I gotta tell you, it’s weird and a touch intimidating with no daily routine now my job has been stripped away, and I have nothing big to do each day but wait while everything returns to normal, and just be part of the quiet space that exists to put things back together again. Cyclone Debbie sure has been a bundle of surprises for us all; first we were thoroughly roughed up, then we had to mop up and now the regrouping and downtime before life kicks back into gear. Strangely enough though, this forced downtime has held the most surprises for me – and for the most part, in a good way!
I’ve found a wealth of fascinating notes written in the tatty handwritten recipe book Momma has always had stashed away in the bottom kitchen drawer, by the women who came before me in my family. And these gals knew their stuff about caring, cooking and supporting their family and communities with good food through good times and bad, let me tell you! They competed for ribbons in cutthroat C.W.A. (Country Women’s Association) cooking contests of skill, stamina and diplomacy, not unlike many of the cooking competitions we competed in as chefs during our 4 long years of apprenticeships.
Coming from a long line of farming families, I always thought I was a bit of a rebel going into hospitality, but catering for big numbers for just about any event from weddings to funerals, race meetings, B&S balls, rodeos and of course, agricultural shows, were all part of their lives. I have found awesome ‘fundraising recipes’ to feed 75 people or more, and even ideas for creating ‘Care Packages’ for the newly widowed or soldiers returning to war, flood, fire or storm victims, and tips on organising billeting for displaced or traumatised folk that resulted from disasters like I’ve just gone through. They’re little things I guess, but they matter a great deal to me just knowing this stuff.
It seemed to me there is a great shared love throughout this cookbook towards caramel. Even a little side note for boiling tins of condensed milk for 3 hours – ‘best done in an outside copper, less mess in case of explosions’. So I decided I’d fancy up an oldie but goldie, and create a cheeky chia caramel pineapple dessert, it’s sweet, sticky, buttery, sugary goodness and the pineapple and chia make it (almost) healthy, right?!
Chia Caramel Pineapple
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 – 30 minutes
- 200 grams butter, I use unsalted – but if you love the salty, sugary combo, use salted butter
- 200 grams brown sugar, or dark brown sugar depending on the colour you want your caramel to be
- 395 gram tin, condensed milk
- 1-2 tablespoons, chia seeds
- 1 medium, pineapple cut into rings
- Combine 200g butter with 200g brown sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Stir over low heat until the butter and sugar become a smooth liquid.
- Add 395g condensed milk.
- Stir over low heat for 20 minutes or until mixture browns and thickens slightly. Use caution as mixture will be very hot.
- Remove from heat, stir through chia seeds and set aside.
- In non stick pan place pineapple rings, sear till slightly browned/caramelised.
- Add 4 large tablespoons of chia caramel to pan and cook for further 2-3 minutes.
- Serve with cream or ice-cream and fresh mint garnish.
Who would have thought an old family recipe book and Cyclone Debbie would have created the time for me to bond with the generations of woman in my family by cooking their recipes, and connected the dots as to why cooking and hospitality has always been such a big love for me.
I’d love to know, have you ever been through forced downtime? And what did you do to entertain yourself?