Two simple recipes

10 February 2009
I didn't watch the news last night but Hanno told me there are over 160 lives lost in the fires now. Of course, there are many animals dead too, heavy stock losses and wild life carers are either nursing burnt or injured animals back to health or are euthanasing them. And the houses! An entire town lost with almost every home burnt to the ground, and many homes in other towns burnt, leaving only chimney stacks behind as silent reminders of what used to be. It is the worst tragedy we have ever had here. Our government is giving money to each family affected and paying for the funerals. Thanks for your prayers and kind thoughts. Australia is a sad place today.

I have two simple recipes for you today. It's food we've eaten in the past few days, easy to make and very tasty. They're both old-fashioned recipes and as my heritage is Irish, they come from the old country. If you're teaching yourself to bake from scratch, this cake is a good one to try. It's mixed by hand and apart from cutting up the dates, is merely a matter of adding and mixing.

DATE AND WALNUT LOAF - you can use any nuts you have on hand
The cake makes two small loaves or one large one.

1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 ½ cups walnuts
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon bicarb (this is the rising agent for this cake)
3 tablespoons soft butter (vegans use the same amount of olive oil)
1 ¼ cups boiling water - add more if needed
2 ½ cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 beaten egg (vegans use ½ mashed banana)

Boil some water.
Add the dates, nuts, sugar, bicarb and butter to a mixing bowl and mix together. Add the boiling water and mix again.
Add the egg, half the flour and mix, add the remaining flour and mix it in. If the mix is dry, add a little more water, enough to make a loose, but not runny, batter.
You do not have to beat this cake mixture. It's not a light cake and doesn't require the incorporation of air.
Add to a loaf tin (or two) and bake in a slowish oven (170C / 340 F) until cooked - about 40 minutes.

To check if the cake is cooked, poke a toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, it's cooked, if it comes out sticky and with moist cake mix on it, (see photo below) cook for another ten minutes.

If, when you do that, you're worried the top of the cake will burn, cover the top with a piece of alfoil.

When I cook this cake I always make a large one and cut it in two. We are enjoying the cake this week and I have another one in the freezer for later in the month.

It's a very good cake for packing into lunch boxes, but if it's to go in a school lunch box, you might have to leave out the nuts. I believe nuts are banned in some schools now.

My other recipe is colcannon.

Ingredients are mashed potato, cabbage and green onions or chives.

Cook your potatoes as you normally do. About ten minutes before the potatoes finish cooking, cook a portion of finely sliced cabbage. You will need about one third cabbage to two thirds potato. I use a steamer on top of the potatoes to cook the cabbage. This saves money as I'm using the same heat that's cooking the potatoes to cook the cabbage as well. I use this method when I cook all our vegetables. The hard vegetables, like potatoes or pumpkin, go in the saucepan and the soft vegetables, beans, carrots, peas, zucchini, are cooked in the steamer on top.

Make up your mashed potato as you normally do, then add the cooked cabbage and green onions. Don't forget to season it with salt and pepper to your taste. This is delicious with any meat, chicken or fish meal and uses three vegetables in one dish.


  1. Thanks for the recipes - is bicarb the same as baking soda or baking powder? Sorry to have to ask!


  2. Here in the middle of California we're in our third year of drought and are watching Australia with great concern. I am keeping all my Aussie friends (though I know none of you except through your wonderful blog) in my heart and my prayers.


  3. Janet, bicarb is baking soda. :- )

    Thanks Melanie.

  4. Thank you for the recipes. I think I will try the colcannon tonight! My thoughts and prayers go out to Australia and all the families who have suffered such devastation and loss. Thank you for keeping us posted. Donna J.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean
    Thanks for another wonderful post. I look forward to your blog every morning and have tried out many of your recipes and ideas.
    The bushfires are terrible aren't they! My brother's parents-in-laws have lost everything and lucky to be alive. They were from Marysville where 95% of houses burnt!

    I have a wonderful, EASY pumpkin bread recipe which I though you might like to share with your readers. It tastes delicious and is a good one for anyone starting out cooking from scratch. I make it once a week.

    Pumpkin and Rosemary Loaf
    500g butternut pumpkin, chopped
    2 cups self-raising flour
    2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
    1/4cup polenta
    2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
    2 tsp salt
    1 cup milk
    2 tbs pumpkin seeds
    pesto, to serve

    1. Cook pumpkin in a saucepan of boiling water for 10-12 mins or until tender. Drain. Return to pan. Mash until smooth. Cool. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 9cmx19cm loaf pan.

    2. Sift flour into a large bowl. Stir in rosemary, polenta, parmesan and salt. Make a well in centre. Add pumpkin and milk. Stir unti ljust combined. soon into prepared pan. Top with pepitas.

    3. Bake for 45-50mins or until golden brown and hollow when tapped on top. Stand in pan for 5 mins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with pesto.

    NOTE. You'll need 1& 1/3 cups mashed pumpkin.

    I got this recipe from a Super Foods magazine.


  6. Thank you for the recipes! I've never heard of colcannon and it looks yummy - can't wait to try it.

  7. I'm so sorry when watching the burning desaster! All my prayers are with the affected families and animals.

  8. Thank you for the recipes - and for the steamer idea. Unfortunatelly, I have nothing of that sort, but I think I'll figure something out... I hate taking care of two hobs at one time. :D

  9. My heart is so heavy for those who have lost their lives and for the families left behind. Such devastation is just heart wrenching. Will keep Austalia in my prayers.

    Thank you for the recipes! I look forward to trying them! Colcannon is new to me! I learn so much here!!

    Central Illinois

  10. I just found your blog today and Im so excited, it looks like you have some great ideas and recipes.

    I can't imagine the loss that your country is feeling right now, especially now that it looks like arson. Im so sorry. Do you know if there is a fund put together by the blogging community for donations or anything? I would love to help out in anyway possible so please post is there is a fund. Hang in there!

  11. Thanks for some more great recipes, Rhonda. I think you are such a great cook but then you say your cousin Susie is the best cook in the family! You certainly are lucky to have been born into that family in more ways than one! What a great tradition for your boys to be continuing on with in their proffessions.

    That's a brilliant looking steamer you have there. And also knowing that using it can reduce energy use is something for all of us to think about. We have a book about the home front in Britain during WW2 where they talk about all the strategies they encouraged people to implement to save the energy wastage in the home (amongst many other practical things). I know we could all do a lot more of that these days. Once you've thought about it a little it really doesn't take much effort to have it become just part of the daily routines. The harder part is probably getting us all to recognise that what we take for granted and think of as normal consumption is in fact wastful.

    Regards, Marilyn

  12. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I've been lurking for a couple of months now and love reading your blog. I've made your strawberry jam recipe too, how delicious.

    But, COLCANNON... Yum!! We lived in Ireland for a couple of years (2001-2005) and I fondly remember looking bemusedly at our first Irish pub meal of 'roast and three veg' with the three veg being hot chips, crunchy roast potatoes and colcannon. Needless to say, we came to love colcannon, but never got around to making it myself. Time to educate our kids, I think, using your recipe!!

    We're in suburban Victoria, but about 45 minutes away from Kinglake, which has been destroyed by fire. The devastation of areas we know well is so sad and tragic and everyone is still on high alert because it is not over yet with more windy weather on the way.

    Thanks for your inspiration and commentary on behalf of Aussies for your international readers. Congratulations for the happy couple and the upcoming family wedding, sounds like it will be wonderful.


  13. Hi Rhonda,

    I know many people around the world are keeping all of those affected by the fires in their thoughts.

    Your cake recipe intrigues me, although I'm not a fan of most dried fruits. I often substitute chopped apples in recipes that call for dried fruits. I'll have to try that with the apples I have going soft in the kitchen!

  14. Hello Rhonda, So sorry to hear of all the losses of life. Your beautiful Land has been in my heart now all week end.
    The loaf cake sound very good.
    I made a broccoli chowder using left over mashed potatoes, soy milk and a bit of allspice.
    I'll need to read your other posts have yet to spend much time on line.

  15. We are watching Australia and praying for you all.

  16. I think this is the first time I've noticed another Melanie posting! I'll have to specify that I'm "Melanie from Canada" from now on!
    Those recipes both look so good--I will have to try both of them out. And I've gotten yet another great idea from you--steaming veggies on top of another pot of veggies. Thanks :)
    I will also keep Australia in my prayers, such devistation is hard to fathom.
    -Melanie from Canada

  17. Hello everyone. Thanks for your prayers and thought, and thanks for the recipe Mim.

    Demand More, welcome to the blog, I'm pleased you found us. The Red Cross has started an appeal, the info is here:

  18. I am keeping all of the affected Australians in my prayers. so frightening, I can't imagine.

  19. Hi Everyone,
    Rhonda we are not that far from where the Bunyip fires were and the Bolarra fires and now the Churchill fires. The tradegy of these fires is indescribable. The town where we live seems very subdued today. I had to go into the supermarket and it was even quiet in there, everyone is in shock. It is wonderful to read of the concern and prayers people are sending from around the world and the true spirit of giving that has emerged in this heartbreaking time. Times like this can bring the world together as one community, and let's hope it encourages that feeling of friendship and support to stay long after this traedgy is over.

  20. Thinking of all of you down under, including my very good friend who just moved back there a few months back. Virtual, global hug.

  21. Just had to let you know how reading your blog has changed my days. I could not think what vegies to cook for lunch but noticed your recipe for colcannon. Thought "cant cabbage..." but did had lovely young silver beet and a zucchini in the garden so used them instead and it turned out lovely. Have just turned out a date and walnut loaf and cant wait for afternoon tea. Thanks for the recipes,Rhonda

  22. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to share these recipes, especially the date and walnut loaf. My father just loves it. Now I will be able to make it for him for scratch :)

  23. We're going to Ireland in May on a caravanning trip, and looking most forward to the food. That said, I may have to try your delicious recipe right now!

    The situation in Australia is dreadful; luckily the Australian government had the foresight to put money away for bad times such as these (unlike some other ones I know of!). My prayers for everyone, and my sympathies to those who lost loved ones.

    Best wishes,

    AM of the Bread

  24. My thoughts are with the Australians affected by these terrible fires. It broke my heart watching the news last night - the toll at that stage was 171 and it seems to be going up all the time.

    Green Bean, I'd like to join you in that global hug, with all those who lost family and friends in these fires right in the centre xxxxxx

  25. Our thoughts are with all of those affected by these terrible bush fires. It is covered on our news programmes and is horrendous to hear of the death toll rising daily.We can only offer our prayers from this side of the world.

  26. we make guiness stew with colcannon as a lovely filling winter dinner and everyone always scoffs it!

  27. Hi Rhonda,
    Hope you're having a nice weekend. Just thought I'd let you know I did make that date and walnut loaf for my dad - I'm giving it to him tomorrow :)

  28. I hope he likes it, Chantel, otherwise both you and I are in trouble. ; - )

  29. He loved it! After his first piece he said "By gee Chantel this is good!"

    We have done well ;-)


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