Lemon cheesecake

Recipe and cake from my baking extraordinaire friend, N. Things go into a bowl, into a cake tin, and an hour later, there’s something delicious to be had.

This recipe uses a biscuit-base, probably the easiest cheesecake base around. Unless it doesn’t have a base, in which your cheesecake is most likely a fluffy Japanese-style cheesecake. For most of the time, I stood around and took pictures. But the recipe looks straightforward, and forgiving (provided everything is measured out right, and directions are followed correctly).

BISCUIT BASE
1 cup crushed plain sweet biscuits (We used Marie.)
80 g butter

FILLING
250 g cream cheese
3 eggs, separated
65 g white sugar
65 mL double cream
zest of one lemon
3/4 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
20 g melted butter
2 tbsp plain flour

Before you bake cake/ Line and, or, grease a cake tin/

Make the biscuit base first.

Hey you, get smashing/ (But more a rolling motion)/ Smash them biscuits good

1. Crush biscuits. Put the biscuits into a clean bag, and use a rolling pin to crush them. Don’t tie the bag up as shown in the picture, if you smash too hard the biscuits puncture through the bag, and you will have a mess. Keep the bag untied, and keep the crumbs and biscuity bits in the bag.

Microwave beams, go!/ Vibrate, water molecules!/ Warm up my butter

Add butter to mix/ Here comes my favourite part/ Mix it ’round and ’round

2. Melt the 80g butter. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter in a bowl. Press the base mix into a greased and/or lined cake tin. Use the base of a cup or spoon to press it down if you want a smooth and even biscuit layer.

Put the cake tin with the biscuit base in the fridge. Onwards to the cheesecake filling!

3. Preheat to 160 degrees Celcius. Arrange the racks so the cake tin can sit in the middle, and a baking pan of water can fit in the oven with the cheesecake (on a lower rack).

Magic stuff in bowl/ If I didn’t know better/ Sugar and cream cheese

Handy dandy tool/ My buddy the eggbeater/ Whip that cream cheese good

4. Cream the cream cheese, and half of the sugar first. Then slowly add cream and beat until thick. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Even more butter/ Add some flour to the mix/ Even more beating

5. Stirring/beating more slowly now, add the melted butter and flour. Stir to incorporate.

6. Making sure the egg beaters are clean, and free from any yolk, cream cheese mixture or water, beat the 3 whites (in a big bowl) until they are frothy. (This takes less than a minute.) Then add the other half of the sugar.

One tip for one whites/ No oil, and no water/ Will not get stiff peaks

Egg white is protein/ Whipping makes a protein net/ Capture air bubbles

7.  Beat until stiff peaks form.

Add an egg white cloud/ Aeration comes from egg whites/ For fluffy cheesecake

8. Fold the egg whites into the lemon-cream cheese mixture.

gently mixed batter?/ Now plonk into your cake tin/ No ceremony

The less-tasty cake/ Magical transformation/ Ta-da! Tasty cake

9. Pour into cake tin. Hopefully the biscuit base will be a bit more solid by now. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t, but it helps the base stay together after baking.
10. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. It is very important that a baking tray of water is in the oven with the cheesecake. Otherwise it will dry out.

Baking does wonders/ Magical transformation/ actually science

Cool before serving. Chill if you can.

Just a little slice/ A proper serve for photos/ Larger serve for me

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Cherries and inappropriate watermelon*

(* We had summery fruits at the end, namely cherries and watermelon. We’re good at sculpturing body parts out of watermelon–with a spoon. Most of them looked like ovaries or eyeballs.)

First of all, happy birthday! You know who you are. If it happens to be your birthday too, happy birthday to you too.
Secondly, mexican food is on the agenda and has been for a while. This post will be very much like this post, with copious amounts of food photos. I’ll warn you now it’s not purist mexican, but it is damned tasty and closer to mexican food than most ‘mexican’ restaurants in Melbourne. Most things are kind of mexican?

On the menu:

  • Tortillas
  • Cornbread
  • Mashed avocado
  • Black beans (frijoles negros)
  • Coleslaw
  • Green chilli
  • Pulled pork
  • Pork crackling
  • Spicy cumin prawns
  • Salsa verde
  • Skirt steak
  • Tomato salad
  • Fetta cheese made from goats milk
  • Cherries
  • Watermelon

Table full of food/ Always more dishes than space/ The best table size

There’s a lot to get through. Hope you’re feeling hungry.

TORTILLA

Straight from a packet/ Vehicle for mexican/ Better when heated

CORNBREAD

Corn meal in bread form/ Good with stewed black beans/ Or in buttermilk

While corn is one of staples in Mexico, cornbread is not a mexican food. However, it is an important part of soul food in the southern states of the US. I find cornbread a tad dry and plain to have by itself, but it is very good with mashed avocado or beans.

MASHED AVOCADO

Mashed avocado/ Basis of guacamole/ Good in sandwiches


A bowl of mashed avocado with some chunks for texture. Though, if you did want guacamole, you all had to do was eat it with tomato salad.

BLACK BEANS/ FRIJOLES NEGROS

New fav'rite bean dish/ Rich in folate and iron/ As well as protein


Black beans (phaseolus vulgaris) in a tomato based sauce. In addition to being nutritious (lots of folate), it is also delicious. It’s slightly sweet from the tomato, a bit acidic from tomato and a bit of vinegar and naturally savoury since it’s a bean. In no way is it bland. This can be a meal on its own. It was particularly good in a soft taco with pulled pork, mashed avocado and tomato salad.

COLESLAW

Not your average slaw/ It does not swim in dressing/ Still tastes like cabbage

While coleslaw isn’t mexican, there is a similar dish called ‘curtido’. According to wikipedia, it is a “type of cabbage relish, lightly fermented. … In Mexican cuisine, curtido consists mainly of pickled carrots mixed with onions and chile [sic] peppers” (as an addition to pickled cabbage).
This coleslaw has cabbage, carrot, red onion and red capsicum, lightly dressed with homemade mayonnaise. It is sour, but not quite pickled.

GREEN CHILLI

For those chilli buffs/ For more burning sensation/ Complete with the seeds

Not a dish on its own, but a condiment. I enjoy filling up these posts with pictures.

PULLED PORK

Ingredient list/ Spices, oil and good salt/ Pig not pictured here

First, obtain your pig. Season with powdered corriander seed, cumin seed, chilli flakes and a cinnamon quill. Olive oil, and some salt. Add some water too.
The water is what separates this dish from other roast pork dishes. It will make the meat more tender (increased moisture content, but not so much that it boils the pork) and increases the crunchiness of the surfaces. The same trick is used for french baguettes for the characteristic crust.

It has a name: Pig./ But not 'Some Pig', that'd be sad/ Charlotte's Web ref'rence

Pulled pork for the win/ 'Pulled' meats are generally good/Sign of tenderness

The result is roasted pork so tender that its meaty fibres are easily prised apart with a fork.

PORK CRACKLING

Well-salted crackling/ Crisp, buttery and salty/ Waste no part of Pig

Pork crackling needs good salt. Preferably salt flakes. Salt flakes sound fancy, but it does yield a much superior result when making pork crackling. It tastes different too. For me, sea flakes are essential for two things. Pork crackling and sea salt caramels.
Pork crackling was great with pulled pork, or just by themselves. It was so good that the room fell quiet and not a peep could be heard… ‘cept for the -crunch!- of pork crackling.

SPICY CUMIN PRAWNS

Marinade and prawns/ Leave in fridge to absorb stuff/ The worst waiting game

Get your prawns and de-vein them. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but it’s well worth it. Marinate with olive oil, salt, juice of  lemon, juice of  lime, red chilli (however much you want) and cumin seeds. Let it sit and soak in delicious marinade for at least 30 minutes.

End of waiting game/ Soon, there will be chilli prawns/ Always a winner

Heat up your pan, and put all the prawns and marinade in. Let them sizzle, let delicious smells waft through your window, and earn well-deserved food envy from your neighbours.

Hey, is it a bird?/Not a plane, not bowl, nor plate/ A measuring cup

We didn’t have any bowls, so a measuring cup will do.

SALSA VERDE

Spicy green chillis/ Finely diced green capsicum/ Don't confuse the two

Green salsa is green/ No surprise, made from green things/ Add ALL the green things

Green salsa was made with canned tomatillos (never seen a fresh one, and the canned ones were disappointingly mushy), but tomatilos can be substituted with green tomatoes. We used raw canned tomatilloes and 2 green chillis. We also used a food processer. Salse verde is good with pulled pork, and prawns. Looks like it’ll be good as a dip too, like regular salsa.

SKIRT STEAK WITH CHILLI AND LIME

Big chunks of skirt steak/ Simple, flavoursome beef steak/ How can it go wrong?

I don’t even know where this came from. (presumably from a cow) One minute there wasn’t a steak to be seen marinating, or grilling or frying up in a pan, the next there was a steak being carved up. Steak well rested, and served medium.

TOMATO SALAD

It is near Summer/ Time for tomato salad/ Wish I had some now

Plain and simple. Good tomatoes, red onion (invisible in photo. They are sitting on the bottom) and parsley. Something to freshen up your palate after spicy food and meats.

Here’s a folded taco. Don’t fold them to make a ‘double taco’, the fold will just rip and be messy to eat. It contains pulled pork, pork crackling, mashed avocado, black beans and tomato salad. There is some coleslaw and tomato salad in the background.

Too much stuff inside/ There is only one problem/ Taco won't stay closed

An artists' palette/ Colours to mix together/ Where 'colours' is food

Here’s a plated up version of different things (Taco deconstructed?).
Back row (left to right): Coleslaw, tomato salad
Middle row (left to right): Whole prawn, half-eaten prawn, frijoles negros, mashed avocado
Front row: Goats fetta, skirt steak

Absent: Tortilla, cornbread, salsa verde, pulled pork, pork crackling, sliced green chilli

CHERRIES

Cherries are pretty/ Yet another summer fruit/ Best washed and served plain


WATERMELON

Watermelon face/ Addition to carrot face/ Faces everywhere


Some people see a watermelon. Some see a face too. Others see it crying tears of juice (and seeds).

Enjoy. (Recipes will be up when I get them. Most items above are just about preparation and adding enough spices as desired, but some dishes don’t have an obvious ingredients list.)

Slow cooker beef stew

I confess, I have never cooked a stew before. Nor used a slow-cooker. Nor followed a recipe successfully. But here is a recipe, adapted from Delicious, and for a slow-cooker (instead of an oven).

SLOW COOKER BEEF STEW
Serves: 10-20 people, depending on size of serve. It makes approximately 5.5L of stew.
Cost: (excluding paprika, thyme, sage, bay, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chicken stock which were already in the pantry) $21.30
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Panfrying time: 20 minutes, depending on size of your fry pan and the size of your meat batches
Kick back and wait time: At least 2 hours, but I let it stew for 6 hours.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbs chopped thyme
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 sage leaf
2 fresh bay leaves (you can use dried)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 carrots, cut into chunks
6 potatoes, cut into smaller chunks
1.5 kg lean beef chunks
100g pancetta, diced
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
800g tinned cherry tomatoes
800g tinned beans (I used chickpeas and cannellini beans)
2 cups chicken stock

Method:
1. Marinate beef with thyme and smoked paprika. I would add another 2 cloves of minced garlic to the marinade.

Marinating meat/ For best flavour absorption/ Best done overnight

1. Caramelise onions and garlic. This might take a while. You want a golden colour, and the onions almost melted. You want the onions to be darker, much darker, than the ones in the photo. I was impatient.

Spread onions out well/ Increase surface area/ Helps browning process

2. Fry up the pancetta. Don’t take shortcuts like I have. Throw those onions into your slow cooker, then fry your pancetta separately so as to not overcrowd the pan. You want pancetta is to crispy and fragrant. Again, I make the mistake of not thinking things through and overcrowd the pan. The pancetta doesn’t end up crispy at all, it just wilts. Still tastes good, but not what the stew is after.

Crispy pancetta/ There can be no substitutes/ And take no shortcuts
3. Toss in a can of cherry tomatoes. Squash ’em a bit for their juices. Chuck that in your slow cooker too. Or just pour the tinned tomatoes straight into the slow cooker.

Cherry tomatoes/ Squish those juicy red fruits good/ Heh, that'll learn them

4. Throw in a bay leaf and sage leaf as well. You can switch the slow cooker on and get the temperature going. It takes a while.

Add those herby leaves/ A small volume of stew base/ Watch it fill the pot

5. Flour beef.

Add flour to beef/ Don't be shy, you can add lots/ It will thicken stew

6. Brown beef in batches. Browning adds more flavour. Chuck the batches into the cooker, taking care not to throw in too much oil (but this doesn’t bother me. You can scoop oil and impurities out at a later stage.)

Delicious brown bits/ Make them by frying flour/ Scrape, and add to stew

7. Cut some spuds and carrots. Throw those in too.

Carrots and taters/ Starting to look like a stew/ Now we are talking

8. Wait 6 hours, or however long you want to wait. But I suggest a minimum of 2 hours. It helps if you don’t lift the lid every half hour. (I gotta kick that habit.)

Put lid onto pot/ Let it simmer undisturbed/ Twenty minutes in

Compulsive mixing/ Breaks up all the mushy beans/No! Don't do it, kids!

9. I added beans waaaaay to early and they became mushy. If you’re using tinned beans, add them 20 minutes before serving. If you’re using dried beans which have been soaking overnight, I think you can add those 90 minutes before serving.

In hindsight, I think this stew can lose the beans (or add beans when the stew is almost done), more smoked paprika and more garlic. It’s not bland, but it can do with a kick. Also, don’t stir too often, it makes the potatoes break up and your stew cloudy.  I will have to try this recipe again, or make it even simpler.