Monday, September 28, 2020

Impromptu Spring Chicken, Tomato and Eggplant Traybake Surprise

 It was one of those rare days on the weekend when I hadn't planned what we were having for dinner. It was a beautiful Spring day, perfect for gardening, and that's what we did in the morning and the late afternoon until the sun was setting and it was Sundowner time. When I stepped into the kitchen, I knew I had 6 chicken thighs in the frig which needed cooking but beyond that I hadn't organised any specific ingredients to be on hand for cooking. Not like me at all. Does that sound familiar? I love a tasty traybake, and that is what I cooked in the end using ingredients on hand from the garden and the pantry and the frig.  So here it is my foodie friends, my impromptu Spring traybake and it was delicious. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Tarte aux Fraises (Classic French Strawberry tart)

Spring is here, and the good news is that the strawberries are still sweet, unless you buy them from the supermarket. This traditional French dessert combines a buttery almond pastry crust, with juicy ripe strawberries and a parade of other seasonal fruits. Traditionally this tart is decorated just with strawberries, but with the bounty of other fresh fruits on hand at the moment, I decided to combine them with blueberries, mandarin segments, and kiwi fruit.

This is a no fuss tart that I have brushed with an apricot jam glaze on all of the fruits. Apricot jam is commonly used to glaze fruit tarts in France,  and this is what I used, as after baking my Apricot Almond Cake for Fathers' Day, I still have a lot of Apricot Jam left over. However other fruit based jams work just as well for glazing, such as peach jam, strawberry jam etc. I've also included a more traditional glaze recipe using potato flour and redcurrant jelly if you would like to try that. However they are not items that I keep on hand so I didn't try that glaze.

 I fondly remember when we were in France, every boulangerie (bakery) had display cabinets full of enticing and colourful fruit tarts. Well we can't travel there now unfortunately, but we can eat their famous tarts. Instead of using the traditional "creme patissiere" in my Tarte, I have used a French Chantilly style whipped cream, with swirls of homemade lemon curd laced through it. However the lemon curd is optional, and the tart will still taste great without it.  I think lemon curd could be the secret ingredient though. The beauty of this confection is that you can prepare it a couple of hours ahead of serving, it will stay in tact for a few hours in the refrigerator,  yes I tested this out, or wait to assemble it at the last moment. My friends I'd suggest the former as honestly who wants to be assembling a tart like this while your family or guests are waiting for dessert, not the French or moi that's for sure. 

This tart serves 10 generously so there can be plenty of leftovers if you are making this for fewer people. It tastes great the next day as well. It might look complicated to make this dessert, and to be honest I felt a bit challenged by it, but it turned out to be much simpler than I thought. At the back of my mind I was thinking of contingencies for a dessert replacement in case it didn't work out. Thankfully it came together beautifully so no contingency plan needed. 

Anyway let's cook.


Use a flat Willow pizza tray, 28 cm across for these ingredients. Or for a 23cm tray use 1/3 less ingredients. Line with Glad Bake. The only round pizza trays that I own now have holes in the base so I lined the tray first with alfoil and then covered the alfoil with baking parchment. It worked well. I then very carefully transferred the cooked and chilled pastry base to a serving plate for decorating.

Pastry Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
120 g softened butter
2 tablespoons icing sugar
60 g slivered almonds


Mix butter and icing sugar together. Add the flour.

Mix into a paste.

Refrigerate the dough overnight. Allow the dough to soften the next day (you should be able to push your thumb through the mixture.) Or you could make the pastry and chill it for 30 minutes before using.

Press into the tray lined with Glad Bake, and flatten to the edges.
Press the slivered almonds into the surface of the dough,

Place into a medium oven, 180 deg. F for 10-15 minutes until cooked.

Allow to cool on the bench until ready to use or refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

Chantilly Cream Topping with Lemon Curd:

Mix together  3/4 cup whipped cream, including 2 tablespoon caster sugar or less, and a few drops of vanilla essence. Mix 3 tablespoons of homemade lemon curd through the whipped cream.

Spread onto tart base.

Decorate the cream with a combination or fresh seasonal fruits, such as Strawberries, mandarin,  blueberries, or kiwi fruit, or just strawberries.

Apricot Jam Glaze for fruits

2 tablespoons apricot jam


Warm up apricot jam in the microwave for 15 seconds and pass through a fine mesh strainer to discard any fruit chunks. 

Gently brush jam over the strawberries and other fruits.

Chill tart on your serving plate for up to 3 hours before serving.

Optional Fruit Glaze instead of Apricot Jam:

1 teaspoon potato flour,
3 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly


Bring to the boil until slightly thickened. Cool before spreading over the fruit

We are buying strawberries every weekend now from our local farmer's truck at Fresh As Sweet As, enjoying their juicy sweetness while we can. These strawberries actually taste like strawberries and now that they are getting smaller as the end of the season is imminent there are more to a punnet. They were a good size for this tart.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope your are finding time to relax this weekend.

Warm wishes


Monday, September 14, 2020

Showcasing In My Kitchen, September 2020

Sunday morning foraging has become part of our routine whilst the local farms still have beautiful produce before the heat of Summer takes it's toll. Most Sunday mornings we visit the farm truck of a local Mackay farm called Sweet As Fresh As, and indeed it is just that. This is what I bought yesterday, golden sweet corn, heritage cherry tomatoes (not in the photo), zucchinis, and strawberries. The pineapple is from a local pineapple farm and I purchased it from the corner shop near us. Pineapples are in season here at the moment and are very sweet. The strawberries are sweet and delicious and the corn hardly needs any cooking at all. It's nice and so easy here to bring home some fresh produce from local suppliers. It lasts much longer than what I buy at the supermarket,which travels a long way to get here. Buying what is locally in season and cooking with that is what I try to do.

The previous weekend, I purchased these, and at a very reasonable price.

Our daughter arrived home as a big Father's Day surprise for Mr. HRK, which was on the 6th September here in Australia this year, although I knew she was driving down from Cairns. Mr. HRK didn't, so its been a lovely week with her home, and lots of home cooking and stories and laughter. It's so good when you can pull off a surprise isn't it? Delicious Spring Lamb is in the butcher shops  now at a very reasonable price, and when I baked a Leg of Lamb one night during the week flavoured with rosemary and garlic, I made this Cauliflower Cheese as one of the vegetable dishes to accompany the lamb. I always have lots of haloumi cheese in the refrigerator as Mr. HRK loves it and so I added haloumi slices around the circumference of the cauliflower cheese dish as I was a bit low on parmesan. It was really delicious, and the cheesier the better I reckon. By the way the cauliflower was also grown locally, and was so delicious I could also eat it raw.

A celebratory glass of champagne on Father's Day with our daughter was very nice. I made my
Tuna and Cannellini Bean Dip again as a snack to go with it and Shannon loved it. 

Of course there had to be a cake for Father's Day and Shannon's arrival. I've been wanting to make this one for ages, and my friends we just loved it. The flavour of apricot in cakes is one of my favourites, as we can very rarely buy nice apricots this far North. So here is Nigella Lawson's fragrant and delicious Apricot cake. If you can't quite come at using Rosewater in this, just leave it out.

Nigella's Apricot Almond Cake with Rosewater and Cardamon


Serves 8-10

150 grams dried apricots
250 millilitres cold water
2 cardamon pods (cracked)
200 grams ground almonds
50 grams fine polenta (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams caster sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater
nonstick spray or sunflower oil for greasing

For Decorating

2 teaspoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped pistachios


Grease and line a 1 x 20 cm/8-inch round spring form cake tin
  1. Put the dried apricots into a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and drop in the cracked cardamon pods, still containing the fragrant cardamon seeds. Bring to the boil, and keep it bubbling on the stove for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it as at the end of 10 minutes  the saucepan will be just about out of water but mustn't boil dry. The apricots will absorb more water as they cool. 
  2. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the apricots to cool.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C./160 deg. C. Fan, or Gas mark 4/350 deg. F.
  4. Remove 5 of the dried apricots and tear each in half, and set them aside on a plate for a while. Discard the cardamon husks, leaving the seeds in the pan.
  5. Pour and scrape out the sticky contents of the saucepan including the apricots into the bowl of a food processor. Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, caster sugar and eggs, and give a good long blitz to combine.
  6. Open up the top of the food processor, scrape down the batter, and add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the rosewater, and blitz again, then scrape into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves around the circumference of the tin.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, however if the cake is browning  too early, cover it loosely with foil at the 30 minute mark. I didn't need to do this. When it's ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin, the top will feel firm, and a cake tester will come out with just one or two damp crumbs on it.
  8. Remove the cake to a wire rack. If you are using apricot jam to decorate and this gives a beautiful gloss and flavour to the cake, warm it up a little first to make it easier to spread. Stir a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jam and brush over the top of the cake. Then sprinkle with the pistachios and leave the cake to cool in its tin before releasing from the cake tin and removing to a serving plate.

With all of those very fresh zucchinis I bought, I just had to make Zucchini. Corn and Bacon Slice, a delicious family favourite. It was the week for our favourite foods.

Now I know I am cheating a little bit here, as this is supposed to be about My Kitchen, but I couldn't let the opportunity of my daughter visiting without us taking advantage of enjoying a High Tea  at the Fifth Floor Restaurant during the week. It is actually a hospitality training restaurant for Central Queensland University which merged with TAFE a few years ago and now teaches hospitality which was always the domain of TAFE. I used to work for CQU so I still keep my ear close to the ground about what happens there, and this High Tea was reasonably priced, delicious and located on the 5th floor of the inner city CQU building with nice surrounding views. The hospitality students waited on the tables and did a good job. They also cook and serve very nice lunches throughout the month.

The High Tea Menu. 

Spring is as much about gardening as cooking for us and we have been spending a lot of time gardening in the mornings. I collected a few bits and pieces form the garden to fill a vase to put on the bench in my kitchen, and the pretty pink leaves are from a Cordyline, which will strike shoots in a vase of water and can then easily be replanted. Cordylines bring very  nice colour to the tropical garden. We have a couple of garden projects going on at the moment, but I will write more about that later.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month. I'm a bit late with this, but it is still the 13th somewhere in the world:)  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Warm wishes everyone and have a lovely week wherever you are,

Pauline xx

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

White Cannellini Bean and Tuna Dip with Homemade Sourdough Cob Bread


I am loving Spring already, what a gorgeous day it is here today in North Queensland for the first day of Spring. I hope it is wherever you are as well,  and that in the Northern Hemisphere the start of Fall brings lots of hope for a better year ahead. This was the last weekend for Winter, and by Saturday my sourdough starter was happily bubbling away, so I made the most of it and  mixed up three loaves of sourdough in bowls ready to rise all night in my warm laundry. While I was sleeping, the sourdough was doing its work, the perfect arrangement. On Sunday morning I found my mojo and prepared two loaves for proofing, and then excitedly thought that I would try my hand at an artisan style cob loaf for a change. So my friends, my story is as much about this delicious White Bean dip that I saw on John's blog at Kitchen Riffs, as about my artisan style cob sourdough loaf.

I saw the Bean dip recipe on KR's blog early in the morning and had been hankering after it ever since as it looked like a great alternative to carbs. All those beans are very healthy for our gut, and then when my bread came out of the oven, this went with that and we had a delicious lunch of  Cannelini Bean Tuna Dip with freshly baked Sourdough Cob Loaf and salad. Not something we generally do for lunch but my friends it was tasty and light and the dip only took 15 minutes in the food processor to prepare. I added some extra tuna, lemon juice and seasoning to the original recipe but that's just me wanting a really tasty topping for the sourdough. For afternoon snacks, dips, and drinks, I might go lighter on the lemon juice and the tuna and just use the 141 g. as per the recipe, but it depends on your taste buds at the time. I always like to taste my food as I cook. Thanks for the inspiration KitchenRiffs. Here are the ingredients for the Dip and then I will tell you about my best sourdough cob loaf to date. I'm still excited at the result.

  • 1 x 400 g (15 oz.) can of white beans (I used cannellini beans)
  • 1 garlic clove, the bigger the better
  • 3 chopped shallots or substitute chopped chives 
  • 141 grams (5 oz.)  from a large can of tuna in olive oil, and add more according to taste if you like it stronger 
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 12 grinds
  • finely chopped shallots, parsley or chives to garnish, just the green part

Drain the can of beans in a colander, rinse them and set aside to drain.

Peel the garlic clove, roughly chop, and add to your food processor bowl.

Wash and prepare the shallots, roughly chop, and add to the food processor. Save some green  bits from the shallots for a garnish, chopped chives work well too.

Add the can of tuna and the olive oil it's packed in to the food processor. Add the cannellini beans. 
Process the lot  until well mixed.

Add your lemon zest and lemon juice. While the motor is whirring, slowly add the olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons. (If you have made hummus or pesto in your food processor you will know to add a little extra olive oil to achieve the right consistency and some more lemon juice if it needs a little extra kick for your taste.)

Now add salt and pepper to taste.

Scrape the dip mixture from your food processor bowl using a rubber spatula or whatever bowl scraper you use.

For individual servings, spoon into individual bowls, or just use one large serving bowl. Garnish attractively with finely chopped shallots, chives or parsley. I was in a hurry to  put this on our table,  so some chopped shallots was what I used. 

I used my freshly baked sourdough cob bread slices  for dipping, but you can use pita bread, crackers, cucumber slices and other chopped vegetables such as carrots and celery. I was in a hurry so I just used whole cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Delicious and fresh.

Whilst I was preparing my cob loaf, my rectangular bread loaf was baking so the oven was nice and hot for the cob.

 I bake sourdough bread most weeks now, and as long as I remember to have my starter dough (Mother) fermented and ready and bubbling after a couple of days of feeding we have fresh sourdough bread baking by Thursday. Last weekend it happened to be Sunday, which was a free day, so I decided that was the day I wanted to try a different bread making technique and make a cob loaf. I've been inspired for quite a while by posts written on sourdough by Celia@FigJamandLimeCordial, who produces beautiful artisan style cobs of bread using covered enamel baking dishes, and has been very kindly making bread for her neighbours during the Covid crisis. She is also a very clever lady with handicraft. Anyway, I couldn't help myself, and I also invested in a book recommended by Celia written by Emilie Raffa, called "Artisan Sourdough Made Simple". In her book she refers to Celia's technique and breaks down the process of how to bake a loaf which resembles one baked by an artisan bakery. Well my friends to be honest, I didn't quite achieve that, but following Emilie's technique for a simple rye sourdough cob I was pleased with the result for my first attempt. I used my red enamel CHASSEUR pot with a lid to bake the loaf in and it worked. I was really excited with the result. My friend Lulu just happened to call in and visit whilst I was taking loaves in and out of the oven and found herself caught up in the excitement. The loaf had a beautifully browned crust, with a pattern, sounded hollow on the base when tapped, and most importantly was absolutely delicious.

I used my standard recipe that I generally use for making sourdough loaves, and if you would like my recipe you can find it here on my blog. Save me from typing it out again.

Whilst baking a loaf using this method takes more time, the result is worth it. So here is the method I used for the actual baking of the cob loaf after I had proofed it in a proofing basket lined with a flour dusted tea towel, however you could use a bowl. After the initial proofing of the dough overnight, and a gentle kneading, with floured hands cup the dough and pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. It is very malleable at this point. Place the dough into your proofing basket, seam side up.

For the second rise, cover the dough and let it rest until it is puffy but not fully risen, which took about an hour in the warm sun.

Now for the baking, I was getting excited.  Preheat your oven to 230 deg. C., 450 deg. F Yes it needs a hot oven. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot.

Place your sheet of parchment over the dough and invert the proofing basket to release. Dust the dough with plain flour,  gently coating the whole surface of the dough. Then, decide what design you would like on your dough when it comes out of the oven, and make 8 cm cuts around the dough using either the tip of a razor blade or a small serrated knife. This is what I use. In her book, Emilie give lots of ideas about designs for her bread as does Celia on her blog. I just did four simple slits this time because I was pushed for time, next time I will be more creative.

Use the parchment to lift the dough into the baking pot. This is very important as it is still soft to handle.

BAKE the dough on the centre rack of your oven for 20 minutes, covered with the lid of your pot.. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift or tip the bread out of the pot, and finish baking the bread back in the oven directly on the rack for the last 10 minutes. Transfer your loaf to a wire cooling rack and cool for 1 hour before slicing, if you can keep the hungry hoards away from it that is.

Your work is done and your bread will be delicious using that technique.

Enjoy Spring or the Fall my friends, I am feel quite optimistic that things can only improve from here on in.

Oops we have visitor, must go. Sorry about any typos:)

Warm wishes