Saturday, 25 March 2017

Country life near Lake Leschenaultia in Chidlow, W.A.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who follows my blog and hi to friends from home who read it and who are anxiously anticipating the effects of an imminent cyclone. Mr. HRK and I are trying not to be anxious knowing that it could still hit our part of the world, and here we are on the opposite side of the country feeling rather helpless. At this stage the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting it will make landfall just south of Townsville so hopefully it will miss Mackay but one just never knows. Good friends have contacted us and offered to do some of the preparation work and move some furniture inside before it gets really windy  so that is reassuring. Good friends are such a treasure and I am already planning what I will cook for them when I get home, which could be sooner than we planned if the cyclone makes landfall around Mackay.

Very healthy rosemary to be expected in a Mediterranean climate
Meanwhile, it has been a busy couple of weeks, with us flying across the country from Cairns,  via Alice Springs to Chidlow situated in the Perth Hills in Western Australia where our son Matthew and his family live. We spent an idyllic four days at a country house near Lake Leschenaultia, where there was no internet, so blogging was a little out of the question really. I did most of my internet work using mobile data on my phone which can be a challenge. I will also catch up this week hopefully with reading the other blogs that I follow now that I have access to a computer and wifi. And the weather has been so much cooler over here minus the humidity which is great.

Beautiful lavendar in flower
However, we had farm animals for company, and we also did a lot of babysitting of our gorgeous little grandson, which I have to say was really tiring but so wonderful. At 8 months old he is an absolute delight. So my cooking also revolved around what I could give little Hugo for lunch and also for his tea. He has my genes as he just loves his food and plenty of it even though most of it still needs to be mashed, ha, ha, although finger food is good.

His Mum and Dad have had a really busy week finishing off research work for their jobs and they work from home, so it was just easier for us to live offsite just down the road and help out with little Hugo. The chickens at the chalet are of a quite exotic breed and look as if they have spent the morning in the beauty parlour, however there is a very frisky rooster on patrol in the chicken coup and they aren't laying yet so the No Entry sign is very firmly located on the gate. There are also two geese in the coup to ward off the foxes, and they didn't seem particularly happy with us either, however it was all very entertaining and Hugo was quite fascinated with the rooster, safely from the outside.


Asparagus
Hot chillis growing which I didn't think would grow over there


Citrus which will be this year's crop
Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone and thanks for dropping by for a read.

It's lunchtime as we are two hours behind Queensland over here which still takes a little bit of getting used to.

Best wishes

Pauline

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Tropical Garlic Prawns


Eating prawns and seafood are synonymous with living in North Queensland, and the further North you travel the more it becomes the preferred option for a delicious meal. I think that when it comes to eating seafood, often freshly cooked, chilled,  and unadorned is best, however garlic prawns is such a classic and delicious way of cooking green prawns. I have adapted this recipe from one I found on my friend Julia's blog from Tropigal Cooks. We both love seafood so I knew this would be a good recipe. This one was originally for 600g of prawn meat, so I have just slightly increased the quantities to suit 1kg of green prawns. This was enough for three of us, so to serve four people you could safely increase the quantity of prawns by another 400g. There will still be enough delicious garlic wine sauce for everyone and plenty of prawns.

I had these gems in my freezer and always intended to make garlic prawns from them, and when I knew we would be driving to Cairns I decided to bring them up in our car fridge freezer and cook this dish for our daughter Shannon as well. I would never freeze cooked prawns because they are never the same again and become mushy, however it is quite safe to freeze green prawns and not impair the quality of them, as long as they are thawed out in the fridge. This is a great recipe as every part of the prawn is used imparting so much flavour. The shells and heads are poached in wine to create a beautifully flavoured base and stock, which combined with the cream and garlic creates a rich and delicious garlicky wine sauce. Mr. HRK and Shannon both loved this dish so I think it will now become part of my regular cooking repertoire. Initially cooking up the shells and prawn heads is a little bit more work than some of the other recipes out there, however the result is well worth it.

I am also very careful when buying fresh prawns, green or cooked,  to look at the labels in the seafood distributors or the supermarket and only buy Australian Wild caught if possible. Sometimes the only ones  available are from the prawn hatcheries and that is fine if they are local hatcheries, but the wild caught prawns are far superior in flavor and quality.

So easy and quick to make. Thanks Jules.

Ingredients:

Serves 3-4 people

1 kg raw green prawns (peeled and the shells and heads reserved) (1400 grams will be a good quantity for 4 people)
1 1/4 cup white wine
50g butter
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
300ml cooking cream
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup rice or spaghettini to serve (I prefer rice)

Let's cook:-
  1. Peel the prawns, remove the heads, and place the green prawn meat back in the fridge in a covered dish. Place the prawn shells and heads, the wine and a cup of water into a saucepan over a medium heat and poach until the liquid reduces by half. Strain through a fine colander and reserve the liquid. You will need about 1 cup of this stock.
  2. Discard the shells and heads.
  3. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat.
  4. Add the garlic and the prawn meat and cook, stirring for 2 minutes until prawns start to turn pink.
  5. Add the mustard, cream and the reserved prawn stock and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. At this point if you think you have too much sauce, remove the prawns to a dish and keep warm, and simmer down the sauce gently for about 10 minutes. Removing the prawns stops them from becoming tough. Add the prawns back into the sauce.
  7. Stir through herbs (I prefer parsley) and and toss to combine. Add the cooked pasta if you are using pasta instead of rice. Serve the prawns with the rice.
  8. Serve in bowls with grated fresh Parmesan. (I didn't have any Parmesan this time and honestly it wasn't missed.)
Bon appetit and enjoy your prawns!

Thanks for visiting,

Best regards

Pauline.









Saturday, 11 March 2017

C ' EST BON Restaurant Francais, Cairns

Last week we drove to Cairns in Far North Queensland for a special birthday celebration with our wonderful daughter, and where better to celebrate than at C'est Bon. Mr. HRK and I don't eat out very much at home, which makes it all the more special when we dine at an excellent French restaurant like C'est Bon when travelling. This restaurant also hosts a Pinot Noir Dinner each year which the Birthday Girl has been to and now she knows the staff by their names and is on their newsletter mailing list.

The service was excellent, with minimal time between courses. Classic dishes such as Crepes Suzette and Rack of Lamb were given the extra adornment they deserve. However the standout dish for me was the dessert that I ordered, the Chocolate Souffle. I struggle sometimes now to comfortably eat three courses in close succession, however I still had plenty of room in reserve for the souffle and it was the best I have ever tasted. I could have eaten more of it. Of course Mr. HRK and the Birthday Girl were also helping me to finish it after they had demolished the Chocolate Sphere and the Crepe and they could have eaten even more of those as well.

I had forgotten what a lusciously light dessert a well made souffle is. The Chocolate Sphere was pretty amazing as well.

A sparkler with the crepe to celebrate her birthday and our beautiful daughter was extremely happy with her birthday dinner, and so were we. C'est Bon.....
C'est Bon, 20 Lake Street, Cairns


Sauteed Tiger Prawns with Cognac Flambee and Creamy Mariniere Sauce



A dozen snails with Garlic Parsley Butter 
Classic Crepe Suzette. Sorry this is out of order.........

Sauteed scallops, Vinegared Cannellini Bean Puree, Roasted Almonds, Perlee Vinaigrette
Seared Lamb Rack, Anchovy Aromatised Eggplant, Chickpea Crisp and Thyme Jus. So tender and tasty
Aged Black Angus Eye Fillet with Rustic Mash potato and Green peppercorn sauce. Mr. HRKs choice and one of the best steaks he has ever eaten, a big call.
Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Beetroot Puree, Red Wine Poached Pear, Cauliflower, and Jus
Chocolate souffle - Amazing
Chocolate Sphere, Raspberry Mousse, Chocolate Puff Rice, Berry Marmalade and Hot Chocolate Sauce. 

Collapsed Chocolate Sphere after Hot Chocolate Sauce has been poured over it. 
Thanks for visiting and have a great week,

Best wishes


Pauline

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A visit from Juvenile Metallic Starlings one sunny morning


We have lots of birds visit our garden but we hadn't seen these Juvenile Starlings before.  Regardless of how busy we are, there is always time to listen, watch and observe the birds. These had us stumped though as to what they were. After checking all of our usual sources, such as the bird books and the online bird sites we phoned our twitcher friends, Ann and Wayne living up in Eungella and from the description we gave them they knew exactly what they were. The Man of the House had seen Starlings before but not the juveniles, and certainly not a flock of them. They didn't stay for the whole morning,  but it was nice to see them.

Now we are entertained each morning by the beautiful song of the Magpies.We may not have time to smell the roses, as we don't have any ha, ha, but we have time to  watch and enjoy the birds.





I must tell you I bought a whole fish called a Grunter at the Saturday farmer markets, a fish which is in season in North Queensland at the moment. It is an Estuary fish also known  as the Javelin fish. I don't  often  buy whole  fish  to bake so it was with a little bit of trepidation knowing that  Neil would need to scale and clean it, not one of my favourite jobs either, however he happily did it and we ate it for dinner the following night. Next to Barramundi, I think it is my favourite tasting fish. When it was full size minus it's head, I thought we would have a couple of meals off it. They aren't big fish, the larger ones being protected for breeding  purposes, and there was just enough to feed the two of us. The rule with cooking Grunter is to keep it simple, the KISS principle, as the flavour is delicious on its own. Just some lemon, soy sauce, spring onion and tarragon was all that I used  and it was delicious. I placed 2 cm of water in the base of the baking fish, so the fish wouldn't  dry out and cooked  it on a baking rack for about 40 minutes. Cooked to a turn.


Best wishes
Pauline

Monday, 6 March 2017

Sicilian Caponata, a Healthy Mediterranean Diet Option



Caponata alla Siciliana or Sweet and Sour Eggplant

Caponata is a sweet and sour Sicilian vegetable dish that ticks most of the Mediterranean cuisine boxes. We ate the Caponata as a vegetable dish to accompany chicken during the week, although it can be served on its own to accompany healthy breads or as a relish. The smaller the size of the vegetable pieces the more you can call it a relish. It will keep in the frig for a couple of days and improves in flavour as a result.

A healthy Japanese Eggplant bush growing in my garden, inspired this recipe. One important thing I have learnt about eggplant is that once picked they don't have a long shelf  or refrigerator life. Eggplant don't seem to store well and they are best not refrigerated, however it is still quite muggy and hot here in Mackay so I think it would be too warm leaving them out on the kitchen bench and so I prefer to cook them close to harvesting. The Japanese or Asian eggplant variety are milder in flavour and have less seeds than the larger aubergines, and the bush supports the weight of the eggplant better than that of the large globe shaped fruit. From now I think that these are the ones we will grow.



I am aware that many of my food and cooking choices during the week "unconsciously" tend to fit into the framework of what is now called the  Mediterranean diet, which we are told is very healthy. Food choices are also based on what is available at the Farmer's Market, trying to eat more fruit, vegetables and pulses  and a decision to reduce the amount of meat we are eating in our diet. The latter isn't easy at times as I grew up in Rockhampton, proudly the Beef Capital of Australia for Heaven's sake, so I was raised on good beef, however there are so many more vegetable and fruit choices available now. My goodness, the weight should just be falling off, however life isn't that simple when you are in your early 60s, but it is a good start towards aiming for a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully the Mediterranean lifestyle allows a good glass of red wine with our meal, in moderation of course and it compliments Caponata beautifully.

All of the traditional recipes for Caponata suggest 1 cup of olive oil for this quantity of vegetables, however next time I will reduce the amount of oil to 3/4 of a cup and just check that it isn't sticking to the pan. The vegetable combination is absolutely delicious however the amount of oil needed is a personal taste.


Ingredients:

1 kg cubed eggplant, or 2 large ones, cut into 2 cm cubes
salt
6 inner sticks of celery, cut into 2 cm pieces
3/4 cup of olive oil, approx.
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup pitted  green olives (I threw in a few black ones to use them up)
1 large red capsicum
1/2 cup well-drained small capers
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
1 1/2 cups Fresh Tomato Sauce or Passata or canned Italian Plum Tomatoes, drained and chopped
(I used my stash of frozen Oven Baked Tomato Sauce for this recipe)
1/2 cup white or red wine vinegar (I used white)
2 tablespoons sugar

Find the recipe for Oven Baked Tomatoes here.

Sprinkle the eggplant pieces with salt and drain for an hour in a colander.

Blanch the celery for 1 minute in boiling water and drain and allow to cool slightly.

Rinse the eggplant well, dry and drain the pieces. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil if the oil isn't really hot, so instead of frying the eggplant I prefer to bake it.

Toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of the olive oil; spread onto baking parchment in a baking tray and and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large frypan, saute the onion in the remaining oil until it begins to colour.

Add the celery and garlic,  and cook a minute longer, don't let the garlic brown, then add the olives, the capers, tomato sauce pr chopped tomatoes, capsicum, vinegar and sugar.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the eggplant and simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Stir in the mint and cook 5 minutes longer

Check the seasoning, adjust to your taste, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Bring back to room temperature and serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or almond slivers, and fresh chopped basil.

I had only eaten Caponata once before I made this recipe whereas Ratatouille is so popular and so similar. Have you eaten Caponata very often?

Thanks for dropping by and please leave a message at the bottom of the screen in the comments box so that I know you have visited. Just scroll down to where it says to leave a comment and then hit publish. It would be nice to hear from you.

Best wishes

Pauline x


Thursday, 2 March 2017

The memories embedded in knitting and sewing





Burda pattern 9477

This is the warm  hat I have made for my 7 month old Grandson Hugo this week, which hopefully will keep his little head warm when they travel to Denmark and France later this month. It should still be quite cool then. Once I got started, and became used to Burda's style of instructions it was quite easy. I am starting to really feel like a retiree, and am enjoying the challenge and relaxation that sewing and knitting brings to my life. However  cooking is still very much on my horizon.

Knitting has become a regular part of my daily routine as well, and fills the gaps nicely, which really surprises me. I have never really been what I would call a successful knitter but  I have been going really well with this Waffle knit pattern and actually made the last dishcloth/face washer without a mistake, or the need to pull some out and redo it. I am enjoying the challenge, the tactile process, and the thrill of creating something from nothing. It's never too late to start.

The Waffle Knit Pattern can be found here,  I first found it on Rhonda's Down to Earth blog.
http://homespunliving.blogspot.com.au/2007/11/waffle-knit-dishcloth-pattern.html

This morning we were waiting patiently to see the segment with Hugh Sheridan on the ABC News Breakfast programme, as I like following his career. He is an extremely talented young Australian singer , actor and dancer, the whole Triple Threat scenario really. So whilst I was waiting for the segment to show, I kept knitting while the Man of the House was talking to me, and then finally Hugh Sheridan's interview came on. During the interview, and with a total loss of concentration on my knitting, somehow I managed to create an extra stitch. So I am blaming Hugh for my knitting mistake this morning, although it was worth it to see his interview, and I wish I was in Sydney tonight to see his concert. However I suppose the lesson learned from that story is to put your knitting down and focus on what you are watching, even though I am so used to being able to multitask.

Anyway I  pulled out a row and I thought I had corrected the problem. I am still not that skilled with correcting knitting mistakes as I can now see that there are still a couple of small problems in that row. Fortunately though the vertical rows of the pattern design are still aligned, and this cloth will live in my kitchen and not become a gift as a facecloth or dishcloth. Whenever I look at this dishcloth in the future I will think of that interview. Which makes me think that perhaps memories become embedded in our knitting projects as they continue over time. Do you think that is part of the satisfaction of knitting and handicrafts in general?

I am finding that whilst this pattern looks complicated it really is easy if you can knit plain and pearl and it looks so effective. It is just a matter of concentrating on the task in hand.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Thanks for visiting

Warm wishes

Pauline







Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Enjoying Polish Apple Platzki or Platski


This recipe for Polish Apple Platski goes out to my Polish friend Irena, who cooked these for me for morning tea, the day before my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Irena doesn't cook much at all and is the first to admit it, although she does buy recipe books just to read, and to drool over the pictures. She's not alone there! However, these Polish Apple Platzkis are her signature dish, and her connection with her Polish heritage and her dear Mother. If her Mum knew visitors were coming, Apple Platzki was always what Irena and her Mum would cook to feed their guests in traditional Polish fashion.  Platzki means pancake, and according to The Pierogie Mama, when she was growing up these were simply called "placki", but says the real name is placki z jablkami, or (apple pancakes, platzki z yab-calm-y).  Platzki will do for now.

When I arrived at Irena's lovely home she had already started cooking these from the recipe embedded in her memory, however the first batch wasn't going too well, as is often the case with pancakes or pikelets or platzki, until the right pan heat is achieved and the pan is well greased. She was laughing about it and saying her Polish Mum would be just shaking her head in disbelief, as Mums do. However, the second batch in the pan came together beautifully  and so she kept cooking them, batch after batch. I was then given the huge responsibility of grinding the sugar and the cinnamon and the mixed spice to a fine dust to be sprinkled over the Platzki before serving. This is traditional and very serious, so I took it on board and started grinding them up in the small Mortar and Pestle she gave me. I probably would have done that step differently, but I am all for Polish tradition when necessary.

Irena cooking Platzki in her kitchen
So then our young German friend Kati and her little boy Leon arrived, and we all sat down and devoured the plate of Platzki. Thanks Rena they were delicious.

I asked her for her Platzki recipe, as I plan that we will make some at my house in the future, although she wants to try the traditional potato version next time. Well the recipe arrived on my phone as a message, in a somewhat garbled format, however I think I have it right given all the little tips I was given along the way as she was making them.

This is a much lighter version of the normal apple pancake recipes commonly used, and the "batter" really just holds the apple slices together in a crisp and very delicious Polish pancake, which is almost like a crepe.

Let's cook Apple Platzki

Ingredients:

1 cup SR flour or 1 cup plain flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. mixed spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1 cup water (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 beaten egg
1 dessertspoon butter

2 Granny Smith Apples and 1 red apple
1 tbsp. vegetable oil and 1 tbsp. butter

1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice ground together to a fine powder

Let's cook:

Sift the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, and salt together into a bowl.
Make a little indent in the sifted flour and spices,  and add the beaten egg.

Add some water and gradually mix and add more water until mixture is smooth.
Add 1 dessertspoon of melted butter to the batter after it is nice and smooth.

Let the mixture stand.

Peel the apples, Granny Smith are tart and less mushy so a combination of Granny Smith and red eating apples works well, however just Granny Smith will be fine. Slice very thinly and add to the batter.

Heat a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of oil and the equivalent of butter over a moderate heat. Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan and fry on one side until small bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.


Flip the platzki over and fry the other side until golden on both sides and the apple is just right for eating.







Grind 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice in a pestle and mortar until very fine.

To serve, sprinkle the Platzki with the fine sugar and spices, and serve with ice cream, whipped cream or fresh yoghurt, however this isn't essential.



 placki z jablkami (apple pancakes - platz-ki z yab-calm-y)
Bon appetit,

Thanks for stopping by.

Warm wishes

Pauline