of the work over there is now manufactured commercially on machines. Weaving is the stuff of life for many of the women here, with the traditional patterns holding the keys to the stories of the native people. It's important that tourists learn all about the ancient techniques of weaving first hand, and help to support its preservation.


If you are into fashion, these local Uros ladies on the floating island at Lake Titicaca were dressed up beautifully for the tourists.



In Peru, altitude sickness at 3,500 feet and higher debilitates many tourists, however luckily I had sought out  Prescription tablets from my GP which prevented the more serious side effects but breathlessness when we arrived in Cusco  made some activities  quite difficult. Unfortunately it also affected our appetite, something I wasn't prepared for. On arrival at any of the hotels, the travel guides and hotel staff encouraged us to drink Muna tea or Coca tea to help with altitude sickness. It was okay for the first couple of days and then all I wanted was a nice cup of English breakfast black tea, which wasn't to be found anywhere. When in Peru do as the Peruvians do I suppose but we soon realised that too much of these aromatic teas causes sleepnessness as well, even though they supposedly helped with the altitude sickness. Mr. HRK really liked the tea though and drank them for the whole time we were there. I became a bit tired of it and moved onto Camomile and other herbals after a while.


We were also given very freshly picked aromatic herbal teas as well when on tour, and this one was very nice.



I would have bought one of these mugs if I had seen them for sale.


Potatoes, corn and quinoa are the staple crops grown in Peru. In Chile and Peru, a bowl of roasted corn seasoned with salt was generally placed on our table to nibble on before a meal. This corn is very different to our corn being a larger variety. Peru boasts thousands of different varieties of potatoes that they grow, and have for centuries. Obviously every meal served has potato, quinoa or corn embedded in it somehow. Because quinoa has recently become so popular in western cultures, it has become expensive in South America for the locals to buy as well unless they can grow their own. This is quite sad really, because it was always such a staple for the poor people who are struggling now to afford it. It used to be so plentiful there that they fed the chickens with it.


Travelling to Cusco in Peru through the beautiful sacred valley





Altitude here is 4,335 feet. It's enough to make you breathless.
 If you are into Ruins - We were told this is the highest existing Incan ruin in South America



Back home in my garden, self seeded Birds Eye Chilli bushes were a surprise.



 We have three bushes growing at the moment, all extremely healthy and prolific but all self seeded. I've frozen a lot of the chillis for my future batches of Sweet Chilli Jam and chutneys, as these are the old fashioned variety of chilli not easily found in the supermarkets now. I think the birds must have spread the seeds for these to grow as the birds love them.



Happy days at home to you all.

Best wishes

Pauline