Ombre Raspberry Cheesecake


Who remembers the raspberry cheesecake from the freezer section? I used to have that as a treat when I was little. I have always wanted to make my own version of it, refining the flavours and texture.

Here I decided to make an ombre raspberry colour – the graduating pink colour turned out quite well I think.

The raspberry jelly layer was another pleasant surprise – it hardens after freezing and creates this absolutely amazing texture, contrasting the soft and creaminess of the cream cheese layers.

This is a no bake recipe – one based on my previous cheesecake recipes.

Ingredients

Basic Cheesecake:
  • 250g Nice biscuits
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 600ml cream, whipped
  • 125ml Raspberry puree (I use Pontier, alternatively you can blend up frozen fruit)
  • 4 tsp gelatin powder dissolved in 75ml hot water
Fruit jelly:
  • 125ml Raspberry puree
  • 1.5 sheets of gold strength gelatin, bloomed in ice cold water

Instructions

  1. Smash biscuits into fine crumbs. Mix with melted butter and press onto the base of a square tin, lined with baking paper. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, add the gelatin powder to the hot water, mixing vigorously. Add to the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Whip cream till soft peaks form and add to the mixture.
  5. To create the ombre effect, take out half of the cream cheese-gelatin-whipped cream mixture and save as the white colour layer.
  6. To the remaining mixture, add in the raspberry puree. Mix till the puree is evenly distributed in the cream cheese. This will be your pink layer.
  7. Pour the white cream cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base. Smooth with an angled spatula.
  8. Carefully pour the pink cream cheese mixture on top to ensure the two layers remain separate. Place in the fridge to set.
  9. For the top raspberry jelly layer: Soak gelatin sheets in ice cold water for at least 5 mins. Heat the raspberry puree till it begins to boil. Take it off the heat. Squeeze water from gelatin sheets and add to the puree. Stir to melt gelatin thoroughly and pour on top of the set cheesecake.
  10. Let it set in the fridge for a further 4 hours (or overnight) and transfer to the freezer.
  11. One hour before serving, remove from the freezer. Let the cheesecake defrost for 30 minutes and cut into squares with a warm knife. Leave to defrost a further 30 minutes before serving.

Ps. It’s totally fine to serve after setting the cheesecake in the fridge without freezing it! That gives you a normal textured cheesecake.

Hainanese Chicken Rice


As I nibbled and drank my way around the Auckland Food Show preview day, one thought hrough my head the entire time: what was I going to cook for dinner that night? I knew it would be something from the show and there were plenty of ideas and options: Venison burger, kumara hash brown, falafel wraps, pizzas, roast chicken and lamb medallions. What should I make? I wanted something warm and comforting, and easy to do with minimal stove time as I will need to pack away my purchases as well.

The idea came after I picked up some organic whole chickens from Bostocks Brothers and Good Chow first brew soy sauce – Hainanese Chicken Rice made in the Thermomix.

Bostock Brothers is based in Hawke’s Bay, and they are the only commercial organic chicken producer in the country. Their chickens live on their spacious apple orchard and you should go watch their videos – I call them the “happy chickens”- with ample roaming range. Bostock Brothers’ process also doesn’t involve any chemicals, antibiotics, hormones nor genetic modification. We think their chickens taste superior. #notanad #justliketheproduct

I also used Simon Gaults’ chicken stock and managed to cook the chicken, rice and soup together, without needing to supervise the cooking much.

It is almost as easy without using the Thermomix. Just poach the chicken in a gentle simmer for 60 minutes in a large pot of chicken stock along with all the ingredients, and cook the rice in a large saucepan separately.

Serve with hot soup, fragrant rice and a touch of coriander.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, about 1.5kg
  • 2 tsp Chinese wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 spring onion
  • 8 large slices of ginger
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil, rice bran or grapeseed
  • 400g jasmine rice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-1.5 L chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 pandan leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix Chinese wine, salt, pepper and sesame oil in a small bowl. Rub this all over the chicken and inside cavity. Stuff 2 cloves of the garlic, 2 of the spring onions and 3 slices of the ginger inside the chicken’s cavity and place into the Varoma dish lined with 3 slices of the ginger and 2 spring onions to help with flavour and steam circulation. Set aside.
  2. Place remaining garlic, ginger, shallots and neutral oil into mixing bowl (chop on speed 8 for 8 seconds if you haven’t pre-chopped everything) and sauté for 2 min/Varoma/Reverse/speed 2.
  3. Add rice and sauté for 2 min/100ºC/Reverse/speed 2.
  4. Add about a tsp of salt or to taste. Remove from mixing bowl and set aside in the steaming basket.
  5. Place 1L of chicken or vegetable stock into the mixing bowl. Set Varoma into position and steam for 45 min/Varoma/speed 3 (longer if your chicken is larger than 1.5kg).
  6. Remove Varoma and set aside. Top up chicken stock to 1L. Insert basket of rice with pandan leaves. Return Varoma dish with chicken to position and cook for a further 15 min/Varoma/speed 3.
  7. Once done, carefully lift chicken out and deconstruct on a large plate. Serve with rice and chilli sauce, Good Chow soy sauce and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).
  8. Taste the soup, and add enough hot water to taste (as it will be concentrated). Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

General Tips

  • To make a quick sauce to pour over chopped chicken, mix 3 tsp Good Chow first brew soy sauce with 2 tbsp hot water, ½ tsp sesame oil and ¼ tsp sugar and mix well.
  • You can add some vegetables to steam in the last 5-10 minutes of the steaming, if desired.

Hong Kong Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls, 豬腸粉


豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Other than rice congee, the second item of food we always get after our flight back into Hong Kong, is rice noodles. Be it rice noodles rolls, simply served with a trio of sauces and sprinkling of sesame seeds (豬腸粉) or the steamed rice rolls at yum char with fillings such as prawns, beef mince/coriander/water chestnuts or char siu Chinese Bbq pork (蒸腸粉) . Both are made with a rice flour batter, creating thin sheets of noodles that are slightly elastic and bouncy.

Both are J’s favourite and I have promised her to write this recipe up for a while. It only took a week-long hospital stay for me to find the time to do so. Over the recent long weekend, we got to test it a few more times to make sure the quantities in the recipe are right. These reheat well and tastes just like the ones we have in Hong Kong!

Be sure to first figure out your steaming station and consider whether the size of the steaming dish will fit your steamer. Here’s a not so glamorous photo of my set up:

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Ingredients (makes 6-7 rice noodles)

  • 120g rice flour 粘米粉
  • 30g wheat starch 澄麵
  • 30g cornstarch 粟粉
  • 450ml water
  • pinch of salt
  • 20ml neutral oil, such as rice bran

Instructions

  1. Set up your steaming station. Find a metal tray that fits into the wok, sitting on top of a steaming rack. Oil the tray and line it with a piece of baking paper, with about 2 cm hanging over the tray on one side. Trim so that the paper sits flush to the edges of the other 3 sides.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together. Whisk the batter until there are no lumps.
  3. With the water at a rolling boil, pour about 1/4 cup or just enough batter onto the lined tray (this depends on the size of your tray). Make sure it’s very thin, barely covering the bottom is just enough. Gently spread the batter into the corners of the tray as well.
  4. Steam for 3 minutes, covered.
  5. Remove the lid, and carefully, using a pastry scraper, roll the rice noodle sheet up from one end of the tray to the other. It’s easier if you hold the baking paper slightly taunt on one side with one hand and roll/push with the other towards the opposite direction. Place on a plate and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  6. If you are making filled rice noodles, place fillings in the first third section of the sheet and steam for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and roll the rice noodle sheet from the filling side. (for fillings that doesn’t need more cooking, like fried dough Yau Cha Guai, simply place the filling on the rice noodle sheet after the sheet is cooked. Roll the sheet with the filling inside.
  7. Cut them into shorter pieces. Drizzle with sweet soy sauce, hoisin sauce and most importantly, sesame sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and serve warm.

豬腸粉 steamed rice noodle rolls, Hong Kong style

Chocolate brownie crinkle cookies with powdered sugar and olive oil


chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

Chocolate Brownie Crinkle cookie with powdered sugar

These reminds me of the view from 35,000 feet high, flying from Auckland to Christchurch for work. It was in the middle of winter and the Southern Alps was thickly covered by a blanket of snow – it was such a serene and beautiful scene.

J requested these cookies after sampling a version of them at a birthday party many years ago: “the icing sugar dusted chocolate cookies” was mentioned every now and then. Last weekend I finally got around to it.

They are brownie-like: soft and tender inside, but have a cookie-like crisp exterior. I have been blessed with a delivery of olive oils from Te Wheke Olives and they worked so well in this recipe. As the batter is very soft, it requires a minimum of 4 hours fridge time. You can speed that up by placing it in the freezer for 2 hours. Before you bring the batter out, have a few cookie sheets lined and the oven preheated, so that once you have two trays of 12 cookies each rolled in icing sugar, you can bake the first two trays straight away. This ensures they don’t loose too much height. I managed to complete rolling out dough for two more trays while the first batch is baking (I do have 6 identical cookie sheets – they were imperative for the large batches of macarons I make!)

The other option is to skip the icing sugar step, this creates brownie cookies with beautifully random cracks.

If you would like to make these gluten free, as I did for colleagues, just substitute the plain wheat flour with gluten free flour. The Countdown branded gluten free flour packs had corn and maize as the main ingredients. Be sure to check that your baking powder and icing sugar are free of gluten as well. They turn out a tad softer than the ones made with wheat flour, and my tasters actually prefer these!

Ingredients (50-60 cookies)

  • 125ml olive oil
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 95g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs (size 7, about 60g each)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 80g icing sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. Place olive oil, caster sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl. Paddle on a slow speed until homogenous. Add in eggs one at a time, making sure each has been incorporated before adding the next. Add in the vanilla paste.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt then add into the cocoa mixture. This will look just like a brownie batter, thick and runny. Chill batter for at least 5 hours, best over night.
  3. Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper. Using two teaspoons, drop small scoops of thick mousse-like batter into a bowl of icing sugar. Roll the balls until they are covered with powdered/icing sugar.
  4. Place on lined baking trays.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

chocolate brownie crinkle cookie with powdered sugar and olive oil

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style 羅宋湯


Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

The other night the topic of food trends came up at home. S and I talked about the food we had in our teenage years and shared with J, our fond memories of Hong Kong restaurants that were born out of the then-growing western influence in the 1980s. Their menus typically include pasta, pizza and grilled meats. Often, there will be set menus (which is still a very common thing to have on all restaurant menus) that goes typically like this:

1) choice of soup: soup of the day, creamy mushroom (“white” soup), tomato borscht type soup (“red” soup)

2) main of grilled meats (chicken thigh, pork chops and beef rump, or a mixture) with choice of pasta, potatoes/vegetables or rice. You also get to choose between a black peppercorn, belchamel or tomato sauce.

3) coffee or tea, and of course the “combination” drink yin yeung.

Sometimes you also get for dessert a small bowl of jelly or ice cream served in a tiny aluminium bowl.

This became in my mind, the iconic western meals in the 1980s to 1990s for the previous British colony. A step up from the cha chaan teng, which serves the more basic Hong Kong fare, like macaroni soup, pineapple buns and “stocking” milk tea.

For 99% of the time I will choose the borscht soup, which is an adapted version of the Russian Ukrainian tomato soup. It doesn’t normally have beets, and can have a variety of stable vegetables from any Hong Kong vege market. It’s the most popular soup in my childhood days, and is now J’s favourite soup.

My mum makes this with oxtail or beef shin. I’ve been able to source end-cuts of parma or prosciutto and prefers that now for the depth in flavour it adds to the soup (one time I didn’t use prosciutto and S and J both asked me about the lack of flavour. Seriously!) You can also use bacon or ham bones too.

This soup tastes better when cooked for longer. Cook on the stove for a few hours, in a crock pot, Instant Pot or a thermos, it will all work!

This quantity easily serves 5-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks (I sometimes leave out)
  • 1/2 cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 50g tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp beef stock (I use Simon Gault’s)
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 300g parma ham, end cut or substitute with other meats like beef shin, oxtail
  • 2 – 3 litres of water

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil a hot pan, sautée the onions, carrots and celery. Transfer into a large soup pot (I use a Thermos pot, similar to a Crock Pot, except it has no heating function).
  2. Add potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and parma ham into the soup pot.
  3. Add enough boiling water to cover, about 2 litres, and bring it to a boil.
  4. Let it boil for 15 minutes and then turn it down to a simmer for 2 hours. If using a thermos cooker or Crock Pot, after the initial boiling, transfer that into the thermos/Crock Pot and let it continue to cook for a few hours. I often prepare this the night before and leave it to cook overnight.
  5. It’s ready when the cabbages and other vegetables are soft. Taste and add salt as required.

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

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