Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Italian Chicken and Sausage Tray Bake


Chicken and sausage Italian Tray bake, one tray cooking, originates from the Italian Tuscan Hills with enormous Mediterranean flavours. This is an adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Italian Traybake recipe from her Nigellissima cookbook, published in 2012. This cookbook still stands proudly on my bookshelf. I can't remember how many times I have baked this dish since I first bought this book shortly after it was published, and it has never failed me. In fact I am more of a fan than ever. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Rosemary Sourdough Focaccia Bread

It's the "Silly Season" when Focaccia bread is perfect to serve to friends with a Grazing Platter or a Charcuterie board and to take to a Christmas party. I've taken a long break from breadmaking for a number of reasons, and consequently I haven't been feeding my Sourdough "Mother" as often as I should. Trying not to eat too much bread which is impossible when I make my own, lack of time, lack of availability of the flour I like to use, travel, all of these things meant that I have sometimes fed my sourdough Mother sparingly just enough to keep her alive in the refrigerator. That sounds awful doesn't it? However, a few days ago I decided a good place to start with breadmaking again would be to make Focaccia. It's delicious and substitutes perfectly for crackers and biscuits. It makes a really nice change. We have an old and faithful rosemary bush growing in our front garden which keeps soldiering on and produces wonderful flavours in so many dishes, and particularly in this bread, and a batch of focaccia doesn't take as long to make as a sourdough loaf does. It's a perfect choice at this time of year.

I fed my sourdough Mother jars with plain flour and water, I have three Mothers now, as she has grown over the years. I placed two jars back in the refrigerator and left the other one out to ferment, and two days later she rewarded me by bubbling away happily. This is a refresh of a post I wrote a few years ago, and hopefully will inspire me and you too my friends to start baking some sourdough as a weekly tre in the New Year, to not only stretch the budget, but to also keep healthy as sourdough is great for the gut. 

I was recently told by a dietician friend, that sourdough bread is most nutritious if baked long and slow, like most foods, so that is one of my projects for 2023, to research the best way to bring the best sourdough qualities out in my bread. Even though the dough has a slow overnight rising process, apparently the bread needs to bake long and slow as well, for maximum health benefits. I'd love to hear from you if you already bake your sourdough loaves this way.

Let's Bake some Sourdough Focaccia Bread:

This is how I make my Sourdough Rosemary Focaccia Bread. 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.


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


Makes 1 large focaccia, about 940 g., leftovers can be frozen. It reheats well.
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 30g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 500 g (4 cups) plain flour
  • 295 g (1 1/3 cup) lukewarm water 
  • 100 g (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. If you forget to do this the night before, add the rosemary to the olive oil the next morning, and warm up the olive oil and rosemary together in your microwave. This will help to soften the rosemary.

I kneaded my dough by hand so I will give instructions for using a stand mixer and for doing it 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. If you think the dough is a little dry, wait until you've added the oil and rosemary before adding more water.

I always knead my sourdough by hand, however there isn't really much kneading needed for this recipe. If you prefer to use the dough hook in your Stand Mixer, here is a method for that process. 


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.

Shape the dough into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm spot. 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. I used one of my old baking dishes. 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 when beautifully browned, turn out the focaccia , and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Slice into squares or tear apart. Mr. HRK loves the rustic approach by tearing a Focaccia loaf into pieces, no photo available unfortunately. Focaccia pieces are also delicious dunked in good quality olive oil, and then into Dukkah. This is a very simple way to eat it.

However one time he excelled himself and cut it into perfect shapes. 

Stay safe, healthy, and Covid free, it's on the rise again unfortunately.

Warm wishes,


Thursday, December 8, 2022

In My Kitchen, December 2022

This is the Christmas Edition of In My Kitchen, and 'tis the season for baking. This also means my friends, that it's the season for Mangoes and Lychees here in tropical North Queensland. Bowen Mangoes which are the best to buy in our humble opinion, were costing $15.00 a bucket at our local market last Saturday. Just this morning we picked up a bucket for $12.00 from a roadside stall, and a bag of lychees. Bowen is just a couple of hours North from us. The lychees were a bit more expensive, the first of the season, but we couldn't resist them, they are a precious commodity, and for Christmas holidays only. We'll be freezing, dehydrating and eating mangoes for the next month, and then eating frozen mango with ice cream and yoghurt for the rest of the year. Dried mango is great for just snacking on. We'll also be looking out for the Common mangoes from backyard trees, strictly for making delicious Mango Chutney with, which we traditionally eat with our Christmas ham.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Vanilla Custard made from Scratch

There are so many beautiful things involved with cooking your own custard. The result is just delightful. Making your own, without a packet of Foster Clark's custard powder to be seen is a labour of love, but so well worth it. Allow an hour max to make it. On the day of THE big event such as Christmas lunch, if you making it to have with Plum Pudding or dessert or even for an evening dinner, I would suggest making it first thing in the morning, even before you open the presents, and then it's done. In my part of the world in North Queensland, that's how we beat the heat on Christmas Day. Your custard will keep in a covered jug, on your kitchen bench until you are ready to serve it. This recipe is Part 2 to my previous post on how to cook your own Christmas Plum Pudding. This is the perfect custard recipe to serve with your Plum Pudding, with Apple Crumble, or another type of fruit crumble.

Using a precious Vanilla Pod is very special and gourmet in cooking, and brings a unique flavour to the custard. However, Vanilla Custard was made from scratch many years ago before we had access to vanilla pods, so good quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste will still work beautifully. It is definitely acceptable to substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla pod. However, vanilla essence can be of poor quality, so it is preferable to use a teaspoon of vanilla extract, not essence, or a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste will still disperse those beautiful flavours of vanilla through your custard.

 Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract quite easily by steeping 3 vanilla beans in 1/2 a cup of cheap vodka for about 4 weeks. This is all that vanilla extract is. You can find out more about how to make your own vanilla extract in a previous post I have written, at this link.

Before I made this jug of custard I compared Jamie Oliver's recipe to my family recipe, the one that we always used at home, and the only real difference was the use of the vanilla bean. There are many fancier ways of making vanilla custard from scratch, and Jamie Oliver has a great video and recipe which uses cream and milk and serves more people, but I am happy to use this more cost effective one, using more full cream milk and without the bottled cream. On Christmas Day, a custard without even more calories suits me just fine. It still tastes delicious and with a beautiful consistency.


Makes 500 ml, and serves 4-6 people. Allow an hour cooking time

600 ml full cream milk

4 large and very fresh free-range egg yolks

1 vanilla bean

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour


Halve the vanilla bean down the middle lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, and if you don't intend to use the whites in the short term, I suggest you store them in a covered container in the freezer for that pavlova you are making in the future.

 Add both the bean and the seeds to a saucepan on a medium-low heat, pour in the milk and bring the milk just to the boil. You will know this is starting to happen when light steam evaporates off the milk.

Take the saucepan off the stove, and leave to cool slightly, then remove the vanilla beans.

Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour until pale. (I started this before I heated up the milk.) My eggs never became really pale as I used large, organic, free range eggs from a local supplier. They were expensive, but I thought it was worth it.

Pour a ladle of milk into the bowl and whisk well.  

Then gradually add the warm milk, a ladle at a time, whisking well each time.

Pour the milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook gently on a low heat for about 20 minutes or until thickened, lightly whisking continuously in a figure of 8 motion. Please don't leave the stove or allow yourself to be interrupted during this process. It's only for 20 minutes at the most. Your reliable kitchen apprentice could help with this. 

To check if the custard is thickened, dip a wooden spoon into the custard, and run your finger along the back of the spoon. If this leaves a line through the custard it is thick enough.

This custard is delicious served with Christmas Plum Pudding, and any type of fruit crumble. You can find the link to my recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding here.

To quote Mr. HRK and our beautiful daughter, you can never have too much custard.

Warm wishes

Sunday, November 27, 2022

My Family Recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding


It's the countdown to Christmas, and I really hope that Christmas still brings lots of excitement and love to many families on Christmas Day. We all love Christmas in our family. We generally try to keep it simple with the catering, when the traditional favourites make yet another appearance, such as my Mum's Plum Pudding with homemade Vanilla Custard for dessert, and the traditional Christmas Cake. 

Someone might make a trifle, and Mr. HRK and his Dad and our son Matthew, always used to make a delicious fruit salad, which the men all described as "secret men's business". What actually went into it was a closely guarded secret, they thought, but of course we all knew. It was a time full of fun and laughter. The leadup for some families can be stressful and lonely though as the cost of everything related to Christmas is increasing and everyone worries about how much they still have to do, particularly if they are working. It's reassuring to know that many charities support and help those in need on Christmas Day.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Mexican Chicken and Capsicum Tray Bake

Mexican food is always full of flavour and colour, and when the ingredients can be combined into a homemade Mexican style traybake, with a few shortcuts, then it's a winner in my humble opinion. The first time that I cooked this dish we all loved it, I honestly couldn't fault it. Chicken Lovely Legs are perfect for this style of healthy cooking. The meat becomes very tender and almost falls off the bone. Whilst I often like to use chicken thighs with the bone in and skin left on for a lot of my cooking, this recipe doesn't need the extra fat. When I unpacked my chicken there were 5 lovely legs to 750 g., for 4 people. This was enough for us, but to be on the safe side, you could purchase 2 per person. By the end of the cooking time, the rice had cooked beautifully into a risotto. 

The most difficult part about cooking this traybake for me the first time, was deciding which pot to choose to cook it in. Your pot needs to have a lid. I chose my largest stovetop casserole dish, and whilst the contents only half filled the pot, it allowed a large surface area for the chicken and rice to cook in. This dish will be perfect if I double the quantities next time. If it was cooked in a covered baking tray, I think it could dry out too much and it would cook more quickly. We loved the flavoursome risotto component of the dish and the brown basmati rice was perfect for this. The red capsicums were juicy and tender and all in all this dish was a huge success. I'll make it again, it's become one of my favourites.  I hope you decide to give it a try.

This recipe is from the December 2022 issue of the Australian Women's Weekly, thanks AWW.

Some of the Chillies from our garden used in Sweet Chilli Jam

Cook's tips:

  • I generally steer away from commercially premade pasta sauces, but I have to admit the Arrabbiata sauce was delicious for a change, and the added chilli capsicum in the sauce was just spicy enough. The shortcut was also welcome on a busy day. I wanted to try the original recipe before I made any variations to it.  I don't have a problem though with using a homemade style salsa, and adding a sweet chilli to it. There are also plenty of recipes for Arrabbiata sauce on the internet, which I will try when I have a surplus of tomatoes.
  • This dish freezes well.
  • When you buy your Lovely Legs, I suggest you check how many pieces you are getting for the weight listed in the recipe. To be on the safe side, I would serve two legs per adult, however having said that, I am finding my generation aren't eating as much these days and one lovely leg with all that lovely saucy risotto was enough for each of us. They are meaty little fellas. 750 g was the equivalent of 5 lovely legs.
  • I also love serving my homemade Sweet Chilli Jam as an accompaniment to this dish along with some Sour Cream.
  • If you have the time, you could also use dried kidney beans which you have soaked overnight yourself. It's more economical.
  • For my local readers, Lovely Legs have been on special at Woolworths this week until tomorrow for $7.00 a kilo. That's the price I bought them for. (Once again, I'm not paid to advertise for Woolworths.)
Delicious Sweet Chilli Jam


Serves 4, Preparation and Cooking time 1 hour 5 minutes

750 g chicken lovely legs, trimmed if necessary, or 2 per person

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

400 g bottled arrabbiata pasta sauce (or equivalent) (Mine was the Barilla brand from Woolworths, no advertising intended))

2 cups ((500 ml) chicken stock

1/2 cup (100 g) brown basmati rice

400 g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium (400 g) red capsicums, quartered, stems intact

1 medium (170 g) red onion, cut into thin wedges

1 cup coriander leaves


Preheat oven to 180 deg. C (160 deg C fan forced).

Place the spices in a small bowl and combine. Roll the chicken legs into the spices until chicken is coated and all the spice is used.

Heat the oil in a large flameproof roasting pan or casserole dish with a lid, which can also be used on a hotplate.

Fry the chicken for 3 minutes on each side or until lightly golden. Be careful not to burn the spices which fall into the oil.

Add the pasta sauce, chicken stock, rice, drained kidney beans, capsicum and onion to the dish with the chicken.

Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Carefully transfer the dish to the oven.

Bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender and looks like risotto.

Remove the dish from the oven, place on a cutting board on the bench and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Serve topped with coriander and with a bowl of sour cream and a green salad on the side. My Sweet Chilli Jam is also a lovely accompaniment for the sour cream. A bowl of Corn Chips would also bring more of Mexico to the table.

Warm wishes


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken for a delicious mid-week meal


This is such an easy and economical version of Sweet and Sour chicken with delicious flavours and using basic ingredients. It's so easy to put together if you are feeling just a bit lazy at home mid-week but still have a yearning for something tasty that is simple to cook. We both felt like some Sweet and Sour chicken tonight, but because of the heat we are experiencing here at the moment, we just can't be bothered dressing up and going out to a restaurant either. Know the feeling?

Take away meals or restaurant eating for my generation growing up in an Australian country town in the 60's and 70's, often started with Chinese food, that was before the influx of Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian restaurants which have been great as well. Now just about every style of cuisine is catered for in the cities anyway. When I was still living at home, a take-away Shandy from our local Chinese restaurant was our big treat when my Mum didn't feel like cooking. The dish we ordered was always a Shandy, which from memory was Sweet and Sour chicken, Chow Mein, Fried Rice, two prawns, and something else, can't remember, can you? It could have been chicken and almonds. Those Shandy's gave me the taste for simple and delicious Chinese food at a young age. Meanwhile, the ladies were also enjoying a drinkable Shandy out on the Queenslander verandah, a combination of beer and lemonade, always more of the latter in the chilled glass.

More vegetables such as zucchini, carrot, peas or snow peas can be added to this dish if you have them on hand. Tonight I added some frozen peas, finely diced carrot and broccoli pieces, just to boost up the vegetable content. This is also so much healthier for us all when we are in a rush than reaching for a ready made jar of Sweet and Sour sauce from the supermarket with too many additives for my liking, and tastes even better and is just a cinch to make. This recipe was given to me by Jacquie, a young work colleague, many years ago when I was working in public libraries, and I have thanked her for it ever since. I think that this recipe has stood the test of time. When Jacquie gave me this recipe, we were all at a very busy stage in our lives, we had young children and were working fulltime. It's amazing that I still have this recipe really.

Left over cooked chicken or a cooked chook bought from the supermarket, can also be used as a substitute for the fresh chicken in the recipe. Just cut it into cubes or shred it, doesn't really matter, and add it at after cooking all of the other ingredients. So easy and fast. Have a night off from fancy cooking my friends, and treat yourself to this easy meal.  I promise you, you and your family will love this one.

The Sweet and Sour sauce can also be served over cooked pork or fish. This is another very versatile mid-week meal, when you can use frozen or fresh vegetables you have on hand to boost it up and make it even healthier.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons Olive oil
3-4 diced chicken breasts or chicken thighs, or equivalent chicken already cooked
1 capsicum cut into cubes
4 celery stalks finely chopped
1 finely diced carrot
1 tin of pineapple pieces, or use fresh if you prefer
1 tin of tomato soup
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon fresh garlic (optional)

Let's cook:

Cut chicken pieces into bite size pieces and fry in oil until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.
Add chopped vegetables and fry until slightly softened.

Add the pineapple pieces and the juice and the tomato soup.

Add sugar and curry powder. Stir together and simmer until vegetables are cooked but still slightly crisp.

Serve with white or basmati brown rice, some fried rice, or noodles. 

Hoping the rest of your week is all that you want it to be.
Thanks for dropping by.

Pauline x

Saturday, November 12, 2022

In My Kitchen, November 2022

 I am looking forward to Christmas so much this year, it will be a Summer's Christmas at the beach for us, sun and surf, can't wait.  With the promise of catching up with family and friends as a bonus. Next week, it's time to start soaking the fruit for the traditional Christmas cake and Plum Pudding, always my Mother's recipes, I don't deviate from those, I think that Christmas time is a wonderful time for some traditional cooking. These are the recipes I'll be using If you are interested. 

Christmas Cake This mixture can also be baked as smaller cakes, and I have a post up for those as well.

Plum Pudding

I made a delicious Salade Nicoise, where using les mains to mix all of the ingredients is the secret according to the chef on French Food Safari. I'll be posting this recipe soon hopefully. I'm travelling to France next year, so I'm immersing myself in French food and culture when I can.

This is before all of the ingredients were mixed together with les mains

What I've been baking:

Continuing with the French theme, I made a Cherry Clafoutis, which is un flan delicieux.

Recently when a neighbour popped over for a cup of coffee I made this Middle Eastern style Date and Walnut Loaf with a hint of chocolate.

The recipe for Nigella Lawson's Honey and Chocolate cake can be found at this link. It was delicious. I was inspired by the honey from our backyard beehive to make this cake.

This is the latest honey harvest from our hive. We've had a few problems with our hive during swarm season in October which hopefully is back on track now. That story and the recipe for the Honey and Chocolate cake are on the same post. I'm sure that stories about our hive and the bees will continue in future posts I write.

I've had Silvia Colloca's recipe book, Love Laugh Bake on my bookshelf for a while, and a Mahjong friend made one of her chocolate cakes for us all the other day, which isn't in this book, but was amazing. So I've been pouring through her book, and made the Hazlenut Brownie slice, but with Almond Meal, instead of  Hazlenut meal, and of course we had to have a wee taste, and it's delicious. It's destined for dinner with friends tonight. It is also one of those recipes that can turn into a cake as well. Recipe to follow shortly I hope. Silvia is such a talented lady, and an opera singer as well.

The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy so I made these delicious and economical individual Cottage pies, 13 of them actually. You can find the recipe here.

We've been spending a lot of time in our garden, and some capsicum seeds I planted in August have grown into quite mature plants, with small capsicums starting to grow on some of the bushes. Capsicums are always expensive to buy, so I'm looking forward to being able to use them in the kitchen in all kinds of ways. I think there might be a variety of shapes and sizes with these, but they are all from caps I bought at the markets, and they aren't like the large capsicum varieties sold in supermarkets. They are smaller and sweeter. I dried the seeds and waited until Winter to plant them in a new garden that Mr. HRK dug for us. They benefit from the morning sun so I have high hopes for them, and hoping the bugs and beetles don't take a liking to them.  We have 23 plants, after pulling out a few to make room for all of them. I think all of the seeds I planted must have germinated, I always plant more seeds than we need just in case. That should be enough plants don't you think, tee hee?

It's a long garden, with some flowering Cuphea plants up one end for the Bees to enjoy.

During October, we participated in the Aussie Backyard BIRD COUNT, which was a lot of fun. Between 4.30 and 5.30 pm each day we sat outside in our courtyard for 20 minutes at a time, sometimes with a glass of wine and identified the birds that frequented our bird bath, and recorded them on the Aussie Bird Count app. I can't find our total stats, as the app has been closed but we managed to record all of the species that visit our yard. 

We now have a female Spotted Dove which participated in our Bird Count, (I know that for sure!) nesting in our Golden Penda tree just outside our back kitchen door and she is sitting on two baby chicks. I can mention this because the nest is so close to the kitchen. The only problem is that we are in and out of the door quite often during the day and she gets spooked very easily, as she was when I took this photo. We are very careful now not to frighten her too much but she seems to be used to us coming and going. Other doves have nested in those trees, not always with great results, so fingers crossed for this little lady. She seems very protected there from the many predators.

This is my November submission to the #IMK series hosted by Sherry. Each month bloggers from around the world gather to share what is new in their kitchen.  I don't buy a lot of new stuff anymore, but I love cooking and baking. I hope you enjoy some of my recipes and stories.
Hoping the rest of November treats you well.

Warm wishes


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Middle Eastern Spiced Date, Walnut and Chocolate Loaf

Date and Walnut Loaf is quite a classic loaf cake to bake, and I've given this a subtle Middle Eastern flavour by adding Baharat spice powder instead of Mixed Spice, and I've also added a dessertspoon of cocoa to bring an added depth of flavour and colour to the loaf. It's not too sweet for my tastes and has a nutty and earthy flavour from the walnuts. Walnuts are a nice soft nut to bake with, but they must be fresh. When I invited our neighbour over for morning coffee during the week, this was the perfect cake to serve with an Espresso coffee. In a casual situation of chatting at home over a cup of coffee, nothing fancy or complicated is called for. I think a neighbour needs to feel welcome but not overwhelmed by something that is too sweet or fussy. Some friends say they don't even want anything to eat, just a coffee, however morning tea always seems to disappear once it's on the table.

Golden syrup, walnuts, baharat or mixed spice and dates are staples in my pantry cupboard, and as such this Loaf Cake can be baked very quickly when required. It only takes 30-35 minutes to cook, rises beautifully in the tin and has never failed me. A couple of weeks ago I made it in the middle of our Bee saga, which I wrote about in a previous post, and I left out the butter.  I'd put butter in the microwave to soften slightly, and then completely forgot about it due to a few Bee distractions as Mr. HRK was working with the hive. Anyway, miraculously the loaf was still very edible and Mr. HRK couldn't get enough of it. I've made it a second time with all of the ingredients added, and it turned out perfectly. C'est la vie.

This cake is a cinch to make and only requires two bowls and a mixing spoon.

Cook's Notes:

  • Select a loaf tin 22 cm by 13 cm. Mine is a favourite old tin with those measurements, but a couple of centimetres either way doesn't matter. A ring tin will work as well first
  • If you have the time, this could be taken to the next level by roasting the walnuts first
  • If you like a lighter coloured loaf, leave out the cocoa powder, add a few more walnuts and you will capture the more earthy and nutty flavour of the walnuts and dates. I like recipes with options, don't you? The original recipe of mine didn't use cocoa powder, but I love the added flavour it brings
  • I've promoted this as being a Middle Eastern style loaf because of the Baharat, Date and Walnuts, however it will still be delicious using just traditional Mixed Spice easily purchased at the supermarket
  • This loaf is best served warm out of the oven, however it can be baked a day or two in advance for when you need it, stored in a covered container, and it retains it's freshness beautifully. In fact, I think it actually improves in flavour, if that is at all possible
  • Store your walnuts in the freezer, to keep them fresh. They have a tendency to turn a little rancid if stored in normal temperatures
Ready for the oven, and two ways with walnuts for a little rustic decoration.

First attempt, ready for the oven, but minus the butter, oops.

I used a loaf tin 22cm by 13 cm.
Easily serves 8.

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup brown sugar or raw sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups S.R. Flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
1 egg
60 g softened butter (or 2 tablespoons)
2 level teaspoons of Baharat spice or Mixed Spice
1 dessertspoon Cocoa for a darker cake 


Preheat your oven to a moderate temperature, 180 deg. C, Fan Forced. Bake for 30 minutes. Check that the middle is cooked by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean, it's done.
Grease your loaf tin and line with baking paper. It might need 35 minutes depending on your oven.

  • Put chopped dates, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt, golden syrup, butter, and walnuts in a mixing bowl.
  • Add boiling water and mix well. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile sift the S.R flour with the baharat and cocoa into a 2nd bowl to distribute evenly through the flour.
  • Then add the beaten egg to the prepared batter mix, followed by the sifted flour, baharat and cocoa.
  • Cook in a moderate oven in a greased and lined loaf or ring tin for 30 minutes

Simply serve with a dusting of icing sugar or it's quite traditional in North Queensland to eat a simple Date and Walnut loaf with a spread of butter with "smoko" which is delicious. Some folk still call morning tea "smoko" (no smoking involved.) Serve a small bowl of butter with your loaf and you'll be surprised how many people will spread their slice with butter. That's how Mr. HRK likes to eat his.

Thanks for dropping by,

Warmest wishes,


(An original recipe by Pauline @ Happy Retirees Kitchen c 2022.)