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.)

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Honey Chocolate Cake, Bee Keeping in the Tropics, and our Honey Harvest

Hello to all Chocolate Cake lovers. I'm not a chocoholic, in fact I can give or take chocolate most of the time, but it is one of life's little luxuries along with honey. However, I do love a slice of Chocolate Cake. On the weekend, when I had a craving for chocolate and chocolate cake I was unaware of what was to follow.  I think this was a premonition that we would need lots of cake and extra energy the following week as dramas with our beehive erupted. I was also hosting Mahjong on Tuesday, so my friends happily indulged me in my visceral desire for some chocolate cake and we all enjoyed a slice for afternoon tea. More of our evolving bee story later, because firstly I need to divulge to you the recipe for one of the most delicious chocolate and honey cakes on this planet.

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe, and I chose to bake this one flavoured with honey in appreciation of our bees and all hardworking bees and their bounty of beautiful honey and as a dedication to our Queen Bee Lizzie who swarmed from our hive with her bees during last week. They are wild insects, and they were Lizzie's bees, not ours. The honey used in this cake was produced during her reign as Queen Bee. Despite all of this, the honey we harvested from our hive, two days before the bees swarmed is beautiful in this delicious, moist and very soothing chocolate honey cake.

Let's Bake:


Serves: About 10 slices

100 grams dark chocolate (broken into pieces)

275 grams light brown muscovado sugar

225 grams soft butter

125  millimetres (1/2 cup) runny honey

2 large eggs

200 grams plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon very fresh cocoa powder

250 millimetres boiling powder (1 cup)


60 millilitres water

125 millilitres runny honey

175 grams dark chocolate

75 grams icing sugar


All the ingredients need to be at room temperature, so take them out of the refrigerator in plenty of time.

Melt the dark chocolate (100 g) from the cake ingredients, in a good-sized bowl, I did it in the microwave, but you can melt it in a good-sized bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, ensuring no water or steam at all gets into the chocolate so that it doesn't seize.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C/160 deg C Fan forced or gas mark 4. Butter and line a 23 cm / 9 inch springform cake tin.

In your mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and soft butter until it is creamy and light, and then add the beautiful runny honey. Add one of the eggs, let it beat in the butter mixture while adding one tablespoon of the flour. Then add the other egg, and another tablespoon of flour, 

Fold in the melted chocolate, followed by the rest of the flour, and the bicarbonate of soda.

Push the cocoa through a tea strainer to ensure no lumps and add to the batter. Strangely this worked.

Finally beat in the cup of boiling water. 

(At this point in her recipe, Nigella says that she supposes there is nothing stopping from doing all of the steps so far in the food processor, blitzing everything except the boiling water, and then pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running.) I felt much happier mixing this cake in my Kitchen Aid.

Mix the runny cake batter well to ensure it is smooth, pour into the prepared cake tin.

Cook for an hour and a half. Check it after 60 minutes to ensure it's not catching and if it is, cover the top lightly with foil and then check every 15 minutes. If you pull the oven tray out too early to check the cake, it may sink slightly in the middle.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin on a rack.

ICING OR GLAZING, that's up to you.

This cake has such a soft crumb and a beautiful flavour with a hint of honey, and could be served uniced with a sprinkling of icing sugar over the surface if you feel so inclined.

However, I do love an iced chocolate cake, and I know many of you do as well, and as we were in the middle of a heat wave here, I elected to ice the cake rather than glaze it, so I will give you Nigella's glaze recipe in case you would like to glaze instead of ice.

My Traditional Chocolate Icing:

This is how my Mum always iced her chocolate cakes. To ice the cake, I mixed up 4 cups of icing sugar in the food processor to remove any lumps. To that I added 4 tablespoons of cocoa and gave it a quick mix.

Transfer the icing sugar to a medium sized mixing bowl.

I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and mixed that into the icing mixture.

I then warmed up 1/2 cup of full cream milk in the microwave, and slowly added that to the icing sugar until I had the stiff consistency I was after. I wanted to be able to ice the cake the day before I needed it, and be sure that it wouldn't run off the cake in our tropical heat. It didn't. It was the perfect consistency and even retained the decorative squiggles I made in the icing with a fork.  To spread the stiff icing on the cake, firstly put dollops of the icing on the cold cake, then dip a knife in a glass of hot water, and use your hot knife to spread the icing evenly over the surface of the cake. I then used a fork and drew lines of squiggles through the icing. 

I decorated the cake with my home grown Dianthus flowers, which are edible.

You might find this is too much icing for your tastes, so just use what you need and save the rest in a covered container in the refrigerator for another time.

A glaze would have been very difficult to manage, unless I put the cake straight in the frig.

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Sticky Honey Glaze:

Bring the water and runny honey to a boil in a smallish, though not tiny saucepan , then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids buttons work well.) Swirl it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes then whisk together. Sieve in the icing sugar and whisk again until smooth.

To apply the glaze, select your cake plate or stand and cut out four strips of baking paper and form a square outline on the cake plate. This ensures that even in the perfect climatic setting, the icing will not run out all over the plate. Unclip the tin and place the completely cooled cake on the on the plate you have prepared.

Pour the icing over the cold honey chocolate cake and with a cake spatula smooth it down the sides.

Glaze it about an hour or two before you want to serve the cake, so that the glaze can harden a little.

When you are ready to serve it, you can just very carefully slide out the pieces of paper to show a clean plate.

When Nigella Lawson wrote this recipe she included instructions of how to make bees from marzipan to decorate the cake. One day I might do this, as it looks like fun, and is a perfect way to decorate a honey cake. Just flick to her website to find the instructions for making decorative bees.

Cook's notes:

  • I baked this cake a day ahead, iced it and stored it in an airtight container. It can also be frozen, uniced, and wrapped tightly in a double layer of food wrap and a layer of foil for up to 3 months, which sounds like a great idea. Unwrap and thaw at room temperature for about 3 hours. Ice or glaze and decorate on the same day of serving.
  • Leftovers will keep for up to a week in an airtight container in a cool place, that would have to be the refrigerator in North Queensland, and there's no way that leftovers will last that long in our home.
  • I couldn't find any light brown muscovado sugar, so I used equal quantities of raw sugar and dark muscovado sugar which I have on hand.
  • I have closely followed Nigella's recipe here, but I would sift the bicarbonate of soda with the flour at the very beginning, so that I don't forget to add it and to ensure it is evenly added throughout the flour. Is there any reason not to add it to the rest of the flour at the beginning that I don't know about?


You might remember in a previous post I wrote that it is swarming season for bees. We don't really blame Queen Lizzie or her bees for leaving home as the hive was chockabloc full of bees, and we were just two days late with adding new frames and another box to the hive to create more space for them. This was because we were waiting for new frames to be delivered by Australia Post. Once a hive has decided to swarm, it's impossible to change their mind, however apparently the hive can be lured to a nearby location by hanging some honeycomb frames from the nearby washing line for example, while hoping they will be attracted to it.  They can then be relocated to another hive or back to the original hive where there is more room. All of this happened during a heat wave so conditions weren't ideal for a crowded hive or for anybody.  Lesson learned, bees aren't patient.

Below is a photo of the bees bearding at the front of the hive, and preparing to swarm. We think they flew away during the night. At the time, we thought they might have been bearding because of the heat.

Then it all became the perfect storm as the hive was weakened due to the swarming. Militant Robber Bees hungry from another hive were attracted to our hive and were after our honey, but our hive was too weak to fend them off. They were intent on taking our honey and killing our bees in the process. Then Hive Beetles bred in the hive, normally we can keep them under control, but they laid a lot  of eggs because our bees and the hive beetle bait couldn't keep them under control either. The hive beetles created a lot of larvae in the hive which was an awful sight. The larvae ridden frames were removed as soon as Mr. HRK found them. What a shock! 

After the robber bees arrived, Mr. HRK was wrapping the hive in a wet blanket, and turning the sprinkler on it frequently in the heat of the day, so that the robber bees would lose the scent of our hive and also to cool down the hive. The rest of the ruined honey frames had to be removed and placed in the freezer to kill the Hive Beetle maggots, and after four days it seemed we might be on top of the situation. We installed a new Queen Bee in our hive yesterday, so now we are hoping there are enough bees in the hive to support her. Fingers crossed. Gosh, this was all just bad luck, but we are on that continuous learning curve when it comes to bees, along with most other backyard beekeepers.

I've named our new Queen Bee, Sissi, after the famous 19th century Austrian Empress, whose first name was also Elisabeth, but was fondly called Sissi. We have just watched Empress, the story of Sissi, on Netflix, and really enjoyed it. I hope our new Queen Sissi is as sassy, innovative and hard working as the beautiful Austrian Empress was.

This is how Queen Bee Sissy arrived in her small capsule or carriage, accompanied by a few ladies (bees) in waiting.
They will eat their way out through a sugary opening in the top of the capsule. Sorry for the blurry photo. My camera wasn't coping.

I am also calling this divine honey chocolate cake Sissi.

It's taken me a while to post this recipe because there has been a lot happening, and as it stands now, Mr. HRK is concerned there may not be enough bees left in the hive to support the Queen and see our hive grow. If that is the case we will need to buy some more frames of bees. However we will persist. C'est la vie, and if anyone thinks that beekeeping is easy, they are very much mistaken, but it is such an interesting hobby, and we hope we are doing our little bit for the environment and the pollination of our neighbour's gardens.

Warm wishes, Pauline