Friday, May 29, 2020

Lemon Tapioca Pearl Pudding with Creme Fraiche Lemon Curd Topping

Tapioca and Sago have the ability to beautifully set a cold pudding without any gelatine, what  winners of grains. I really wanted to call this pudding Lemon Sago pudding as that is what the recipe originally was, and the only thing that has changed is that I had to use tapioca this time as sago is unobtainable at the moment where I live.

Sago and tapioca are distinctly different in their botanical origin but now are used interchangeably. Sago comes from the middle part of the trunk of the sago palm, and tapioca comes from the tuber of cassava or manioc which grows in tropical climates. It's not easy to find sago now in supermarkets,
and  "LION" a Western Australian firm packages "Tapioca pearls" which have captured the business in our supermarkets. "LION" states on the packet that Tapioca and Sago are both starch extracts from plants, Tapioca from the tuber of the cassava plant and Sago from the pith of Sago palm stems. "Tapioca and Sago are traditionally used in both sweet and savoury dishes throughout the world and can often be used interchangeably in recipes". Lemon sago is an old fashioned dessert, which my Mum often cooked for us when we lived at home, however back then I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. Possibly because back then we ate some kind of "healthy" pudding most nights. Sago used to be the main grain commonly used in the kitchen along with rice and barley, before the super grains like quinoa, chia seeds, linseed, and many others erupted on the culinary scene as super grains and became quite trendy. What I have written isn't in any way an advertisement for Lion.I thought that  seeing a photo of the packet might help you to find it at the supermarket near the jellies if you are interested. It was on the bottom shelf  when I was looking.

 Sago was being used in British home cooking during the 18th century when presumably it arrived aboard British ships trading in South East Asia. Old cookery books from this era talk about recipes for sweet sago puddings made from milk, cream, eggs, spices and lemons, all the good things. Mrs. Beeton was a 19th century cookery icon who in her Book of Household Management, 1861, p. 79, described the sago making process:

"In order to procure it, the tree (palm tree) is felled and sawn into pieces. The pith is then taken out, and put in receptacles of cold water, where it is stirred until the flour separates from the filaments, and sinks to the bottom, where it is suffered to remain until the water is poured off, when it is taken out and spread on wicker frames to dry. To give it the round granular form in which we find it comes to this country, it is passed through a colander, then rubbed into balls, and dried."  
During Mrs. Beetons era, the 19th century, Singapore was the centre for sago processing with this industry employing many people.

Lately sago and tapioca have both been used for all kinds of tropical pudding variations using coconut milk and tropical fruits, or red grapes in the Barossa Valley, where they make "rote grutze" as a signature dessert.  I will be into the tropical varieties next Summer when mangoes are back in season, but for now it's citrus season and I have more bush lemons, so I made Lemon Sago, oops Tapioca,  last night and we both loved it. Lemon brings a tangy sour edge to the sweetness of this pudding which tantalizes the taste buds. Any lemons will work for this pudding, but I think the bush lemons have a rather unique lemon flavour if you can get them. Layer it in a serving glass  for a special treat with this creme fraiche lemon curd topping and it is delicious. I used my homemade lemon curd but lemon curd is available for purchase. For my  Lemon curd recipe please click here.

A bowl of lemon tapioca/sago
 Here's the recipe :-

Lemon Tapioca "Sago" Pudding
4 serves

1/2 cup tapioca or sago (100 gr.)
3/4 cup  Raw Sugar ( use caster sugar if you like but I prefer the flavour of the raw sugar)
grated rind of 3 lemons
3 cups of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of golden syrup

Let's Cook:
  1. Wash tapioca (sago); soak for 2 hours in 300 ml of water.  (Don't omit this step, or you will be stirring the mixture for what seems like hours.)
  2. Rinse tapioca.
  3. Combine tapioca, sugar, lemon rind, and water in a saucepan.
  4. Bring to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly over a low to medium heat for 20 mins. or until sago is translucent, soft and thick.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and golden syrup and cool for 30 minutes
This is  nice served in dessert glasses with the creme fraiche lemon topping for a special occasion.

Creme Fraiche Lemon Topping
  4 serves

200 g creme fraiche
4-5 tablespoons lemon curd (depending on your taste and the curd)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint
3 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes
Finely grated lime zest from 1-2 limes
  1. Gently mix the lemon curd into the creme fraiche in a small bowl
  2. Layer the creme fraiche evenly over the surface of each lemon pudding
  3. Top with some freshly shredded mint. Scatter with the coconut flakes and lime zest and serve.
When I cooked this pudding, Mr. HRK who ate much more lemon sago as a child than I did from what he says, so is somewhat of an expert says it is the same as he ate at home, which presumably was the authentic sago. Were Tapioca Pearls even around back then? I am still coming to grips with this sago v tapioca debate my friends so if you can shed any light on the topic I would love to hear from you, and I will keep looking for sago. Whilst this story probably sounds like an ode to sago, I have made this pudding from tapioca pearls and there doesn't seem to be any difference in the final result. It's all in the name. However I would like to know if sago can in fact still be purchased at all. I'm sure packets of it are tucked away on shelves in Indian or Asian supermarkets in the cities, or even health food shops.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you find some beautiful sunshine to enjoy this weekend.


An original recipe by Pauline @ Happy Retirees Kitchen.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Citrus Butter Cake

This cake is a sweet celebration of all citrus in season and a celebration of things starting to return to normal, whatever that is now.  Beautiful orange navels, juicy limes, and tangy lemons found their way into my shopping basket, and the cake I needed to make just had to be a citrus one. With a teaspoon of my homemade lemon curd on the plate and a slice of candied orange, it was such a treat. Mr. HRK called it a citrus fest. A wonderfully fragrant and delicious cake to make, I recommend this one my friends. However, it is so delicious that it could stand alone without the icing, with just a dusting of icing sugar perhaps, and some yoghurt, creme fraiche or cream and a slice of orange.

I made this for our first Mahjong ladies reunion when restrictions were lifted slightly last week. Five people from different houses are now allowed to visit. Hands were washed, sanitiser used, our brains  kicked back into gear, although there's a lot of luck involved with mahjong as well😔,  and it was lovely to catch up again and enjoy a few games of mahjong and have some laughs. It made me realise how much I had missed the company.

250 gram butter, softened, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cup (330 g) caster sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1/2 cup (125ml) orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice

Candied Citrus Slices
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 (240g)medium orange, thinly sliced
1 (75g) medium lime, thinly sliced

Glace icing
2 cups (320g) soft icing sugar
1/4 cup boiling water

Let's Cook:
Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C (140 deg. Fan Forced). Grease a deep 22cm round cake pan, line the base and sides with baking paper.

In a large bowl, beat the softened butter, orange and lemon rind and sugar with an electric mixer  in a large bowl until light and fluffy. I used my Kitchen Aid. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined between additions. Fold in the sifted flours and juices in two batches. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes. Check it after an hour.

Stand the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

Candied Citrus Slices

Meanwhile to make the candied citrus slices, combine the sugar and the water in a large frying pan. Stir over a low heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Add the orange and lime slices and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to very low, simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, turning slices occasionally. Remove from the heat, and cool the slices on a wire rack.

Glace icing

Sift icing sugar into a bowl with boiling water, stir until smooth. You might need to add more sifted icing sugar or water until you get the required consistency.

Drizzle cake with glace icing.

Add the candied citrus slices to the top of the cake just before serving.

This cake recipe is taken from an Australian Women's Weekly online recipe that I found. Where would we be without the Australian Women's Weekly which is published monthly now, I buy it every month and always find lots of interesting stories. This is a magazine that has survived despite difficult times, with the staff changing the way they do things and a lot of them working from home. That is a free promotion from me by the way.
Warm wishes everyone and I hope you all have a lovely weekend. It's cold and wet here today, so it's chicken and vegetable soup bubbling on the stove for us. How about you?

Thanks for dropping by,


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It's World Bee Day and Saving our Bee Hive

Have you heard the Buzz - it's World Bee Day. It's celebrated every year on the 20th May to raise awareness of the importance of bees and what we can do to help towards their preservation. When I heard on the news this morning that it was all about the bees today, I knew I would have to contribute. Having a beehive is taking conservation to the next level.


When we returned from overseas in early March, and thank goodness we came home when we did just before all of the lock downs started, our Italian Honey beehive was full of honey. However, little did we know that from here on we were on another steep learning curve, making us realise how fragile beehives can be. We extracted lots of honey from the hive on Saturday, a big day, and the following day the whole front of the beehive, bottom brood box plus 3 supers above were covered in a black mass of bees from top to bottom. We had never seen so many bees en masse,  thousands of them, and this was the ominous sign that our bees were getting ready to swarm. And they did. The next day the black buzzing population of bees had gone, but there was still some activity obvious around the hive so we remained optimistic.  However within a week we realised that we had probably lost our Queen Bee, the old queen had swarmed with the hive without a new queen produced to keep the hive going. The female bees left in the hive desperately try to produce another queen but because they are unable to fertilise the egg they only produce drones. This is the tell tale sign that the hive is queenless when a lot of drone cells appear in the middle of a frame.  We called in Keith, our friend and local bee expert, and he very calmly worked with Mr. HRK to salvage our hive. He brought a new Queen for us in a small box, with three escorts, (Keith hatches the Queens and sells them to beekeepers), reduced the hive to just the brood box, and to cut a very long story short, we have basically started from scratch again but our beehive is alive. If we had left it much longer, we would have lost our hive.

Freezer full of beehive frames
 We have our second fridge freezer full of beehive frames which will kill off any diseases present due to the weakened state of the hive after the swarming. They will also be used when our beehive is back on track to expand to another super, that is beehive terminology for another beehive box on top of the existing one. The frames will be a food source in the new box for the bees.

It appears that by the time we returned home the bees were hungry, because there had been lots of hot weather and then rain, and being a very large hive they were depending on the supply of honey in the hive to keep them sustained. Perhaps they were planning to swarm anyway, after all they swarmed to our place in the first place and perhaps the Queen had gypsy tendencies, anyway lesson learned. They didn't appreciate us extracting the hive for honey although our friends that we gave lots away to certainly did and it was beautiful honey. Since then Mr. HRK has been monitoring the hive closely, and to supplement their food sources every couple of days he feeds them sugar syrup to give them the energy to fly off in search for food. The sugar syrup is a mix of 2 cups sugar and 2 cups boiling water. He pours this into a ziplock bag and when it is lukewarm, and the sugar dissolved he places it with a couple of holes  prodded in the top of the bag in the top of the hive and the bees feed off that until it is empty which may only take a day. So I have certainly been supporting the local Mackay sugar industry with the amount of sugar I have been buying. We also bought some hive beetle baits from Keith as that is our main concern now that there is evidence of hive beetle in the hive, which eat the bee larvae. But it all appears to be working and the hive is becoming more active each day. I hope this story reinforces for you just how fragile beehives can be and that beekeepers need to be vigilant and constantly monitoring their hives as environmental circumstances are constantly changing. Beehives and the beautiful honey they produce can't be taken for granted. It's a primary industry to be protected.

This is what our beehive looks like now. 

When the hive has grown sufficiently we will add another super or box to the top. Last weekend Mr. HRK's mission was to let more sunshine into the backyard area around the hive. So the day was spent pruning, something that needs to be done regularly in tropical gardens. The Golden Penda tree and the Lychee tree were both given a good haircut. All the foliage was moved to the shredder, so that it could be shredded down to mulch, and then Murphy's Law intervened. The shredder wasn't working, so Mr. HRK pulled it to bits, but with no luck. The pile of tree and plant cuttings is still sitting there as there are no new shredders available for sale anywhere in town. Another consequence of the pandemic.

Did you know, that all of the worker honey bees are female, only live for about 28 days, and do all the work? The male honey bees (also called drones) have no stinger and do not work. All they do is mate but the health of a hive can be judged by the number of drones it has. Did you know that the Honey Bee is the only insect that produces food eaten  by humans? Interesting eh?

Honey bees are so important for the pollination of all our food crops in Australia and the hives have been hit hard recently with drought and bushfires, as I'm sure you know. Native Bees are the backup plan in case Honey Bees become decimated and so they need to be nourished as well. Moths, ants and even butterflies play a role as well with pollination. One positive bonus of the Covid 19 pandemic and isolation is that many more people are gardening and growing their own vegetables and planting fruit trees. Now that we have the beehive, every vegetable plant and flower in our garden is a potential food source for our bees and a celebration although bees are known to fly 5 kilometres in search of food. Butterflies, moths and birds are also beneficiaries. 

The following are some photos of our garden at the moment. I hope you enjoy looking at them.I planted a whole lot of seeds a month or so ago, rather randomly throughout the gardens, not having a lot of faith that the seeds would germinate but I think most of them did. So now we have lots of tomato plants growing from seeds that I dried myself between sheets of paper kitchen towel, pak choy, zucchinis, eggplant, strawberries and some herbs. I have transplanted some to better spots in the garden

Here are a few photos for you.

Red Cherry Tomatoes, I think. This one is doing well in a pot. The rest are in the garden. I noticed it's first little flower this morning.

A few female flowers with small zucchinis attached are now emerging and Mr. HRK plans to give them a hand with pollination to ensure that the small zucchinis don't fall off. 

This one seems happy in a pot
Capsicum growing from seeds I dried

Eggplant which I think must have germinated from seeds in the compost heap. I have seen Italian honey bees in their flowers which is inspiring.

Some kind of bug on the Eggplant flower

This is our leafy patch, mignonette lettuces, beetroot, rocket and other greens.

"Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-Holder" - Some flowers, to brighten up the garden and add to it's diversity.
The Brazilian Red Cloak just coming into flower. This is at least 12 years old, originally from my Mum's garden in Rockhampton.
Cut flowers of the Brazilian Red Cloak I brought inside to enjoy
 If you look carefully you can see a yellow honey eater salivating over my orchids. It was difficult to get a good photo through the kitchen window.

The flower from one of my Cattleya orchids which I brought inside.

Reliable and pretty Pentas flowers that all insects enjoy. We also have a purple one.

Beautiful begonias

Perfumed Chrysanthemum

Old-fashioned Coleus flowers, almost finished and ready to be pruned but adored by bees.

  Beautiful salvia, can you see the Italian honey bee on this one? Loved also by the honey eaters, butterflies, and native bees.

 Happy World Bee Day my friends, enjoy your daily dose of honey, and the vegetables and fruits that Italian Honey and Native bees have probably pollinated just for you.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Bush Lemon Curd, microwave style, and letting the sunshine in.


Lemons are abundant here at present so if you have some growing where you live or are given some I urge you to try making this Lemon Curd. This is my latest batch of Lemon Curd using Bush Lemons made with Jill's very juicy fruit, however any kind of juicy lemon in season can be used.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

Aussie Beef Saltbush Stew in the Slow Cooker

It's been rainy and cold all this week, so I decided to make a comforting and nutritious beef stew. I saw some very nice looking chuck steak at Woolworths supermarket, and so my mind was made up. I added Saltbush flakes which we bought when we were travelling through the centre of Australia a couple of years ago which need using up.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Plum Tarte Tatin: happiness on a plate

Tarte Tatin is an elegant, impressive, and very French special occasion dish. It is somewhat of a French culinary masterpiece, something to aspire to, and only the best butter puff pastry can be used. Having only ever made an Apple Tarte Tatin the traditional way, I wasn't going to contemplate baking another one without plenty of time up my sleeve. This Plum Tarte Tatin is every bit as delicious as any I have tasted. The recipe is easy, and unconventional, and is a cinch to make.

 I first saw it on the amazing Lorraine's Not Quite Nigella blog, which is on my email feed, and didn't put this recipe away to make later, as I often do, as we have a very small window of opportunity here in the North Queensland tropics to buy plums. It seems to have been an even shorter season this year, and whilst I missed out on being able to find the special Queen Garnet plums used in Lorraine's recipe, the black plums which I used cooked up beautifully. Any fruit can be used though for a tarte tatin, apples, strawberries, or any stone fruit. You can find my Apple Tarte Tatin recipe here if you would like to take a look. I get so excited when new things like plums and peaches come into season, don't you?

Let's cook:


1/4 cup golden syrup or treacle (warmed in the microwave for 10 seconds)
500g/1 lb plums, cut in half
2 tablespoons of butter, cut into cubes
1.5 sheets butter puff pastry defrosted, or you could use two sheets and tuck them both in around the plums
Custard or vanilla ice cream to serve

(Just a tip: Use only good quality butter puff pastry for the best result and flavour. It's slightly more expensive, but as Lorraine said on her blog, non butter puff pastry is made using vegetable oil so the flavour just won't be as good. You will need to check the list of ingredients on the box though, as even puff pastry made with vegetable oil is sometimes called butter puff pastry.)
Butter puff pastry thawing out

Let's cook:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Brushing with warmed golden 

Line a 20 cm/8 inch round springform tin on the base with baking paper cut to fit, and spray the sides of the tin with oil spray. Brush the baking paper on the base of your tin with the warmed golden syrup. If you can't cover every little bit don't worry as it will spread during cooking.

Prepare your plums, remove the seeds and discard them, and place the plums cut side up on the golden syrup base

Cutting the plums in half and removing the stone was much easier than I thought it would be and didn't take very long at all. Place the plums together so they are touching. Place cubes of butter on top and then place one sheet of puff pastry on top, curling around the sides to fit the tin.

Place the other half piece of puff pastry in the centre.

Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook. I did this earlier in the day while I had time, and then baked it later so it was hot for dessert. Yum!

I just need to be turned over please.
Place the spring form tin on a baking try to catch any juices and bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then place a large plate over it, preferably the one you are serving it on, and then carefully turn it over so that the pastry is at the bottom. Serve with warm custard or ice cream. Mr. HRK loves custard so we ate ours with custard. We enjoyed the leftovers with cream. It tasted amazing.

If we still had plums available on sale in North Queensland, I would be making this again. The weather has cooled down beautifully here, with a minimum of 12 degrees and a maximum in the low 20s, and the sun is shining. I feel like cooking again, and am feeling so much more productive than during the heat of summer. How are you feeling? I hope you are enjoying your days as well.

Warmest wishes,


Sunday, May 3, 2020

Pesto, Zucchini and Capsicum Lentils for Brunch

Let me share with you the easiest and healthiest lentil and vegetable meal we enjoyed for brunch yesterday. We are mainly cooking just for ourselves now as are most people. Dinner parties are off the agenda until COVID-19 restrictions are totally lifted but that doesn't mean we aren't still cooking and enjoying our food. I am mainly cooking simpler recipes  based on the ingredients I have in my pantry stockpile unless I really feel like a treat. We are partial to a meat free main meal like this one occasionally, which is still simple, nutritious and tasty. I generally have a tin of lentils in my pantry, which combined with some fresh vegetables and pesto made this a very enjoyable meal. However I would have simply cooked up some dried lentils if necessary instead of using a tin. If you occasionally have a meat free Monday, this dish would be perfect, and with more time permitting I might have grilled some chicken to have with it as well.

We have basil growing though out our garden so I always have some homemade basil pesto in the freezer at home. This is my recipe for the basil pesto I used in this recipe, if you would like to make your own. The quality of the pesto is important for this dish, so the more flavoursome pesto the better. However, there are some  delicious pesto brands available at the supermarkets as well.
This is a very simple, colourful, tasty and economical dish to cook when you are in a rush or if you are multitasking as I was.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 yellow or red capsicum, deseeded and cut into roughly 2 cm chunks
1/2 medium zucchini, cut into 2 cm chunks
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 400 g can lentils, any variety, drained
1/2 vegetable stock cube, or 3 tablespoons vegetable stock
2 tablespoons basil pesto, homemade or purchased
20 g Parmesan, finely grated
1 crushed clove garlic (optional)
Fresh basil leaves for garnish and more flavour

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic, capsicum and zucchini for 5 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown, stirring regularly

  • Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened, still stirring constantly

  • Add the drained lentils, crumbled stock cube softened with  2-3 tablespoons water, or ready made stock. Stir in the pesto and season with lots of ground black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the lentils are hot, stirring constantly
  • Remove fry pan from the heat and sprinkle with cheese to serve.
Only 331 calories per serving. This recipe has been modified from one I found in Michael Mosley's Gut book.

I squeezed in making this Lentil and Capsicum dish yesterday whilst I was  cooking up a double batch of Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup. Mr. HRK harvested all of our ginger crop last week along with some turmeric. This is an annual event for us as we grow ginger all year round in one of our gardens, along with  turmeric,  and we needed to harvest it all while it was fresh. So 3 buckets of fresh ginger later, we dehydrated enough for 4 bottles of dried ginger, froze some, and cooked up the rest in a delicious syrup. Here is the link to my Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup recipe if you would like to take a look at it. A couple of small bottles can easily be made from bought ginger by reducing the recipe quantities.

The very aromatic and slightly spicy smell of fresh ginger filled the house as I was cooking this pot of ginger for 2 hours yesterday.

Mr. HRK helped me to fill the jars with the finished product.

Jars waiting to be sterilised.

All done, now I just need to find the right lids to screw on the jars!

Happy cooking,

Warmest wishes,