Category Archives: Cooking

Strawberry Cheesecake – Take 2

My daughter found a new way to make the base for a cheesecake. I love it so much that it is going to be my go-to method from now on.

I have made Strawberry Cheesecake before for my daughter’s 17th birthday, and I made one again for my son’s 15th. I guess you could say we all love cheesecake around here.

Base:

  • 1 packet of chocolate cream cookies (eg Oreos) crushed until fine
  • 1 tbsp (or so) melted butter

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 30 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed strawberries

Topping:

  • sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 x 57g packet of strawberry flavoured jelly crystals

Collar (optional):

  • 135g chocolate (milk, dark, white, your choice)

Method

  1. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter. Press firmly into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.
  2. In a blender, or using a hand-held electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add gelatine mixture, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and mashed strawberries. Blend until well combined.
  3. Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take at least four hours.
  4. Place sliced strawberries over the top.
  5. Prepare jelly but only use half the amount of water needed, ie, if the instructions call for 500mL of water, only use about 250mL. We want a jelly top, but we want it to be firm and not too wobbly.
  6. Return to fridge and chill until firm. This will take at least a few hours (preferably overnight).

To make chocolate collar:

  1. Fold two layers of foil or baking paper around the outer circumference of the cake tin, ensuring that it is 2-3 cm higher than the sides of the cake. Cut paper to meet exactly around.
  2. Spread paper flat on work surface and tape down (if necessary).
  3. Melt chocolate. I did it in the microwave for one minute on HIGH.
  4. Spread melted chocolate onto paper with spatula. Let it cool and set slightly. Chocolate needs to be firm enough to hold its shape, but not too firm that it will crack when bent.
  5. Remove cake from springform pan and place on a serving dish.
  6. Bend chocolate-coated paper around cake, pressing gently against the sides of the cake.
  7. Return cake into fridge to chill until set (about 15 minutes).
  8. Carefully peel away paper from cake.

Strawberry Cheesecake

 

 

Cooking Around the World

This year, my youngest has been studying Eastern Hemisphere countries. To round off each topic, the student has to choose a project to do.

Here are some things she has done.

Pacific Islands
She cooked (with a bit of help) Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice and Mango Salsa. For dessert, Fakakai Topai (Dumplings in Sweet Coconut Sauce), a dish from Tonga.

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Australia

Lamingtons.

Confession: I have never made lamingtons from scratch. Years ago, someone on the homeschool forums tried making lamingtons for their Australian project. She posted pictures of their attempts where they had trouble coating the little pieces of cake evenly. The cakes came out all splotchy. She asked the Australians on the forums how we got our lamingtons evenly coated.

Without fail, every single Australian on the forum said, “We don’t make them; we just buy them at the shop.”

That said, Miss 10 and I did try to make lamingtons from scratch. It’s a lot of effort, and it really is easier to just buy them if you ever have a hankering for lamingtons.

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New Zealand

There is some controversy where pavlova — a meringue-based dessert topped with fruit and cream — originated. Some say it is Australia. Some say it is New Zealand. The Eastern Hemisphere workbook Miss 10 is working on says it is New Zealand. And the Oxford English Dictionary agrees with that.

Here is our feeble attempt. Everything was made from scratch and it is our very first attempt at making this oh-so-very-sweet dessert.

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Japan

Read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and tried our hand at some origami, including making cranes and working out how long it would take to fold one thousand of them.

One paper crane: Roughly three and a half minutes.
One thousand paper cranes: 3500 minutes (58.3 hours if done continuously without stopping!)

We didn’t take a photo of our paper cranes, but here are some other origami creations.

We live in an area where it is very convenient to buy “foreign” ingredients.

No-Bake Pandan Cheesecake with Pandan Agar Topping

I made a Pandan Cheesecake for my daughter’s birthday last November.

This is a tweaked version of that recipe.

Ingredients:

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Base:
1 – 1 1/2 cup crushed biscuits
1/3 to 1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 x 250g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon pandan extract
1 teaspoon pandan essence
1 1/2 Tablespoons gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water*

* sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir well and heat gently in a saucepan until dissolved OR heat in a microwave oven on High for 45 seconds

Method:

1. Combine biscuit crumbs and melted butter. Press into a 24cm (9.5 in) square springform cake tin. Put in the refrigerator to chill and set.

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2. In a large bowl, add ingredients for filling one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour into  cake tin over the base. Chill until firm.

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Topping:
100 ml coconut milk
400 ml water
1/2 teaspoon pandan paste
13 g agar powder*
75 g sugar
pinch of salt
desiccated coconut

agar-powder

* agar is a plant-based gelling agent. Commonly used in South-east Asian cuisines/desserts. Because it is plant-based, it is suitable for vegetarians/vegans, unlike gelatine which is animal-based. Agar can be found in Asian supermarkets and some urban/urbane mainstream supermarkets. If in a pinch, gelatine is a good substitute. (Pandan paste and pandan essence may be more difficult to obtain!)

Here is an interesting article about the difference between agar and gelatin.

Combine all the ingredients for the topping — except the desiccated coconut — in a small saucepan. Stir over high heat until it boils. Then, lower heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

If you are using gelatine, you do not need to boil the mixture. Using warm/hot water should be sufficient.

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Pour agar mixture over the chilled cheesecake and, working quickly, remove as many bubbles as possible. Agar can set at above room temperature! It was >30C today and you can actually see traces where the bubbles were! The agar was setting as I was popping the bubbles!

Put back in the refrigerator to chill (if necessary).

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Sprinkle desiccated coconut over the cake.

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Serve!

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Enjoy!

Pandan Cheesecake

My youngest turned ten and couldn’t decide between a cheesecake and a Pandan cake. “Why not both?” she asked. “A Pandan Cheesecake!”

A Pandan Cheesecake? Does such a thing exist? Has anyone tried combining the two?

A quick search on the internet revealed that, like almost everything, there is nothing new under the sun. If you think of something, chances are, somebody has already thought of it, created it, and posted it on the internet.

I found a recipe that called for eggs and required baking. Since we prefer chilled cheesecakes (ie no baking required), I decided to just wing it!

One of my go-to cheesecake recipes involves a can of sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. I decided to replace the lemon juice with coconut milk, pandan extract and pandan essence.

Read the rest of this entry

Chinese New Year 2016

Chinese New Year is here again!

 

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Clockwise from far left:
* Fish in Assam Sauce (used packaged sauce)
* Chinese Roast Pork aka Siew Yoke (made from scratch!)
* Chinese Roast Duck (Chinese takeaway)
* Chinese BBQ Pork aka Char Siew (used packaged seasoning)
* Cabbage, carrot, wood ear, lily flower, glass vermicelli stir-fry
* Fried noodles
* Szechuan Eggplant

Oh, and the rice (MUST have rice!!) is just off on the right.

Yes, that is a lot of food for just the six of us. But, I think I cooked enough extra so that we would have the obligatory leftovers to take into the new year without it being too overwhelming. I know this because the leftovers all fit comfortably in the fridge! There have been times in the past when I went overboard and it was a struggle to find room in the fridge to fit the leftovers. Maybe I’ve gotten better at cooking the ‘right’ amount. And maybe also my kids are getting older and eating more.

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Red-and-Gold Fruit Salad: Watermelon, Raspberries, Strawberries, Red Grapes, Mango

 

Orange Chiffon Cake and Red-and-Gold Fruit Salad for dessert. The cake tastes a LOT better than it looks.

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Wishing you all a VERY Happy Chinese New Year!

Recipe: Strawberry Cheesecake

Miss Seventeen asked if she could have a cheesecake for her birthday. Much to her older brother’s chagrin, it was not a chocolate cheesecake she wanted, but a strawberry cheesecake.

This is a no-bake cheesecake.

Base:

  • 1 cup sweet biscuit crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 30 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed strawberries

Topping:

  • sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 x 57g packet of strawberry flavoured jelly crystals

Method

  1. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter. Press into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.
  2. In a blender, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add gelatine mixture, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and mashed strawberries. Blend until well combined.
  3. Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take at least four hours.
  4. Place sliced strawberries over the top.
  5. Prepare jelly but only use half the amount of water needed, ie, if the instructions call for 500mL of water, only use about 250mL. We want a jelly top, but we want it to be firm and not too wobbly.
  6. Return to fridge and chill until firm. This will take at least a few hours (preferably overnight).

To serve, run a knife along the edge of the pan before releasing the spring form to unsure the jelly stays intact.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Foodful Friday: Spicy Beef Stew

If you are not a fan of hot, spicy foods, do NOT let the name of this dish put you off. It really is very delicious and you can always adjust the heat to your taste!

Ingredients:

1kg beef chuck, cut into 2.5cm chunks (I used stewing beef)
1 large onion, chopped
a thumbsize knob of fresh ginger, minced
25og tomato paste
2-3 cups beef stock (or chicken stock or water)

Chilli paste:
8 cloves garlic (I used a whole bulb)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bird’s eye chilli (or to taste)
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  • Combine chilli paste ingredients in a blender or pestle and mortar and blend/pound until well-combined.
  • Heat a little bit of cooking oil in a heavy-based pan and brown the beef in batches. Remove from pan.
  • Place onions in pan and saute until soft. Return beef into the pan and stir until well-combined.
  • Put chilli paste, ginger and tomato paste into pan and stir until well-combined.
  • Pour beef stock (or water) into pan until the water just covers the meat.

Spicy Beef Stew

  • Reduce heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 3 to 4 hours or until the liquid has reduced AND the meat is tender and breaking apart. Check periodically to see if more water needs to be added.
  • Serve with white rice and vegetables.

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Enjoy!

 

Foodful Friday: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies

I wanted brownies.

I wanted an easy recipe, ie, something that didn’t involve a lot of time and energy. The fewer ingredients, the better. The more just-put-everything-together-and-mix-and-bake the better.

I found the three-ingredient Nutella Brownies recipe that everyone was posting on Facebook.

Problem: I didn’t have Nutella. Don’t judge me.

Good News:did, however, have chocolate hazelnut spread. (Yes, it’s the same thing. Don’t judge me.)

Problem: I didn’t have enough. (I said, Don’t Judge Me!)

Potential Good News: I had Peanut Butter and Cooking Chocolate.

Question: Could I find a recipe for brownies using those ingredients?

Answer: Yes. Yes, I could.

I got the recipe from here. (And it’s in metric!!)

Ingredients:

  • 225g crunchy peanut butter
  • 200g bar dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I used dark cooking chocolate)
  • 280g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour

Method:

  1. Set aside 50g each of the peanut butter and chocolate. This will be for the topping.
  2. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  3. Gently melt remaining chocolate in a pan. When chocolate is melted, remove from heat, stir in peanut butter.
  4. When peanut butter is well combined, add in the sugar and stir until the sugar is just about melted.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to beat in the eggs one by one. Stir in the flour and scrape into the tin.
  6. Melt reserved peanut butter in the microwave on High for 45 secs, or in a pan, until runny, then drizzle over the brownie. Bake for 30-35 mins until it has a crust, but the middle still seems slightly uncooked.
  7. Melt reserved chocolate, drizzle over the brownie, then cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly just-put-everything-together-and-mix-and-bake, but it was SO good!

I used crunchy peanut butter for the batter, and smooth peanut butter for the topping.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies

Foodful Friday: Lemon Cheesecake with Fruit-and-Jelly Topping

Note: When I say jelly, I am NOT referring to fruit preserve. I am referring to a gelatin dessert-type of food. US Americans refer to such foods by the brand name, Jell-O.

Now that I’ve got that cleared up….

I made this for my younger son’s birthday recently. He said he wanted a cheesecake and so I tried.

Ingredients:
Base:
1 1/4 cups sweet biscuit crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 x 250g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk

Topping:
1 x 400g can mixed berries
1 x 85g packet jelly crystals (I used Port Wine flavour, but I reckon any berry flavour would work just as well.)

Method:

  1. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter, press onto the base of a 24cm spring form pan. Chill.
  2. Beat cream cheese until smooth, add lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk and beat well.
  3. Pour into prepared crumb crust. Chill until firm.
  4. Top chilled cheesecake with canned mixed berries.
  5. Prepare the jelly using 3/4 the amount of water the packet directions call for. I do this so the jelly will be firmer and not so wobbly. Pour jelly mixture carefully over the cheesecake.
  6. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm.
Lemon Cheesecake with Fruit-and-Jelly Topping

Lemon Cheesecake with Fruit-and-Jelly Topping

Candles are optional. 😉

Foodful Friday: Hong Shao Rou (Red Cooked Pork)

Hong Shao Rou (红烧 肉) is a Chinese dish that doesn’t really appear on many Chinese restaurant menus. I guess it’s because it’s comfort food —  one doesn’t go out for hong shao rou; one eats it at home, ladling copious amounts into one’s bowl of hot steamed rice. Heaven.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork belly meat cut into two inch cubes
  • 2 carrots cubed
  • 2 potatoes cubed
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • thumb-size knob of ginger, shredded
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (you can use any white wine, or sherry, or rice wine as substitute)
  • 1 1/2 cups clear stock (or water)

Hong Shao Rou ingredients

Method

Heat up vegetable oil and the sugar in a pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is melted and starting to caramelise.

I used brown sugar. Plain old white sugar is probably better, to get the caramelising happening.

I used brown sugar. Plain old white sugar is probably better, to get the caramelising happening.

Put the cubed pork in the pot and brown it with the caramelized sugar. Stir until meat is nicely browned.

Hong shao rou

Put the ginger, garlic, carrots, potatoes, cinnamon, star anise, dark soy sauce, rice wine and clear stock into the pot. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat and cook for about 90 minutes. Stir every once in a while to prevent sticking and burning.

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After about 90 minutes, raise the heat to medium high and stir until the sauce reduces and becomes thick.

Hong Shao Rou 3

Serve hot with white rice.

This dish keeps well and tastes better with age.

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