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.

I started this post ages ago, however I have also been cooking lots of other dishes over the last month in between Christmas baking sessions, after all we still need to eat in between Christmas preparations. We've also been enjoying our garden. The weather has been cooler of late, so we've been gardening and enjoying just sitting out in our courtyard late in the afternoon with a cool drink and enjoying the birds and our garden. Our Gardenia bush has flowered the best it's flowered for years and is still flowering. I've just loved bringing these perfectly white and highly fragranced flowers into the kitchen. Their intoxicating perfume reminds me of exotic Eastern destinations. The blooms only last two days at the most so they are quite precious. Update, how quickly things change, we are now in the middle of a heatwave, crazy times.

I cooked Nigella Lawson's Italian Chicken traybake with loads of our home grown rosemary. When time is at a premium, this meal never fails and is so tasty. It's also a great dish to cook if you find yourself entertaining a lot of people all of a sudden. I'll post the recipe soon I hope.

Then with the traybake leftovers, because I make sure there are some, I threw in handfull of small tomatoes from our bushes, some peas, some olives and voila, the dish took on even more intense Mediterranean flavours. It was so delicious.

Beautiful organic and free range eggs gifted from a friend, poached and sunny side up for Sunday's breakfast.

This Mexican Chicken one pot dish or traybake was delicious. You can find the recipe at this link. The Chicken Lovely Legs were the perfect cut of chicken to use.

A kilo of very ripe tomatoes needing to be used up, transformed into a batch of delicious Spicy Tomato Relish. This is perfect eaten just with cheese and crackers or biscuits, or served with quiche, an omelette and a whole variety of dishes. We love it. I added a few of our small home grown tomatoes as well. You can find my recipe for tomato relish at this link. It's so handy to have in the pantry all year round.

Blanching the tomatoes and removing the skins. I don't like to have tomato skin in the relish.

I threw in a few small tomatoes from our bushes, so there might be a little bit of tomato skin in there this time.

A kilo of tomatoes and onions made about 6 bottles of relish.

This tasty and easy to make Sweet and Sour Chicken was just what we needed during a busy week. Always enjoyable and an old favourite of ours.

How wonderful is the variety of food we can create in our own kitchens, and it doesn't need to be expensive or too fancy to be absolutely delicious. Over the last month I have moved from Italian, to Mexican to Chinese and then a Middle Eastern Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Chicken, Capsicum and Artichokes, which is always a healthy, low calorie meal to eat before the weekend, know what I mean?

All of these recipes above and below are part of my collection of favourite meals and are very comforting as well.

Family Heirlooms in My Kitchen

Do you have many "family heirlooms" in your kitchen?  A blogging friend commented recently on my post about my Christmas Plum Pudding recipe, that he loved that I used twine to hold my old pudding steamer together as the clips have lost their grip, a little bit like me I thought at the time, and he called my steamer a family heirloom, which I suppose it is. I loved that thanks David from Spiced. It might not have any monetary value anymore, but every year I derive a lot of satisfaction and joy from using this old relic. And apparently they aren't very easy to find anymore. 

It also made me realise that I have quite a few "family heirlooms" in my kitchen that I treasure, and use regularly and always bring back lots of memories. It would take too long to mention them all now, perhaps that's a post for another day.

This beaded cloth was crocheted by my Great Aunt Eileen for my Mum, many years ago, and I have a few of them. They are just so useful for covering a jug of custard or a water jug. Speaking of custard, I made a jug of Vanilla custard recently which I hope to make to serve with our Christmas Plum Pudding this year. It's delicious. This was a rehearsal for Christmas and it worked out beautifully.

 Since then I have bought a new Custard jug, to replace my old one which broke, which was also a "family heirloom". There wasn't a lot to choose from, but I liked the rustic look of this one. I'll be on the lookout now though at charity shops for an older style one.

I've made my Christmas Plum Pudding, this is the smaller one. My recipe makes two, a large and a small. It's still surprising to me how many people who are great cooks have never made a plum pudding, and I think it's partly because the old method of making one involves a lot of time which scares people off. An initial four hours of simmering in a pudding steamer and then simmering it for another two hours of the day of eating it. Following a query by a reader about whether or not it could be cooked in a pressure cooker, I have added a p.s. to my post and given instructions on how to cook it in a Pressure Cooker, which is more suited now for busy people with little time.

I have a Phillips all in one pressure cooker. I've consulted with my very clever cooking friend Julie, who has the same pressure cooker as mine, and she is a lot more adventurous with it than I am, and after that chat, I am happy to say that yes absolutely, you can cook a steamed Christmas Plum Pudding in a Pressure Cooker. It will only take about 1 hour 15 minutes on manual pressure. Briefly, add two cups of water to the bowl, add a trivet so the steamer isn't sitting on the bottom of your stainless steel pressure cooker bowl, cover the batter with baking paper, then the lid of the steamer. Cook on manual pressure for about 1 hour 15 minutes, quick release, and your pudding is ready. However, it's important to check the instruction manual for your particular type of pressure cooker for exact times and settings.
I've been rather thrilled and overwhelmed by the response to this post, hopefully lots of people will be taking the plunge and making a homemade Plum Pudding this year.

I've made a batch of Scottish Shortbread, which was delicious, and a batch of Rum Balls, which are now in the freezer for Christmas festivities.

A Sourdough Rosemary Focaccia with a late afternoon drink was delicious after a long break from breadmaking.

Mr. HRK and I wish you and your families a safe and festive Christmas. I think a little bit of indulgence is allowed, and everyone really needs the Holidays this year.

This is my December submission to the #IMK series hosted by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. 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 for my Kitchen, but I love cooking and baking. I hope you enjoy some of my recipes and stories.

I'll be posting a couple of new recipes and stories between now and Christmas hopefully. 

Take care my friends,
Pauline x


  1. So many delicious treats! Those lychees look so fresh. I haven't baked shortbread in a while. Yours look perfect!

  2. thanks for joining in Pauline. it's a busy time of year! I like your relish labels. I have made a Nigella traybake before with chicken and lots of roasted capsicum (out of a jar); traybakes are so handy and quick and tasty. Love a good shortbread too. That new jug is just beautiful. definitely my style. I promise you get absolutely no skin at all when you just process the tomatoes for relish. Honest! cheers and happy christmas.

    1. Thanks Sherry, I really like the simplicity of the jug too. Happy Christmas to you too. Yikes, it's almost here.

  3. Wow, you have been very busy in your kitchen. I love that jug and can imagine flowers in it, when not in use for custard. I will start buying summer fruit when we get back from holiday.
    from Tandy I Lavender and Lime

  4. Tandy, I'm sure I will be putting flowers in the jug quite often. Happy holidays to you. x

  5. All those chicken tray-bakes and all the sweets look delicious. You really have been busy in your kitchen!

    best... mae at

    1. Thanks Mae, I've really enjoyed all of the cooking, and we have to eat.

  6. A wonderful month in your kitchen, Pauline! I would love your mango chutney with the ham -- what a great idea. And the tray bake looks fantastic!

    1. Thanks David, Mango Chutney is just one of our delicious traditions in the North, it's a perfect partner for Christmas ham.


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