Category Archives: food blog event

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the main reasons I like food blogging is the potential to experiment and still feel that something productive came out of something that didn’t go perfectly. This entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s In The Bag event (this month’s ingredients: strawberries and white chocolate) was one of those imperfect, but valuable cooking experiences.

I knew I wanted to cook a cheesecake, but I wanted to not follow a recipe strictly as it seems all the cheesecake recipes I try to follow don’t work. This is probably due to differing oven temperatures, but many times I’ve found the cooking times specified to be either far too short or far too long, with me having to slice a burnt top off. So today I wanted to try one that has been much hyped, Nigella’s London Cheesecake, but I wanted to do it a bit differently. You can find the original recipe here.

I started my departure from the recipe by doubling the amount of biscuit and butter required in order to make a cheesecake with a base and walls. (Probably more accurately termed sides, but I think they look like a rather craggy fortress myself) Although working against gravity to create the walls, they didn’t cave in and it was all A-OK.

I then made up a strawberry syrup from a punnet of berries, some caster sugar and a touch of water. I boiled it up, then down, then mushed it and spread all over the biscuit base and let the whole lot cool. So far, so good.

The white chocolate was simply melted and stirred in with the cream cheese of the original recipe, and I adjusted the cooking times up a little to make up for the 200g of white chocolate I’d added but cooked it in a vat of water just as with the original. Well, I evidently didn’t adjust enough because it was still wibbling at me after a good hour. I can’t quite tell with cheesecake how much it’ll firm with cooling (once I had a rather amazing disaster where I undercooked a cheesecake and took it out of its tin without letting it cool. Result: cheesecake avalanche, followed by a number of spoons scooping and eating from the table and a mortified me!) so I bunged it in for another half hour. I eyed it suspiciously once more, removed it from the water, let it cool.

As it was cooling, I fanned some strawberries for the top (apparently very retro, but novel for me).

Unfortunately the slice of cake itself was not pretty enough for a full-frontal (boo hoo) as the strawberry layer, though tasty, looked a little tired (well it must have been after all that time sat under the cheesecake filling). The walls went down very well with TLM, but I think next time they could be thinner, and hopefully with today’s knowledge I will be able to judge them better. Something inside me felt the strawberry syrup needed whizzing for a more event texture, and maybe even something to made it redder – more appealing I suppose? However, it tasted fine so maybe I should keep it organic.
I will want to add more vanilla next time (pod maybe?) because that would really bring out the white chocolate softness. It had flecks from the vanilla sugar and flavour from the vanilla extract but I think a pod is the way forwards for this one.

A very interesting challenge. Cheesecake, not yet mastered. I predict with us moving (again) and me having a new kitchen and cooker the battle will continue…
(any tips – welcome!!)

Chicken Rogan Josh

Sometimes only a curry will do, and takeaways have a lovely mouth feel but sometimes only one ‘note’. Beneath the heat of this curry, you can taste the mildness of the yoghurt, the lemon and the coriander.

I think a rogan josh is traditionally a lamb curry, but we have plans on a lamb curry another day so this time we plumped for chicken. I’ve never followed a recipe for curry before as I usually just bung things together and see how it goes, but I wanted to try a recipe from my “One Pot” book and did so, inspired by Ruth’s “Bookmarked Recipes” event.

Ingredients – makes enough for two large portions

  • 150 ml natural yoghurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • 2 chicken breasts (though I usually use chicken thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced (this wasn’t hot enough for me, so I added some flaked dried chillis later, next time I’ll use two or more chillis)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • water to slacken, if needed

How to Make it

Chop up the chicken breast and marinade in the yoghurt, garlic, ginger and lemon. Get it in the fridge in the morning for best results.

Heat the oil in a large frying/saute pan and throw in the cardamom pods to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, chilli, and cumin and cook for 5 minutes or till the onion is slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and coriander. Allow this mixture to cook down over a simmer for half an hour or so, it should be fairly stiff. Add the chicken in its marinade, which immediately slackens the mixture. Cook with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt as necessary, and add a dash of water if the sauce is too thick for your liking, and it’s ready.

I felt this curry could have done with more garlic, so I will be using far more cloves next time – cooked with onion as well as in the marinade.

For that authentic curryhouse feel, cobra beer went along with curry dishes from the local pound shop (which is in the city’s curryhouse central) as we waited for the rice to go ‘ping’

Pear Kulfi

Each month, held alternately by Julia and Scott, there is an ‘in the bag’ challenge where three ingredients are suggested and you come up with a recipe including them. Initially I didn’t have the confidence, but after a little thought and settling on what I could do, I was really quite excited. January 2007’s ingredients were: pears, lemons and nuts of your choice. I sort-of imposed another requirement on myself: I wanted to offer it as the pudding for a coeliac friend who was cooking dinner, so it had to be gluten-free.

I wanted to do something sweet but the nuts really threw me off. I found some interesting pear/chestnut icecream recipes but they all required an icecream maker. Consulting my musty but trusty Marguerite Pattern book I found a recipe for kulfi, a rich almond icecream of Indian origin, which could be made wholly in the freezer. This recipe instantly gave me a good way to use nuts, and I could transform it by adding pear puree and the juice of a whole lemon. So I present my pear kulfi concoction, with slight pride that it throws up no other google results.

It is a little bit fiddly, but only in that it uses up a lot of bowls and so generates a bit of washing up. I strongly suggest rehearsing this recipe in your head to make sure you have all the pans to hand.
Ingredients
  • 600 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • 300 ml double cream
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 pears
How to make it

 

First, you make an almondy custard. Put the eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and whisk together until evenly blended. Put the milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the scalded milk slowly to the egg mix, stirring throughout. Stand the bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, stir in the ground almonds and almond essence.

 

Secondly for the pear and lemon puree. Peel, core and chop the pears. Dice into 1 cm squares or so and cook them until soft in a pan with a dash of water. Drain, then puree the pears. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the pan and stir.

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks, then incorporate the pear puree. Finally fold the cream/puree mix into the cool custard. Pour into a container (make it a 2 litre tub) and pop in the freezer to do its thing.

 

Take the icecream out about half an hour prior to serving, so it’s easier to scoop. Add some lemon zest and flaked almonds or pistachios to garnish.
Overall, the pear kulfi was absolutely delicious. The fruity/zestiness of the pear and lemon cut through the otherwise rich almond custard cream. The kulfi is smooth and the crystals turned out fairly small, but as always they could be smaller.