Thursday, July 18, 2013

Baked Raspberry and Maltesers Cheesecake

Supermarkets are where I generally buy non-food items like cleaning products, toiletries and some non-perishable food items. It’s not a place that I buy fresh food from.

Over the weekend as my dad stocks up for the restaurant at the markets, he will put aside a few things for me in a box. I get fresh fruit and vegetables (mainly Asian vegetables like kai lan, choy sum or boy choy) every Monday when I go over to my parents for dinner. I buy most of my other food from Asian groceries, markets, butchers and bakeries.

So I don’t eat much supermarket food nowadays but as I was growing up, a lot of the mass produced supermarket products were my first introduction to many of the foods I now love and either make myself or have found other sources for a more quality product, especially baked goods. Supermarket lamingtons, chocolate mudcakes, swiss rolls, donuts, assorted danishes and Tip Top soft white bread without crusts were staples in my lunchbox for school. It was food that I would have to be on my best behaviour for to get my parents to pop them into the trolley as we did our weekly shop on the weekends. Food that was full of some magical combination of salt, sugar, fat and artificial flavourings that tempted and satisfied a little girl who didn’t know any better. Now I find all these products to be bland or just too sweet and one dimensional in flavour.

My first cheesecake was a Sara Lee cheesecake. Everyone’s grown up on Sara Lee cheesecakes right? 

I love eating cheesecake. It’s one of my favourite desserts but unless it’s a baked cheesecake I have no interest. I love the taste and texture of a baked cheesecake – it’s dense but velvety with a smooth and thick creamy consistency. A no bake cheesecake is easier to make as all you need to do is mix together all the ingredients with some gelatine for it to set but then in the end you might as well eat custard or mousse. It doesn’t feel like a real cheesecake to me. 

People can get a bit freaked out about baking a cheesecake because it’s harder to get a uniform density and texture, it has a tendency to crack and can end up a bit dry. But I don’t think it’s as hard as some people make it out to be and when you get it right, it’s a satisfying feeling. I’ve baked a lot of cheesecakes, refined my approach to it and I’m pretty confident that every time I bake a cheesecake, it will turn out fine. E
ven when I experiment a bit with the fillings.

Here’s what I have learnt about baking cheesecakes: 

  • Bake it in a springform pan or a cake pan with a removal base (this is pretty self-explanatory, who doesn't have a cake pan with a removal base these days?)
  • Don’t overbeat the mixture as it incorporates air into the batter which can cause the cheesecake to puff up and collapse, but if you underbeat it, it can lead to a lumpy texture and you want the mixture to have a smooth consistency. I beat everything at a low speed. I always make sure the cream cheese is really soft by leaving it to come to room temperature for a few hours or zapping it at a low temperature in the microwave for a 20-30 seconds until it can be easily beat and incorporated with other ingredients.
  • You don’t need to bake cheesecakes in a water bath, this is a nightmare as everytime I’ve tried it, I’ve gotten leaks. I find that you get the same result by baking at a low temperature for a long period. I generally bake at 110-120C for about 1.5 hours. Then turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake inside the oven with the door slightly ajar to cool.
  • Don’t worry if the cheesecake doesn’t look fully set after you take it out of the oven, it shouldn’t be. Cheesecakes are done with baking in the oven when the center of the cheesecake (about a 2-3 inch diameter) appears softly set and will wobbly slightly when you move it. Because of the high density of most cheesecakes, they will continue to bake after it is removed from the oven, the texture will smooth out and firm up as it cools and is chilled in the refrigerator.  
It’s winter now in Perth and the one thing I am missing when baking cheesecakes it summer fruits. 

Recently, my younger sister asked me to bake her a cheesecake for her birthday. She requested a mango cheesecake and I told her that I wouldn’t be able to get any mangoes as they were out of season, then she asked if she could have strawberries but it’s not strawberry season either so I offered her the next best thing which was frozen raspberries and to make it just a bit more special I added in my sister’s favourite chocolates – Maltesers. 

Baked Raspberry and Maltesers Cheesecake

(An original recipe by the Blue Apocalypse)


•    80g butter, melted
•    100g plain sweet biscuit
•    60g Maltesers
•    500g cream cheese, softened (left out to come to room temperature or zap in microwave for a few seconds)
•    1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
•    200g thickened cream (35% fat variety)
•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•    30g cornflour, sifted
•    4 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
•    1 cup/150g of frozen raspberries, pureed
•    100g Maltesers, roughly chopped
extra Maltesers chopped up for decoration

Preheat oven to ~120C.

Line a loose-bottomed 20x5cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

In a processor, process the biscuits and maltesers together until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add melted butter and process a few times until just combined. Press the mix over the bottom of the cake tin to make a smooth, even layer (use the bottom of a glass to press).

Put the soft cream cheese in a large bowl and beat in the sweetened condensed milk, thickened cream, vanilla extract and cornflour. Then add in the eggs and beat together until blended, smooth and there are no lumps. 

Add in chopped Maltesers, and gently fold through. Then pour the mixture into the cake tin over the biscuit base. 

Drop the pureed raspberry by the spoonful on top. With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl the pureed raspberry into the cheesecake filling.

Bake the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 30-40 minutes until it is just set but if you shake the cake tin gently it should still wobble a little in the center. 

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove from tin, decorate with additional chopped Maltesers on top and cut into wedges to serve.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Saffron Risotto with Prawns and Leftover Risotto Chips

One of the things that I love doing with leftover risotto is fry it. I always cook more risotto than I need so that I have some leftover the next day to make into fritters. But this time, instead of making fritters, I thought that it would be cool to try frying up some little batons of risotto. 

To get the risotto into the shape that I wanted, I left it refrigerated overnight flattened in a baking tin lined with glad wrap so that it would be easy to get out. As risotto cools, it will turn starchy and glutinous, become firm and stick together. 

The next day I sliced the risotto into 1.5cm x 5-6cm rectangles and pan-fried them in butter until they looked like pieces of thick chunky chips! The outside was crispy, while the inside was soft and creamy, resembling the risotto’s original state. 

Be careful with handling the pieces of risotto, because as you turn them over to fry evenly on all sides, some will crumble. To minimize crumbling risotto, I think that next time I need to compact the risotto more tightly together in the baking tin or add more parmesan cheese in the mix so that it will stick together better.

The risotto that I made was saffron risotto, I was aware that Risotto alla Milanese is a very traditional Italian risotto dish, often lauded as simply the best and I wanted to try cooking it to see what made it so special. 

I followed a recipe by Giorgio Locatelli from his Made in Italy: Food and Stories which is one of my favourite Italian cookbooks. Locatelli states in the headnote to the recipe that “I don’t know what it is about saffron and rice that make them work together but they are natural partners…”. I didn’t know what to expect as it’s a really simple recipe using just a few ingredients but I loved the combination of saffron and risotto, not only does the flavour of the saffron shine through but it gives the risotto a lovely golden yellow hue. 

To give the dish something a little bit extra so that the risotto wasn’t just naked and on it’s own, I added some poached prawns on top (I always have a stash of frozen prawns in my freezer) and garnished with parsley.


Saffron Risotto with Prawns
(Adapted from Made in Italy: Food and Stories by Giorgio Locatelli)

•    ~2.5 litres of chicken stock
•    50g butter
•    1 onion, finely chopped
•    400g superfino carnaroli rice
•    125ml dry white wine
•    ~40-50 saffron threads
•    75g cold butter, diced into small cubes
•    100g parmesan, finely grated
•    Topped with poached prawns, parsley and grated parmesan

Heat up the stock in a pot. 

 Poached prawns

Shell, deveined some prawns and chop into small pieces. Add the prawns to the boiling stock and poach, when they are cooked through, spoon out and set aside in a bowl.
Melt 50g of butter in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until softened, but not yet coloured (5 minutes). 

Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter and ‘toast’ the grains. Make sure they are all warm, then add the wine. Let it evaporate completely until the onion and rice are dry, then add the saffron. Start to add the stock, a ladleful or two at a time, stirring and scraping the rice in the pan as you do so. When each addition of stock has almost completely all evaporated, add the next ladleful. 

Carry on cooking for about 15-17 minutes, adding stock continuously and stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After about 12-14 minutes, slow down the addition of the stock, so that the rice doesn’t become to wet and soupy, otherwise when you add the butter and parmesan at the end, it will become too soupy. The risotto is ready when it looks creamy and the grains are soft but still al dente. Turn down the heat and allow the risotto to rest for a minute. 

Use a wooden spoon to vigorously beat in the 75g of cold diced butter and then add the parmesan and beat in. Season to taste and serve with poached prawns scattered over the top and garnished with parsley and grated parmesan.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Burmese Golden Egg Curry and Part-Time Happenings

Last September I started working part-time. I quit full-time work. I wanted more time to do things that I enjoyed rather than working for the man all the time. I was lucky that a part-time job opportunity came up when my colleague returned from maternity leave and only wanted to work two days a week, so now I job-share working 3 days a week as a policy analyst in government. I had no game plan for what I would do when I started working part-time, but many interesting projects and opportunities have come up. Even though I work part-time, I am busier than ever!

I thought I would share what I get up to in my life outside of blogging :)

I have been a part of the TEDxPerth committee since October 2012 and we organised our first large scale full day event last December. Plans currently are underway for our second full day event this year which will be on 26 October 2013.  We recently did a live stream of TEDGlobal at Spacecubed.
(photo taken by Kira Rikkers)
 Here I am with my TEDxPerth crew at the entry of The Vault at Spacecubed at TEDXPerthLive 13.6.2013.

In December last year, an expression of interest to host Eat Drink Blog 4 was placed on the Eat Drink Blog website. Eat Drink Blog is the Australian Food and Drink Bloggers Conference. The inaugural Eat Drink Blog conference was held in Melbourne in 2010, Sydney hosted in 2011 and last year the conference was in Adelaide. I discussed the possibility of hosting the fourth Eat Drink Blog conference in Perth with other WA food bloggers, and there was wide support and interest in bringing the conference west. I put together our submission and on 22 January 2013 it was announced on the website that Perth would host Eat Drink Blog 4

I am chair of the Eat Drink Blog 4 organising committee. It’s very exciting to be bringing the national Australian food and drinks bloggers conference to Perth. It has been more work than I thought it would be, the committee has faced challenges but we are working our way through them. Slowly but surely the conference is starting to come together and we hope to make some announcements in a few weeks. 

Thanks to the Eat Drink Blog 3 Adelaide committee for giving Perth the opportunity to host Eat Drink Blog this year. Special thanks to Christina (co-chair of Eat Drink Blog 3) who has provided helpful advice to me during the submission process and handover of Eat Drink Blog.

I am currently doing the RTRFM  radio training course. Fulfilling a dream of mine to one day be on the radio playing my favourite tunes, stuff that you wouldn’t hear on any other radio station but RTRFM as it’s the sound alternative. At the moment I am listening to a lot of post-metal \m/ Everything might sound natural and spontaneous on the radio, but I’ve learnt that it’s everything but! I’ve gained a lot more respect for anyone who does radio because behind the scenes there is a lot of hard work and planning. I’m still working on my radio voice. 

I have also just become a food curator for Urban Locavore along with Grace. Grace and I worked on the Beaufort Street Festival cookbook last year and it’s great to be working together again. Urban Locavore is a small Western Australian business that aims to discover, promote and share food made and grown by Western Australian producers who source most or all of their ingredients locally. Each month Urban Locavore curates a Tasting Box featuring seven to nine of Western Australia’s best products and delivers them to people in the Perth metropolitan area or boxes can be picked up at our store in Osborne Park.

So I am pretty busy these days but happy to be doing the things I am involved in, and also the poorest I have been in a long time. TEDxPerth, Eat Drink Blog and radio are all things that I am volunteering my time to and for Urban Locavore at the moment, I work for food. Urban Locavore is still a relatively new small business operating on a shoe string and are not in a position pay for staff now but I get to consume lots of amazing local produce every week. Grace and I are on board to help the business grow, we have lots of exciting plans for events and a bigger store. Grace and I often talk about how one day we’ll be able to give up our day jobs!

Right now I’m trying to absorb as much as I can. I'm doing whatever interests me, building up skills and knowledge along the way, and then I’ll see what I can do with myself. 

As can you imagine, I am on a budget these days. I have been eating out less and cooking a home a lot more. Making more use of my pantry, produce that my parents give me from their restaurant and also items from the Urban Locavore Tasting Boxes.

(Urban Locavore goodies come in a box of hay - Margaret River Free Range Eggs)

In the May Urban Locavore Tasting Box there were beautiful eggs from Margaret River and a recent edition of SBS Feast magazine featured a Burmese Golden Egg Curry. It looked amazing and I asked my Burmese friend MM from high school if she had cooked this dish before and she told me that it tastes better with the addition of ground dried shrimp, and also advised to cook the shallots for longer until it was soft and caramelized. She also recommended putting some ground paprika in at the same time as the turmeric in the oil that the eggs got fried in to give more colour.

So I have used the recipe from SBS Feast magazine as a base and adapted it, incorporating MM’s suggestions.

Burmese Golden Egg Curry


•    6-7 small dried shrimp (or enough to make 2 teaspoons of ground dried shrimp)
•    peanut oil
•    ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
•    ¼ teaspoon ground paprika
•    3 large shallots, finely chopped
•    4 garlic cloves, crushed
•    5 tomatoes, finely chopped
•    ½ teaspoon ground chilli
•    ¼ cup water or chicken stock
•    1 tablespoon fish sauce
•    salt to taste
•    3 green bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and sliced
•    4 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
•    chopped coriander for garnish


Prepare the dried shrimp – soak in hot water for 30 minutes until softened, then finely chop and roast in oven for 10 minutes at 150C.

(finely chopping dried shrimp)
(roasted ground dried shrimp)

In a small saucepan that can fit in 4 eggs, fill with 3-4cm of peanut oil and heat over medium heat to 180C. 

Add ground turmeric and paprika, and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Lower the hard boiled eggs into the oil and fry them, using chopsticks to turn them around until they are golden all over and blistered. Remove and drain on paper towel. Slice eggs in half.

Heat up a wok and spoon in 3-4 tablespoons of the oil the eggs were fried in. Add the shallots and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft and caramelized, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, ground chilli and ¼ cup of water or chicken stock, and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes until the tomatoes have softened. Stir in the fish sauce, green chillies and 1 teaspoon of ground dried shrimp. Season to taste with salt. 

Place eggs, cut-side down, in the sauce and cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon the sauce and eggs onto a plate, scatter with chopped coriander, ground dried shrimp and serve with steamed rice.

Note: It’s also great with toasted bread!