Basque cheesecake


Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Fool-proof baked cheesecake without cookie crumb or water bath? Sign me up!

When I first read about this recipe, I couldn’t believe how simple and straight forward it is. Could it truly produce glorious results like so many others?

My version is done in two small 6 inch wide, 3 inch tall* cake pans instead of a single springform pan. All because I prefer small cakes. One to eat and one to shoot, or to give away. Feel free to bake this in a 10 inch pan if that’s what you’ve got. Because I had lined the pans with two pieces of baking paper, it was sturdy enough for me to lift the cakes out.

One tip – serve this with vanilla ice cream for the ultimate sweet/savoury hit. It’s now the one dessert I can’t resist having. Creamy cheese flavours, fragrant vanilla and oh so simple to throw together.

Shortly after photographing this, J ate a wedge (the cut wedge ) with vanilla ice cream on the side.

I don’t usually eat a whole portion of desserts I make, so took a bite out of her plate, and it blew my mind!

The caramel taste, creamy texture, salty and sweet combo had me wanting more.

This reminds me of the Portuguese custard tarts I had as a child when visiting Macau.
Lately my food cravings all have a link to a childhood memory – all the things happening the world over has an effect on everyone, regardless of who we are. Subconsciously I searched for comfort and calmness, and my heart took me back to a more peaceful time in my life. I also miss my parents who live in a different country, so perhaps all of that was tugging at my heart.

If you make this, tag me in your photos so I can share the happiness.

*Note: as my baking pans are deeper than normal (3 inch tall), it meant that I needed more baking time for it to be cooked through. If you are using a wider sized pan but not increasing the batter volume, adjust your baking time to 35-40 mins.

Ingredients

500g cream cheese, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
3 large eggs (size 7)
250ml double cream, I use Lewis Road Creamery
1/2 tsp vanilla paste, I use Heilala
1/4 tsp salt
24g plain flour

Instructions

1. Oil two 6 inch cake pans. Push a large piece of baking paper into each pan, allowing the paper to naturally crease and fold, overlapping around the pan. Push a second piece of baking paper in, again allowing it to mould and pleat. Make sure there is at least 2 cm of paper rising up from the rim of the pan, as the batter will double in height during baking.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan bake mode.

3. In a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth and the sugar has dissolved. There should be no grit when rubbed between finger tips. Add eggs, one at a time, careful to scrape down the bowl after each addition.

4. Add the cream, vanilla and salt and beat on low to combine *I pulse the machine slowly first to avoid covering my front with the batter, and that’s speaking from experience*. Sift in flour and beat again for about 30 seconds until just combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the lower third shelf of the oven for 50 minutes until the top is nicely brown and the centre has puffed up – there should still be a wobble when you gently jiggle the pans. Leave to cool completely in the pans, about 40 mins. Don’t worry when you see it drop in height after a while – it’s meant to.

6. Carefully lift the cakes out of the pans by the paper. Gently lift (with your hands or a large cake spatula) the cakes off the baking paper and place on a cake plate. Slice into wedges to serve.

7. Best served with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Basque cheesecake

Truffle Pate and Beef Dumplings


Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

What’s your favourite dumpling flavours? For me it’s always been pork and chives as that’s what mum makes at home. When we go out for dinners though, we will get a variety: pork and cabbage, beef and onion etc but I’ve not made any with beef at home… Until this week!

This truffle and beef flavour is based on a yum cha dish – steamed beef mince balls with coriander – which is one of my favourite dishes to have at any yum char place. The truffle pate I’ve added is of course non-traditional, but it’s rather magical as the earthiness of truffle works so well in this recipe. We couldn’t get enough of them when I trialled the recipe in the weekend.

Pan-fried and then steamed; this is the perfect way of cooking these dumplings. The left overs went into my daughter’s lunch box the next day.

Definitely making more of these for the freezer, as part of our meal prep solutions.

What other flavours of dumplings have you tried? Let me know in comments!

Ingredients:
Dumplings

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 small bunch coriander, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated
  • ginger, 5cm long, grated
  • 1 egg, size 7
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (or Chinese wine)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp potato starch
  • 2 Tbsp truffle pate
  • 2 tsp black pepper, grounded
  • 60 sheets (1 pack) dumpling wrapper


Vinegar-soy Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Black vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Grate the garlic and ginger with a micropane and add to ground mince. Add all the ingredients in and stir to mix thoroughly.
  2. Add Truffle pate and mix well.
  3. In the mean time, take the dumpling wrappers out of the fridge and let it return to room temperature before starting to make the dumplings. They are more pliable when rested i.e. if you are greedy you can fit more into each dumpling.
  4. Take a little spoonful of filling and place it in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your finger into the bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper lightly.
  5. Fold the wrapper over the filling, forming a moon shape.
  6. Hold the dumpling in your left hand, like holding a taco.
  7. With your right index and middle fingers, flex the dough towards the left to form one pleat.
  8. Press the dough down together against your left thumb, which is just supporting the other side of the dumpling.
  9. Repeat 5 times. (There’s a short video on my Insta highlights, under “Savoury recipes” .)

Here are 2 ways of cooking dumplings, both delicious! The pan-fried way produces dumplings that have more bite in the wrapper which we quite enjoy.

If you aren’t ready to cook them all, you can freeze them in trays. Just dust with plenty of flour to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the tray or box. Once frozen, you can store them in sealed bags too. Cook from frozen, never defrost!


For boiled dumplings:

Fill half of a large pot or saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. (note not to fill over two-thirds of the pot as you will be adding more water later on.) Add 1 tsp salt to the water and add 30 dumplings in, be careful not to over crowd the pot.
When the water returns to a boil, pour in half a cup of cold water and wait for it to return to a boil. At this point, you add a second half cup of cold water. This is repeated until you have added water three times in total and the water has returned to a full boil. The dumplings are ready! Repeat to cook the rest of the dumplings, if not freezing for later.

Pan fried dumplings:

Heat a large pan with 2 tsp of oil. When the pan is hot, place dumplings in, flat bottoms down, in a circular pattern. Cook on medium high for 1-2 minutes till the bottom is nicely crisp. Pour in hot water that goes to a third of the height of the dumplings. Note: it will bubble like mad! Cover with lid and let it cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Keep an eye on it to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated too quickly. Once the water has evaporated, a lattice skin will form on the bottom of the pan. Take it off the heat, and carefully place a plate over the dumplings. Flip the pan while holding the plate with the other hand so that the cooked dumplings are transferred over to the plate entirely, without breaking the lattice skin. (Imagine flipping an upside down cake on a plate) If flipping isn’t an option, just remove dumplings with tongs.

For the vinegar-soy dipping sauce, mix ingredients together and serve alongside warm dumplings.

Truffle pate and beef dumplings

Why We Continually Use HelloFresh Food Delivery (+ NZ $90 off discount when ordering through me! )


HelloFresh meals

(Beef & Mushroom Red Pesto Penne with Parmesan)

HelloFresh meals

(Tex-Mex Chicken & Roast Veggie Toss with Garlic-Lemon Yoghurt)

HelloFresh meals

(Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos with Shredded Cheddar Cheese)

HelloFresh meals

(Hoisin Beef & Garlic Rice Bowl
With Lime & Mint)

HelloFresh meals

(Caramised Pork & Garlic Rice with Zesty Tomato & Cucumber Salad)

[Note: we received a meal kit as a gift. ]

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of online companies delivering meal kits to households NZ-wide. From a simple but fulsome range of veges and fruits from the farm to your door, fresh pasta delivery, budget meals aimed at young school leavers, meat boxes, fresh fish (literally still swimming in the sea the morning of delivery day) to full variety meal plans for small to large family and also meals that have been part prepped with sauces already made for you.

We tried all of them. They all brought something unique, and there were small points of difference. Many of my friends regularly use them. However, it wasn’t enough to keep us on long term.

HelloFresh on the other hand, has ticked the boxes for our family and we have continued to use it because it allows me to choose what I am going to have for dinner. For our small family, this is what sets them apart from other meal kits.

This has been the main niggle I have with other services: On a week night, I simply don’t have the energy or patience to persuade the family to eat a dish, designed albeit by chefs and nutritionists alike, that is new or with ingredients that has not often graced our dinner table for one reason or another.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all for adventures and trying new things, but on weeknights, I choose the path of least resistance.

To me, this is the beauty of HelloFresh: I show my daughter the upcoming weeks’ menus (three weeks’ worth are available to preview) and she decides what she would like to try. Amazingly, she picked things that I didn’t think she would. TBH we don’t use this every week – we plan ahead and choose the weeks according to our needs or taste preference.

These boxes were super handy during our COVID19 lockdown – I was the least stressed the week I knew food was coming. Going forward, it will be a useful service that gives us back our time.

What has HelloFresh done to improve their offering even more? I’m glad you asked 😉 – from 12 August,

  • they are streamlining the prices and my Classic plan price is reducing – thus making their meal plans more affordable
  • increasing the choices by making all Classic, Family and Vegetarian meals available across your order! You can now choose from 20 different options
  • Additional sides are available, such as desserts, soups, bread and also a Fruit Kit!

These changes make it a straight forward choice for us when choosing a meal delivery service. We will be ordering more definitely.

Head over to their website, and enter in my code (HDA3311) at check out for a $80 discount off your order ($30 off both your first and second orders, then $10 off both your third and forth orders.) plus free delivery on your first order.

ps. The links are affiliated. What this means is I will receive a small commission for every new HelloFresh customer using the link and code. Thanks in advance! I only post affiliated links when I am happy to pay for the products myself. Always.

10 steps to build your steamboat or hot pot


Steamboat hotpot at home

There is nothing better than gathering around a warm fire and enjoying food with friends and family. Remember the good old camp fires and barbecue pits? You’ve most likely forgotten the banter, but the warm and happy feeling lingered long after the meal’s digested.

Steamboat has the same effect. It’s essentially a large pan of stock boiling continuously over either a camping style gas stove or an electric cook top. This is placed in the middle of the dining table, surrounded with plates and bowls of your favourite food ingredients, ready to be cooked by you.

It’s a longer meal, as you cook and eat at the table, along with good conversations and the makings of precious memories. The flavour of the soup develops over the course of the meal, as the essence of the bountiful meats, seafood and vegetables adds sweetness and depth to the simmering stock little by little.

You’ll find most cuisines have something similar to steamboat. Let me show you the steps to build your own Chinese style steamboat!

1. Heat source for cooking

You’ll need a mobile cooking surface. Camping style gas stoves are great as you can easily take them anywhere. The only thing you need to watch out for is having enough gas bottles to last the dinner. Usually a fresh one lasts the meal, but just have a spare in case.

We prefer an electric cooktop, as it is easier to clean up. Just make sure to place it where you can easily plug in to a power outlet close by.

2. Large pot, for cooking

Choose a large pan that has shorter handles, a flat bottom and wide surface area. This ensures a large cooking surface for even cooking. After all, many hands need to access the pan from all angles.

3. Ladles, chopsticks, tongs, eating and dipping bowls

These are the essentials: extra chopsticks or tongs to pick up the raw food, ladles to scoop and drain the cooked items before placing into your eating bowls. Don’t forget dipping bowls for your various sauces.

4. Soup base

The soup base can be a simple chicken stock. Remember this soup is likely to be consumed with noodles at the end of the meal, and the flavours will build up over the course of the cooking. Starting with a light flavour is perfectly fine and preferred.

Here are some examples:

  • Chicken stock with leeks
  • Corn pieces
  • Winter melon
  • Turnip and Wong bok
  • Spicy chilli
  • preserved vegetables
  • Can of crushed and sieved tomato
  • Dashi powder or kombu (if you are making Japanese shabu-shabu)

Now I’m always a bit impatient and wants to be able to start eating pretty soon after setting up the steamboat. If you are like me, you’ll want to start boiling your chosen stock base on your regular stove top for 20 minutes. This becomes the base of your steamboat, which will further develop in flavour when you add other things to cook at the table.

Have the kettle ready to boil more hot water during the meal, as you will need to periodically top up your cooking pot with hot water.

5. Protein

Steamboat hotpot at home

Typically there will be lots of choices, but whatever they are they should be aimed at fast cooking.

Thin meat slices are a must for us. They cook really fast, and adds a depth of flavour to the soup. They are usually in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, in boxes or trays, precut in rolls or slices. Defrost slightly before the meal starts. We will have these usually:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork belly

Meat balls are another must – these Asian-style meatballs are unlike those you have with pasta. They don’t fall apart in boiling water and texture wise, they are well grounded and best described as bouncy.

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IMG_20200606_172037

Meatballs we love:

  • Pork and mushroom meatballs
  • Beef meatballs
  • Beef and tendon meatballs
  • Fried fish balls
  • Fish balls filled with minced mushrooms
  • Crab meatballs

Seafood also adds flavour and we usually have a few prepared. The idea is to have some of everything.

  • Prawns
  • Scallops
  • Fish slices
  • Crab pieces

6. Carbs

Popular choices include udon, ramen and rice vermicille noodles. These are typically added in later in the meal. We sometimes have a few wontons or dumplings on hand too.

7. Vegetables

Now the choices are vast here. Pick 2 to 3 of your favourite Asian vegetables for this and cook it whenever you feel like it throughout the meal. Again the meats will have added so much flavour to the soup and your vegetables will taste extra delicious.

IMG_20200606_172343_1 (1)

  • Wong bok
  • Turnip
  • Choy sum
  • Tong ho (pictured, it has a distinctive, slightly bitter taste)
  • Spinach
  • Leek
  • Mushroom (different varietals, oyster, button, enoki, shiitake etc)

8. Soy products

Now these deserve their own heading! I’m talking about various food products made with soy beans.

Tofu:

Choose the hard tofu, so they stay intact in the steamboat. Cut them into slices 1 cm slices and cook briefly. Not only can you cook them from fresh, if you freeze some of the slices and then defrost them before you cook them in the hot pot, you will create slices of “hive” which when placed in the hot soup, acts as a sponge to soak up all the delicious flavours.

Bean curd slices:

These fried bean curd sheets come in round rolls or rolled stacks. They cook super fast – 7 seconds – and comes out soft and chewy. Again this is a flavour soaker, perfect for steamboat.

IMG_20200606_172300

9. Eggs

Eggs form part of the dipping sauce. We crack it into a bowl and whisk in chilli sauce, soy, sesame oil and some Taiwanese barbecue sauce which is the base of their famous noodle broths.

The egg also helps to cool down the cooked food slightly. If you are not a raw egg kind of person, do omit this. Some families like to crack the egg into the steamboat directly and make poach eggs too.

Steamboat hotpot at home

10. Sauces

Have a selection available for everyone’s tastes:

  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Chilli paste
  • Fresh chilli slices
  • Taiwanese barbecue paste, an anchovy-based paste.
  • Fermented bean curd
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • Roasted sesame sauce

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There you have it! The 10 things you need to set up a Chinese style steamboat event. Enjoy!

Easy Bagels


Bagels

Bagels

Bagels

As the markets are now closed due to the COVID19 lockdown, we haven’t been able to enjoy some of our favourite products for weeks. Specialty dumplings, sauerkraut, gozleme… and also bagels. I happen to have high grade flour, peacefully bought before the lockdown, so I set to work over Easter.

These didn’t require much work at all, and turned out pretty fun as well. Each proof was only a measly 20 minutes and a tiny amount of yeast was called for. Try make them bigger (into 6) or smaller (into 10) and that will serve as lunch or for snacking. A pretty good lockdown recipe I would say, considering how flour and yeast are such a hard-to-come-by commodity at the moment.

I’ve played with 2 types of toppings here, a homemade ‘everything’ topping and one for the onion and cheese lovers. Feel free to scale up for future bagel action.

Ingredients

Makes 8

Dough

  • 3/4 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 240ml water, luke warm
  • 450g bread flour (also known as High Grade flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup

Bi carb soak

  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • Large pot of water

Everything bagel sprinkle

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds

Cheese sprinkle

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. In a small bowl, add luke warm water and yeast and set aside.
  2. Add flour, salt, olive oil and maple syrup to a standmixer bowl. Add in the warm water with yeast. Mix together and then knead with a dough hock attachment for 5 minutes. The dough should be springy to the touch.
  3. Remove dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and cover with an oiled cling film. Leave to proof in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  4. Push a hole with your fingers through the middle of each ball, stretching as you go. This forms a dough ring.
  5. Cover with oiled cling film and let them proof for another 20 minutes in a warm place.
  6. Preheat the oven to 250C.
  7. Into a large pot of gently boiling water, add the baking soda.
  8. Place bagels, 3 at a time, into the bi carb soak. Cook each side for a minute. Remove and drain on a cooling rack.
  9. Sprinkle the bagel toppings on the bagels, pressing them in if you need to. Alternatively, you can place the sprinkle ingredients in a shallow bowl and dip the bagels in. You’ll need to beware of the heat though.
  10. Repeat until all bagels have had a soak and toppings added.
  11. Place bagels on a lined baking tray and bake for 8 minutes.
  12. Reduce the heat to 225C and bake for another 6 minutes.
  13. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with cream cheese, salted butter for breakfast or as a snack. These are freezable too!

Bagels

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