All posts by michtsang

Raspberry cheesecake brownies


I adore raspberries. I find myself sneaking them into most sweet dishes: from cereals to cakes and desserts.

I love the tang of the fruit and the burst of flavour added to the dish.

It was therefore the first flavour that I reached for when sampling the new range of Spreadable Fruit by Barkers of Geraldine.

These are 99% fruit with no refined sugar added. Sweetened only with pear juice concentrate, it’s a great alternative to fruit purees. In fact, that’s even better than making my own!

I decided to make an easy baked cheesecake brownie, to keep things simple. The brownie batter was done in one bowl while the cheesecake batter was mixed with my trusty Kitchenaid stand mixer.

Just be careful when swirling the fruit – you don’t want to over do it, so that you can keep the pretty red/ white colours.

Who wants a slice?

Brownies

  • 170g unsalted butter, melted (I used Westgold)
  • 300g (1.5 cups) caster sugar
  • 120g (2) eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (I used Equagold)
  • 3g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 70g (3/4 cup) dutch cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
  • 70g (1/2 cup) plain flour
  • 5-6 tbsp Barker’s Raspberry Spreadable Fruit

Cheesecake

  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 40g mascarpone cheese (I used Tatua)
  • 60g (1) egg
  • 60g (1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 2g (1/4 tsp) salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Line a 20cm square baking tin with 2 strips of baking paper. (This makes it easier to lift the brownie out of the tin).
  3. In a large ceramic bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
  4. Mix in sugar, eggs, vanilla paste and salt.
  5. Once fully combined, fold in cocoa powder and flour. Mix till all combined.
  6. Pour the brownie batter into the baking tin, spreading evenly, careful to push batter all the way to the edges.
  7. Combine all cheesecake ingredients in a stand mixer.
  8. Whisk for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  9. Pour cheesecake batter over brownie batter, spreading evenly.
  10. Drop spoonfuls of the raspberry spreadable fruit on top of the cheesecake in rows of 3s and 2s and swirl using a palette knife.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, check in the last 10 minutes (so it doesn’t go past the golden point). Test brownie with palette knife – it should be almost clean.
  12. Leave to cool in tin before placing in fridge to cool and firm up for 1-2 hours.
  13. Cut into 16 squares, wiping down the knife after each cut for a cleaner look.
  14. Serve with a nice cup of tea!

*I received a jar of the Spreadable Fruit when I attended the NZ Foodwriters annual May Market. Post not sponsored.

Gianduia stuffed chocolate cookies (or just Surprise Cookies!)


I’m borderline obsessed with hazelnuts. One of my favourite ways of incorporating them are in these bars. I have been planning on making something with the Hogarth Milk Chocolate Hazelnut logs and an idea came to mind as I was making my gazillionth cookie over the Easter weekend: how about stuffing these inside a cookie?

I wanted a chocolate cookie that is on the dark side, and used Valrhona’s cocoa powder for the cookie dough.

The hazelnut log was cut into 20 semi circular pieces and placed in between layers of dough.

It was so exciting to break open the baked cookies to see the gooey filling. So delicious too!

If you can’t find hazelnut chocolate, you can freeze a rolled log of Nutella and use that instead.

Makes exactly 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 Hogarth chocolate milk chocolate hazelnut log, halved lengthwise and diced into 20 pieces
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter (I used Westgold), softened
  • 1/2 cup (90g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 cup (125g) plain flour
  • 1/3 cup (40g) dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp (3g) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp (3g) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (1g) instant coffee

Directions

  1. Prepare the hazelnut chocolate pieces by halving the Hogarth milk chocolate log lengthwise. Chop the logs into 20 pieces.
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Cream butter and sugars until pale. Add egg and vanilla.
  4. In a bowl mix flour with cocoa powder, instant coffee, salt and baking soda.
  5. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  6. Place a large scoop of cookie dough on the baking paper, flatten the centre with your thumb slightly, add a piece of the hazelnut chocolate log and wrap the dough around it to seal it in. I find it easier to start with a smallish piece of dough, place the chocolate on top and then cover with more dough. Just make sure the chocolate is fully enclosed. Place on the baking sheet well spaced apart.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, remove and leave it to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool slightly.

Enjoy warm (best!) and with a glass of milk.

Giraffe by Simon Gault


As a family, we eat out a couple times a week for dinners and a few lunches here and there.

We visit Asian restaurants a lot, mainly for dumplings and noodles, as it appeals to all in the family (and the in-laws). My Instagram page is a testament to that.

Proper western restaurants (think formal setting and white table cloth) not frequented as much in the years since J was born, and out of habit, never regained its previous standing in our favourite choices.

I guess you can say our needs have changed. When J was little, going out for a three-course dinner was stressful with bath, story time and bed time to be done by 7.30pm (and no, the two of us have never, in the 9.5 years since J’s birth, left her with a nanny/parent/relative and go out for dinner.) It’s not that we follow the routine to military precision. It’s just that when you change the routine, there’s no telling whether J would settle to sleep as usual. As a young family, we recognised the importance of consistency.

When we do, we reserve such long, multi-course meals for special occasions. We have spent quite a number of birthday’s at Masu, (J loved it so much when I celebrated my birthday there that she proclaimed hers that is five months later would be at the same Japanese restaurant. We were more than happy to oblige. Read my experience here.) Seeing that we’ve had consecutive birthday celebrations at the same place for two years, we decided to try a new place.

I noticed Giraffe by Simon Gault is newly listed on First Table’s website, which offers patrons 50% off food when you book through their site, for a $10 booking fee. The menu was on the small side, but with plenty of variety to please anyone. Not the least pretentious, (how could it be when the menu suggests diners to shout the kitchen staff drinks?) it offered things that others don’t.

Our booking was at 5.30pm, and I had the distinct feeling of walking into someone’s residential hallway and greeted by the host who hadn’t quite finished their meal but happy to see us, none the less.

We were seated by the ‘patio’ facing the Viaduct, and it was a cool night. Lucky we had jackets as the warmth from the indoor heaters couldn’t quite reach us.

Our waitperson patiently guided us through the menu, and we settled on something we looked over on first glance – the pig tails. (Tip: always ask how an unfamiliar dish is cooked, to get an idea what it would taste like. If you salivate, it’s a go!) Although not the typical Asian style, it’s sous vide cooked with Asian spices. They were then grilled to render some of the fat off. Don’t be shocked when it arrives at your table, with the tails sitting unceremoniously on a sizzling hot plate. The staff took it apart for us, removing the vertebrae and hard tips. We were advised to mix the fatty bits with the meat and eat with the accompanied lettuce cups and dips. There were two dips: a nuoc cham-like, bright sauce with red chillies, palm sugar, garlic, salt and vinegar. The other was a spicy green dip made with green tomatoes, garlic, coriander and jalapenos. Both sensational and I will try my hand at replicating them at home.

Highlight of the night, announced the adults. Finger-licking delicious, literally. I did take a momentary pause just as I was lifting the lettuce parcel with my hands: am I really allowed to use my hands to eat at Giraffe? I didn’t care anymore after that first bite. I was already mentally planning on when to come back just for this, one day for lunch, as it’s so close to my work.

The second dish was the Cured Salmon Salad with Fennel and mandarin. This was J’s choice as she loves salmon. We planned on sharing this, but she ended up having two-thirds of it. (She could have easily finished it but I had to try it 😝.) It was cooked perfectly with the smears and blobs matching harmoniously to the salmon. I particularly liked the pickled vegetable and tiny vinaigrette jelly cube. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate clean!

I hadn’t planned on getting steak and chips for my birthday dinner, after all, steak is something we cook a lot of, and also served as a shared dish at home, so why order it when we are out?

The menu had painted a picture of sophistication and I certainly had high expectations when we ordered the scotch fillet for two. It’s served with mushrooms, hazelnut, buffalo salsa verde butter. The meat was cooked perfectly (medium, for J or else I would have gone for medium rare). Unfortunately the dish overall was a slight let down from the rest. Maybe our expectations were set high from the start? It deviated from the clean cooking (and plating) that were the other dishes, and as J puts it, the flavours were a bit jumbled and lost. I felt it needed something to balance out the heaviness (like the spicy dip to the fatty pig tails). Still very delicious, but more a 7 out of 10 when the others were 9s and 10s.

For carbs, we ordered the Triple-Cooked potatoes. These duck fat-fried thick batons were wrapped individually with a thin strip of crispy pancetta around its middle, and served with clumps of truffle ricotta. These were glorious, the best example of duck fat cooked potatoes that I have come across. I dreamily wondered whether Heston Blumenthal’s version at The Fat Duck were like these or not.

My verdict of Giraffe: relaxed and welcoming, serious about good food, adventurous. Casually smart. Super family friendly. You can however still expect techniques usually associated with fine dining here. We will be back. (Chef, can I have the Kids TV dinner please?😉)

It was Easter weekend and they also had banana smoothies served in chocolate bunnies for the kids!

This post is not sponsored by the restaurant nor First Table, I had the good fortune of winning a dining voucher from an Instagram competition by First Table and paid for the difference myself. All opinion expressed are my own.

Espresso Tim Tam Cheesecake with Valrhona chocolate


Sometimes, the craving to bake or make something is so bad, that I just need a recipe that is quick, fool-proof and simple. By simple I mean one or two pans, minimal utensils (i.e minimal washing as our dishwasher is still out of action) and ingredients I readily have in the house. If this isn’t your first time on my blog, you would know I use Valrhona chocolate and always have a good stash of it in the house. If you don’t have access to this beautiful chocolate, please use the best you can find. Trust me, it makes all the difference to your desserts.

This is my go-to no bake cheesecake recipe, which combines all the things I like – Valrhona chocolate, Westgold butter, Tim Tams and cold desserts.

There aren’t many seperate elements to prepare in this recipe, which qualifies it as simple. I don’t even need the oven, just some fridge and freezer space. Tick.

I have been practising my chocolate tempering techniques and love how the cut chocolate shapes can keep for a while in a cool place, so I can use it on my desserts whenever I need them. i.e. readily available.

The beautiful dome shapes are made using Silikomart molds, and the design is inspired by the stunning work of Maja Vase, one of my favourite foodies on Instagram. These molds can be purchased online and through Savour, a Melbourne patisserie school by none other than Kirsten Tibballs. I dream of the day I fly over for their many cooking classes.

I’ve just taken delivery of some new molds and am so excited with the new cake designs that I am going to do soon. (People walking past me must wonder what good news I have, with the big grin on my face 😅). But for now, I give to you this velvety chocolate goodie.

P.s. by ‘quick’, I am referring to the making time, not how long before I can eat it. That part I don’t worry so much as I am more of a maker than eater, which I leave for my tasters.

Ingredients

  • 350g Tim Tam Biscuits, Iced Coffee flavour (2 packets)
  • 120g butter, melted (I use Westgold)
  • 3 teaspoon gelatine powder
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) boiling water
  • 500g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 400ml thickened cream
  • 120g milk chocolate, melted (I use Valrhona Jivara 40%, notes of caramel and vanilla enhanced with a touch of malt)
  • 120g dark chocolate, melted (I use Valrhona Manjari 64%, heavenly acidulous red fruit and dried-fruit hints. Single Origin Madagascar)

Directions

  1. Release the base of an 8cm-deep, 22cm (base measurement) springform pan and invert. (This is so that you get a straight edge.)
  2. Grease the base and line with baking paper, then secure back in the pan, allowing the edges to overhang. Grease the side and line with baking paper.
  3. Process the Tim Tams in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the butter and process until well combined. Transfer the biscuit mixture to the prepared pan. Use a straight-sided glass to spread and press the mixture over the base of the pan. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  4. Place the boiling water in a small heatproof glass. Sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir until gelatine dissolves. Set aside.
  5. Use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Add cream and beat until smooth. Add the gelatine mixture and beat to combine.
  6. Divide mixture between 2 bowls. Add the melted milk chocolate to one of the bowls and stir to combine.
  7. Fill 12 half spheres of the silikomart micro dome molds with the milk chocolate cheesecake. Place in freezer to set overnight. For the rest of the milk chocolate cheesecake, pour over the biscuit base and smooth the surface. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  8. Fold the dark chocolate into the remaining cream cheese mixture until combined. Fill 6 of the silikomart quenelle molds with the dark chocolate cheesecake. Place in freezer to set overnight. For the rest of the dark chocolate cheesecake, pour over the milk chocolate layer and smooth the surface. Place in the fridge for 4 hours or until set.

Assembly

Remove cream cheese micro domes and quenelles from freezer and place strategically on the cheesecake. Sprinkle over Valrhona crunchy pearls and decorate with tempered chocolate discs.


Earth Day – Reduce. Reuse. Recycle solutions


Earth day solutions

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I think we have the third R done really well in NZ. With the large recycling bins available to households, clear labeling of what can be recycled and ease of sorting, it has been really easy to form the mindset and habit of recycling everything we can.

With reuse, there are plenty of clean glass jars drying on my kitchen windowsill as proof that we do practice it. Jars from condiments and coffee are reused for homemade sauces and pastes, and also for the dry ingredients in the pantry.

Admittedly, we can do better at reducing rubbish. We have been using sturdy bags for groceries, but can’t do anything about the prepackaged meat products.
I have long detested the plastic bags used to wrap cold cuts at the deli meat counter. I didn’t do anything about it, kind of shrugged my shoulders and thought ‘oh well, there’s no other option.’ Well there is ALWAYS another option. I can choose not to buy the product (there might be mini protests at home though). I can also choose not to accept the plastic bags. Okay, now that’s an idea. It’s not a new idea and I am pretty sure I have done that in the past but for what reason I stopped doing so escapes me. Perhaps it was the look of annoyance from the lady serving behind the counter (I still remember the frown like it was yesterday) or the look of doubt at the checkout.

Earth day solutions

Be curious people and think about why I would want to do what everybody wants to! We should have more conversations about things that matter and be innovative. Right. I brought a few boxes to the supermarket today and asked for the meat to be placed in the boxes instead. Result? No hassle at all. True it took a few more seconds for them to work out how to tare the box weight, but it’s no different to how they tare the salad boxes.

Earth day solutions

Below are some of the ways we try to reduce plastic/rubbish. I would love to know what you do in your part of the world.

    • Always have reusable bags on hand for groceries. There are so many on the market. Large ones with good sturdy bottoms, but also ones that can be folded up and tucked into your handbag.

Earth day solutions

      • Foldable ones for handbag (so no excuse). Can I make a plea here please for supermarkets to think about purchasing/merchandising thin, sturdy and foldable bags? Jute bags and cloth bags are cool but they take up so much space! These are ones I have collected over the years. The best ones have a thin but hard board on the bottom for keeping the bag shape. Still maintains a slim profile when folded or zipped up.

    Earth day solutions

Earth day solutions

    • ‎Shop at markets – my favourite one is the Lacigale French Markets. There is less packaging to start with as farmers and producers sell their goods to you direct in a crate.
    • Buy bulk – We have Good For, a plastic-free shop allowing customers to buy the amount they need and have it packaged in paper bags or jars. You can even refill your Ecostore shampoo or multi-purpose cleaner here.
    • ‎Left overs at restaurants – bring a box. This avoids the unnecessary plastic boxes which sometimes can’t be recycled. It’s would be an even better outcome (?!?) if the restaurant uses styrofoam containers, as I would be able to avoid that completely.
    • ‎Straws – no more plastic straws! These CaliWoods stainless steel ones are easy to carry, with styles such as soda, smoothie and even one for bubble tea.
    • Water bottle – I always have one with me. Cold drinks for summer, warm drinks for winter. Done, no need to buy drinks or water!
    • Cups for picnics – these Ecococcon cups are great for cold drinks at the park. Perfect with no waste. They do bottles too.

Earth day solutions

  • Cutlery – I often have cutley in my car so that I won’t have to use plastic throwaway ones when I *have* to buy takeaways (and I have containers in the car for those too).
  • Coffee – bring your own cup. I decided not to buy any takeaway coffee if I don’t have my cup with me. You know what? That’s stopped me from buying coffee without actually deciding ahead that I want a coffee.
  • For kids – Start influencing their habit from young. Role model the use of reusable products and give them cute ones  like these to use. Waterproof and strong, they will fit everything they need for play dates and library books.Earth day solutions
  • Packaged snack food – Individually wrapped small pieces of food are such a waste generator. Now that I have a Thermomix, I’d be making a lot more healthy snacks as it cuts my prep time down by half. Thinking bliss balls, cereal bars, mini muffins…shout out if you have any suggestions!What do you do in the fight against waste?

Do share what #zerowaste ideas you have with me.

Earth day solutions

ps. Different sized chill bags are useful for the odd shaped items.