Tuesday, March 27, 2012

delicious No-bake Chocolate Cheesecake

Years ago, I remember reading a story about a visiting British chef (probably Keith Floyd or someone like that, it was that long ago) who was invited to dinner at the homes of various society mavens along the Australian east coast. Apparently, he had the same nouvelle cuisine-style main course at nearly every meal. It was due to the dish being featured in that month’s Vogue Entertaining Guide, a magazine that is sadly no longer with us.

It just goes to show how influenced we are by local fads, which in turn are probably inspired by global trends. These days, there are so many food magazines, and it’s interesting to see how their covers and contents vary around the world, even among global titles.

One of my favourite food mags is delicious. It was originally started by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 2001, and there is now also a British version. Of course, given that the magazines are published in different hemispheres, the seasons are switched around, so it’s likely that the Brit delicious will have features on winter pies and stews while the Aussie version has pages of ice creams and summer tarts. But variety is the spice of like, eh what?
delicious April 2012: Australia and UK

After seeing the Australian delicious story on Irish/French cook, Trish Deseine, I just had to make the no-bake chocolate cheesecake that’s on the cover. It also helps that the recipe is super-simple, with just a few ingredients (but quite a bit of chopping of chocolate, so save it for a cool day). Here's hoping it's so popular that other versions will be popping up all over the country!

No-bake Chocolate Cheesecake
serves 8-10

300g digestive biscuits
150g unsalted butter, melted
350g fresh low-fat ricotta
250g mascarpone, at room temperature
1/3 cup (50g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 ml) coffee or chocolate liqueur
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
100g dark chocolate, extra

1. Line a 24cm springform pan with aluminium foil.
2. For the base: Crush biscuits into fine crumbs using a food processor. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined. Press into the base of the pan and chill for 30 minutes, until firm.
3. For the cheesecake filling: Clean out the food processor bowl, then process the ricotta until smooth. Place ricotta into a large bowl, then fold through the mascarpone, icing sugar, vanilla and liqueur. Fold through the chopped chocolate. Spread the filling into the biscuit base and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
4. For the chocolate shards: Melt the remaining dark chocolate (in a microwave, on low, in 30-second bursts). Spread the melted chocolate thickly onto a flat tray and allow to harden (in the fridge for about 10 minutes). Use the blade of a sharp knife to scrape long shards of chocolate. Sprinkle the chocolate on top of the cheesecake before serving.

recipe adapted from delicious (April 2012)

Did you know that McVitie's Digestive biscuits 'do not contain any substance that assist digestion', according to the packet?
I spent ages chopping up the chocolate by hand - tip: you cannot chop chocolate in a food processor unless you want it to get stuck under the blade (I found this out the hard way!)
Not very hygenic, but I had finished making the cheesecake when Tabitha cat started cleaning up the bowl.

While waiting for the chocolate to harden, time can be productively spent browsing online for shoes and handbags.
I added the requisite amount of Kahlua liqueur (60ml), but I found it too much; will maybe decrease this or replace with strong coffee next time.

The chocolate shards look fantastic on the finished cheesecake.

The higher the better!

Even though I used low-fat ricotta, this is still a rich cheesecake.
So, one (big) slice is surely enough.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prawn and corn fritters and Cat Chase

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw these fritters on donnahay.com.au. Corn and prawn, together in a Fritter! I'm giving shellfish a bit of a wide berth lately (allergies), so was slightly wary about putting prawns in these fritters. I actually made 2 batches, one with more prawn, and one with less, for me. The minimal prawn fritters tasted sensational, so I can only guess that the maxi-prawn ones were out of this world (if you like prawns and aren't allergic).
So if I haven't already convinced you with the plethora of fritter favourites, give these ones a go - they are perfect for a weekend lunch or a light dinner.

Keeping the text short and sweet today, because there's a pictorial anecdote at the end of this post that someone may be hanging out for.

Prawn and corn fritters
serves 2

½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rice bran oil
¼ cup milk
sea salt and black pepper
¾ cup (150g) fresh or canned corn kernels
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
150g green (raw) prawns, peeled and chopped
¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, extra, for frying
lemon wedges, sliced tomato, avocado and olive oil, to serve

1. Place flour, baking powder, egg, oil, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Add the corn, green onion, prawns and chilli and stir to combine.
3. Heat the extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook ¼ cupfuls of the mixture, in batches, for 2–3 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels.
4. Serve with lemon wedges and a side of tomato and avocado drizzled with olive oil

recipe adapted from donnahay.com.au/recipes

Ingredients, including prawns, corn, spring onion and egg for the fritters.
Cutting the raw prawn.
This is a really simple batter (and a very easy recipe) with flour, baking powder, milk, egg and oil and lots of salt and pepper.

The prawn in these fritters really lift them to another level, and add a touch of luxury to a quickly prepared meal.

Some sweet chilli sauce would not go astray on top of these fritters, either.

Tabitha vs Henry
Ep 7: Cat Chase

We all know why you're here - not for the fritter recipes *sigh*, but for the thrilling adventures of Tabitha and Henry cat.

This exciting true event took place last Saturday:

Stay tuned, cat fiends, more adventures to come soon...

Friday, March 16, 2012

For the Love of Red Velvet Cupcakes

So much for trying to give up sugar - I've rediscovered a love for cupcakes. Finding cupcakes. Baking cupcakes. Eating cupcakes!

But not all cupcakes are created equal. There is this recent fantastic white chocolate cake, of course, and then there are these red velvet cupcakes. I did some concentrated research (ie. looked up wikipedia) to find out some more about these red miracles, and found that the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk is used to reveal the red colour in the cocoa, although red food colouring is also used to intensify the hue. Actually, I used rice wine vinegar because I didn't have any white vinegar, and the colour turned out brilliantly.

In terms of texture, these are not as fine as the white chocolate cupcakes, but the flavour is equally awesome, with a hint of cocoa shining through, and the cakes are super moist and moreish. And, of course, it's the red colour that is the star.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
makes 16

300g (2 cups) plain flour
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
315g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
200g unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tsp liquid red food colouring

Cream cheese frosting
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
300g (2 cups) pure icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Line 80ml (1/3 cup) capacity muffin pans with paper cases.
2. Sift flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Stir through the sugar. Whisk the buttermilk, butter, eggs, vinegar and vanilla in a large jug until combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk mixture. Stir until just combined. Stir in the food colouring.
3. Divide the mixture among the lined pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For the frosting: Use an electric mixerto beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

cupcake recipe from taste.com.au

Some ingredients, including plain flour, cocoa, bicarb soda, eggs and red food colouring

Look at the extreme red of the batter. It loses a little of its glow after baking, but it's still pretty vivid.
The traditional coating for red velvet cake is cream cheese frosting.

Add some sprinkles.
Makes you go "awwwwwww"

And it's deliciously moist as well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chickpea Burghul Salad without Parsley

Burghul, aka bulgur, is made from wheat, like pasta, and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s also the main ingredient in tabbouleh, together with parsley. And, wouldn’t you know it, just as I think that coriander is evil, I don’t like parsley much, either.

So what to do when a recipe calls for handfuls of parsley? Well, in my case, I just ignore that dreaded green herb altogether. Fortunately in this dish, which had ‘a large handful of parsley’ in the ingredient list, the lack of it can be covered up by the addition of some dried cumin (or other spice, if you don’t like cumin; I won’t judge).

Regarding the dislike of coriander/cilantro and parsley, it’s apparently due to some genetic trait. But at least I haven’t joined the I Hate Cilantro Society yet (just waiting for a discount membership offer).

Chickpea and burghul salad
serves 3-4

100g (3 ½ oz) coarse burghul (bulgur)
400g (14oz) tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tblsp lemon juice
3 tblsp pomegranate molasses
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Put the burghul in a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave for 15 minutes then drain in a sieve, pressing with a spoon to remove as much water as possible.
2. In a large bowl, combine the drained burghul with the chickpeas, spring onions and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. For the dressing: Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and salt and pepper.
4. To serve: Pour the dressing over the burghul and chickpea salad and toss gently to combine.

recipe adapted from Best of Bill by Bill Granger
Soak the burghul in hot water until tender, about 15 minutes, then add the chickpeas and chopped spring onion. If you don't mind parsley, then it can be added as well.

The dressing adds a bit of flavour to this salad, and to be honest, it can be a bit plain without it, so no need to skimp on the dressing.

At least it's healthy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

White choc macadamia cookie Comparison

Where do you get your recipe inspiration from?

My go-to places (in order of popularity) are:
1. blogs and websites (mainly taste.com.au)
2. the latest issue of cooking magazines
3. my cookbook library
4. pages torn from old magazines and newspapers
5. television shows (Jamie, Nigella, Luke Ngyuen, etc)
6. calendars with recipes on them
7. the back of cookie packets

Yes, you read number 7 correctly. The other night, I was at the supermarket, trawling the aisles for dinner supplies, when I saw a new range of ’homestyle chunkie cookies’ on the shelf (yeah, I was dinner shopping in the biscuit aisle). As I was absolutely famished, I threw a bag into my basket for a pre-dinner snack.

The cookies are by White Wings, better known for their flour and baking products, and the packet says that the cookies contain ‘no artificial colours or flavours. No preservatives’. Good-oh!

They tasted pretty good, too. Or as good as anything else, considering I was starving when I hoed into them, as dinner was still at least 45 minutes from being ready. Then I noticed that they claim to ‘taste just like home-style ones’ and they even include a recipe to make your own. I like a challenge, so I used their recipe and this was the result.

White chocolate and macadamia cookies
makes 30

125g (4.4oz) butter
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tblsp golden syrup
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tblsp water
¼ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped macadamias

1. Preheat oven to 180C/360F. Line trays with baking paper.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar, golden syrup, salt and vanilla until light in colour and fluffy in texture.
3. Stir in the flour until combined.
4. Mix the bicarb soda with water, then add to the dough together with the white chocolate chips and macadamias.
5. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on prepared trays. Leave room for the cookies to spread, about 3cm/1.5in. Press down slightly on the cookies to flatten.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

recipe from White Wings Chunkies packet

How to make a good cookie:
Make sure you beat the butter and sugar together until it's really fluffy and light.
Gently stir in the the flour and chocolate.
Roll into sturdy balls and flatten slightly before baking.

How does the packet recipe compare to the packet cookies?
My home-made cookies look smoother in texture probably because they were rolled by hand rather than by machine.
The packet 'homestyle' cookies were a bit crisper, maybe because I was careful to remove my cookies from the oven before they got too brown (I have a temperamental oven that burns within milliseconds).
My cookies were slightly 'chewy' as a result, and I prefer this.
Overall, the White Wings Homestyle Chunkies are quite good for a quick biscuit hit, but proper home-made is usually better. In terms of value, the Chunkies are very worth it, at $2.99 a packet, as the macadamias I used cost nearly double that.

In general, this is a fantastic cookie recipe and I will definitely make them again.
Thanks to White Wings for generously providing the recipe on their cookie packets!
(Not sure of the thinking behind this marketing strategy, but I appreciate it).

By the way, if you're a keen baker, don't forget to enter the Kitchenware Direct giveaway.
Great prize to be won, and entries close this Sunday. Don't miss out!!

Tabitha vs Henry Update

It had to happen, eventually.
Tabitha trots out to her cat grass, not realising that Henry is crouched behind the door.
He leaps up to her, and she hisses and goes 'rawwrrrrr!'

I get yelled at, too, to stop taking photos and rescue the cat, so I clear a path for Tabs to run back into the house, leaving evil Henry to sulk by the pot plants.
Fur comparison:
Henry looks sleek, but his fur is quite coarse, scratchy.
Tabitha is the softest cat in the world, her coat feels like mink lined with chinchilla.