Sunday, March 7, 2021

In My Kitchen, March 2021

It's March already, and as I start to write this, the tropical heat has been replaced by rain showers today, as Cyclone Niran builds up off the Far North Queensland coast to a Category 3 and keeps us all guessing as to her next move. These systems are so unpredictable and still seem to keep the meteorologists guessing, despite all the technology at their disposal. One minute they are intensifying and moving out to sea, next report it is stationery and could track south. So we will see. I have a well stocked pantry, however many times living here on the coast we have burst into action fortifying our property as the cyclone approaches, only for it to wave to us as it passes down the coast further south. However the winds and rain from this cyclone have already annihilated valuable banana plantations up North costing the industry millions of dollars.It's tough being a farmer. P.S. A week later, life took over for a while, and thankfully for us the cyclone has moved East and is now a very destructive Category 4-5 over New Caledonia. They are in our thoughts as they battle this dreadful storm. 

I brought these orchid flowers inside when they bloomed a few weeks ago. This is my Cattleya Bowringiana Orchid, a very old species which my Mum originally gave me. The Cattleyas are showing signs that they will flower in the next couple of months, and I'm really looking forward to that. I hope to have some flowers to show you over the coming weeks.  With the weather starting to cool down slightly, I hope to start some gardening again in a few weeks.

February was a quiet time for us, with Mr. HRK having sinus and septum (nose) surgery two weeks ago, and thankfully he is starting to feel a bit better now. Recovery hasn't been pleasant. So leading up to this and up until now I have been cooking the kind of meals he loves, which is just good old fashioned cooking. I don't have many photos to share but we really enjoyed this dish of Cottage Pie, although my Mum always called it Shepherd's Pie due to her Scottish origins I suppose. Cottage Pie is made from minced beef, and Shepherd's Pie traditionally is a base of savoury minced lamb. Both are delicious.  The topping is creamy mashed potato, and lots of it. I often add a layer of seasoned sliced tomato between the mince and the potato.

Savoury minced beef has lots of potential for use as a base in minced pies, Cottage pie,  pasta sauce, Chilli Con Carne or just  mince on toast for an easy tea or cooked breakfast. It also freezes very well as a batch. I lightly sauteed 2 onions, 4 carrots, 3 stalks of celery, added a kilo of beef mince and browned that off,  and added my secret ingredient, a tablespoon of vegemite and mixed it in well. The vegemite is Mr.  HRK's family secret. Then for extra flavour, 2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs or fresh equivalent if you have them, and 2 tablespoons each of Worcestershire sauce and Tomato sauce take the dish to superstar status. I also added a can of tomatoes, and sliced zucchini and finely chopped capsicum can also be added. Mince for a cottage pie may need to be thickened with a little cornflour and water or the juices will spill over the side during the cooking process. 

Then for dessert I made Apple Crumble, another family favourite. I also poached some pears in a red wine sauce, served with ice cream of course for a little extra pink pizzazz. Mr. HRK could actually taste all of this food after his surgery, so he was in seventh heaven. This is all very easy cooking, the type of food I grew up with. However it is healthy, tasty and just perfect for those times when we aren't feeling very well. I feel a bit guilty even writing about these dishes dear reader as they are probably in your regular cooking repertoire as well, however I can't really presume that they are.Much better for us than refined food from the supermarket or takeaways and they contain lots of fibre. I am so pleased that all of our food is mostly cooked from scratch.

This is my original Apple Crumble recipe which I have been told by my family not to change.


FRUIT (apple)

4-6 Granny Smith cooking apples, peeled and chopped into quarters
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
(However when rushed I have also used a large can of cooked apples, it does the job.)

Other Fruit Variations

Rhubarb and apple
Pie peaches
Stewed dried apricots


1 cup plain flour (wholemeal is preferable)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Rolled oats 

Crumble waiting to be added as topping for the apple

Let's cook
  1.  Peel and core apples and slice thinly.
  2. Place in a saucepan with water and simmer gently until soft. Add sugar to taste and stir to dissolve.
  3. Allow to cool then pour into a pie dish, keeping back excess juice.
  4. Place flour in a bowl then rub in butter with the fingertips.
  5. Add sugar, coconut, rolled oats and cinnamon and mix well until a good crumbly consistency.
  6. Sprinkle lightly on top of apples.
  7. Bake in a moderate oven until lightly browned on top.
  8. Serve hot or cold with boiled custard .
(I like doing steps 4 and 5 by hand, however you could use the food processor.)


This Poached Pears in Red Wine recipe is simple but sophisticated and because it is based on fruit and red wine, must be healthier as a dessert. 

Serves 4. Prep and cook time: 40 minutes


2 cups  sugar
2 cups  red wine
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 strips of lemon rind
4 cloves
4-5 just ripe pears, with stems attached

Let's cook:

Place sugar, wine, water, cinnamon and lemon juice into a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Meanwhile, peel pears and, using a small sharp knife, remove cores from underside of pears.

Lower pears into the poaching liquid and simmer upright in the sauce, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until tender, turning pears occasionally during cooking so that they colour evenly.You might like to cover the pears with a round of baking paper nicked with scissors, so that the stems poke through. It helps if the pears fit snugly into the saucepan to reduce movement. My saucepan was a little too large but the pears still cooked beautifully. I should have added an extra pear for good luck.

Transfer pears to a heated plate and cover to keep warm. Boil the remaining liquid for about 10 minutes or until it becomes syrupy. Serve pears with syrupy red wine sauce and ice-cream or double cream, if desired.

TIP: I cooked the pears early in the morning before I left home for a mid-morning appointment, and kept them in the frig with some of the sauce in a covered container. I warmed up the pears and the sauce in the microwave just before I served them. They were delicious. 

Another option is to simmer down some of the sauce until it is almost like a toffee consistency. This is then really delicious dribbled down the pears.

This is such a cinch of a dessert recipe to make, I have vowed to make it more often. Pears  transform into such an elegant dessert, and have so many delicious uses in dishes, and now they are available all year round.

One other night I cooked a Baked Rice Pudding, which is always very easy to make and delicious. It is Mr. HRK's favourite.

Ready to pop in the oven

A baked rice pudding, straight out of the oven

February was my birthday month, and I had a lovely day, which was just a few days before Mr. HRKs operation. Wasn't that lucky? We went out for lunch to our favourite Vietnamese restaurant, spoke to our daughter and our family in the Falkland Islands, and I received lost of beautiful messages from my special friends.

I don't have any expectations about receiving gifts for my birthday anymore. However Mr. HRK and my wonderful daughter collaborated and bought me a cast iron Challenger Bread oven pot, online from the U.S. I was pretty amazed. So my friends I am now educating myself in perfecting an oval cob loaf in my new breadware. The first loaf I made turned out pretty well, but could have been larger. However the crust was very crusty and the bread tasted delicious. 

Cooking in this pot requires a very different technique to cooking  sourdough high top loaves in my loaf tins, and the high top sandwich loaves are more suited to slicing and freezing. I like to make a cob loaf for the weekend.

The only fault with this bread ware is that is very heavy to take out of the oven when it is very hot, and it does get very hot. It is meant to be heated in the oven for an hour prior to baking at 260 deg. C., the bread dough is then added, and the temperature reduced to 224 deg. C for 15 minutes. The lid is then removed and the bread cooks for a further 30 minutes. It then produces a lovely crusty loaf of bread.

I was concerned about the heat of this pot, so on the advice of Mr. HRK and my friend Julia, I bought a pair of welders gloves, this my friends was the high point of a shopping expedition to Bunnings. I kid you not. However, the heat of the pot is even too hot for these gloves, and they need to be doubled over to work. They will still be put to good use in my kitchen though or the shed. Challenger stock breadmaker's gloves, so I might invest in a pair of those when they restock, or buy a better pair of industrial gloves. 

So this weekend My Kitchen activity has focused on  bread making and experimenting and researching as we stay quietly at home until Mr. HRK feels a lot better. Our house has been smelling like a bakery, not hard to take at all.

These are photos of my first attempt at cooking my first sourdough loaf in my new bread pot. 

An improvised oval banneton for proofing

Adding an ice cube to the pot for some steam.

Into the oven she goes. The pot rests on the inverted lid for the second baking to prevent burning of the base.

The final product. When I am happy with the whole process, I will let you know. In the meantime, if you use Challenger bread ware, please contact me and let me know what works best for you.I would love to hear from you.

My first cob loaf baked in the Challenger Breadware.

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.  Or just head over to her blog to read more In My Kitchens. 

Best wishes



  1. That apple crumble looks so good and that bread turned out so gorgeous with perfect crust, just like from a fine bakery.

    1. Gee thanks so much Angie. The bread tasted really good as well. Take care.

  2. Hope you keep us updated on more baking with that pot. I've never seen anything like it (although I do use my Staub pot to do a similar loaf.) I love the idea of adding seasoned tomatoes to your cottage pie.

    1. Lovely to hear from you and thank you for your comment Debra.There will be lots more experimenting with my new pot, and as long as I can remember, sliced tomatoes were always added to the Cottage Pie. I just found your blog as well, looks really interesting.All the best.

  3. Pauline, that is a bit of a learning curve with the new cookware which must get extremely hot. Lots of experimenting to do now I can tell. Just up your alley 😉

    1. Yes I guess it is Chel. I do love that side of it.Thanks for your continued interest.

  4. your challenger pot looks the business pauline, but i would never be able to lift it:-) and i had a good giggle about those gloves. thanks so much for joining in this month. have a fun March.

    1. Thanks Sherry, I thought the idea of those welding gloves was bit of a laugh as well, but it got serious when I had to lift the very hot pot. A bloke definitely designed that pot:)

  5. Pauline, I too loved your addition of seasoned tomatoes to the Cottage Pie and also the coconut in your apple crumble topping. Thanks for your recipes (your poached pears sound divine!), lovely orchids, and sourdough trial. Hope Mr. HRK is feeling better by now. Belated birthday greetings, too! I'm thankful the cyclone passed you by, but I feel for those in its path. We're about to enter "tornado season" here and I totally understand about those ever-changing weather forecasts. Take care, xo.

    1. Thanks Kim, so nice to hear from you. My hubby is starting to feel a lot better now, and enjoying his food again. I hope the tornado season doesn't cause any havoc in your part of the world this year. Our cyclone season should be finished now, fingers crossed.

  6. Your bread is lovely, it looks as if it came straight from the bakery. I have never heard of that particular bread baker but look forward to reading about your experiments. And no dessert can beat a crumble! My husband's favorite is the cottage pie as well, lots of mashed potatoes are a requirement.

    1. Thanks Liz, oh how nice our husbands have similar tastes in good home made food. There will be more bread experiments with the Challenger, hubby wants to take it to the BBQ which might be easier, but I have reservations:)All the best, Pauline


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