Saturday, 22 September 2012

Blackberry cheesecake ice cream

Excess blackberries = jam? coulis? ice cream? sorbet? pie? Unfortunately Parkside didn't have any raspberries when we went there last weekend (see post here) and in the absence of raspberries I picked up a bunch of blackberries instead. At home I used to buy the frozen berries and use them for pancakes and milkshakes, but it felt like such a waste ... but not being in a particularly adventurous mood I ended up with the tried and tested anyway.

My main concern was that I wouldn't be able to eat all the berries before they went off so I wanted to use them asap. I started out by making a blackberry coulis and it was only after I discounted the idea of making a cheesecake (too much effort with the base) that I decided to go for cheesecake ice cream instead. It tasted like frozen cheesecake, nothing more, nothing less. However, Miss L said it is the best tasting ice cream she has ever eaten in her life! I guess a massive compliment like that must means that it was a worthwhile exercise right?

Blackberry coulis (ended up being twice as much as I actually needed, the rest is in the freezer ready to be turned into sorbet!)

  • A punnet of blackberries

  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice / juice from 1 lemon

  • 1/3 cup caster sugar

Procedure: put it all together in a blender or food processor, pulverise until the sugar looks like it has dissolved. Add more sugar / lemon to taste. Strain to get the seeds and leftover pulpy bits out (this is not essential, but I like a smooth coulis).

Cheesecake ice cream

Note: this is an egg free philly type ice cream. As I mentioned I wasn't feeling particularly energetic so a full on custard based ice cream was definitely out of the question for today!


  • 2 packets of philly cream cheese

  • 1 small tub sour cream

  • 1/2 small tub regular cream

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • Lime zest

  • Splash of vanilla


  1. Soften cream cheese (or just buy the spreadable ones). Beat this in a stand or hand mixer to get the lumps out.

  2. Throw in everything else and mix.

  3. Churn in ice cream maker.

  4. Mix in coulis right at the end before putting in freezer.


Madeira and mangoes

I haven't made a packet mix cake for ... as long as I can remember. I think it has something to do with a friend's mother once saying to me she could always tell when something came out of a packet / jar / ready made; after that I tried my hardest to fool her but it never worked. Those were the days when I never had the urge to cook and I don't think she ever believed I could make spaghetti or cake (or anything else for that matter) from scratch.

Anyway, last week Mr N had sent me a picture of a cake that he had made and it looked so delightful that I wanted to eat it too - mangoes and white chocolate is not a typical combination that springs to my mind when I think of madeira cake! I'll try it out next time I want to eat cake and am feeling *particularly* lazy.

Here are the instructions to make Mrs A's enhanced instant madeira cake. Enjoy!

  1. Mix tinned mangoes into the Madeira cake mix along with the other ingredients the instructions on the packet calls for.

  2. Add white chocolate into the icing (melt it and mix it in, grate it in, grate on top etc.)

  3. Add the tinned mangoes on top.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Fruitful farming - Parkside

The last days of summer must be here since I’m wearing a scarf to work now, and I see girls in stockings. On Sunday we were fortunate enough to have a sunny day and a group of us went for a drive to Parkside farm in Enfield to “pick your own” fruit and vegetables. I recall going to look for peaches at a peach orchard in country NSW as a child, but I haven’t seen anything of this kind of scale before where the public are allowed free reign to explore.

It certainly made a great change from staring at bricks and mortar and much fun was had by all. The website had stated that the produce up for grabs included sweet corn, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, marrows, courgettes, beefwood, French beans, spinach, swiss chard and onions. Fortunately for us, Miss E had been there before so she knew exactly where she was going.

My favourite part was looking through the strawberry plants - I have only ever seen strawberries grown in the ground and my back was certainly happy that these “tabletop strawberries” were in containers at a convenient shoulder height. I think everyone’s favourite was the strawberries though as the crop was fairly light on and you had to dig through the strawberry plants to get nice ones.

The blackberries were really out in force though, I love how they change colour over time and how picturesque the farm is in the late afternoon. I made blackberry coulis when I got home to go with cheesecake flavoured ice cream – method and results to come.










The corn was the most fun to pick but I did feel bad that so much of the plant disappears when you snap off the cob. We also came away with some beans, giant courgettes, and Miss E had a giant marrow as well. I really wish my fridge is bigger than a bar fridge!

Time to go home after a hard day’s work! Since I’m obsessed with raspberries I’ve been checking whether there are any late season autumn ones available. Today the Parkside website said they were available so fingers crossed that it’ll continue throughout the week and I can convince Mr T to take another trip out there this weekend…

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bubble tea boost - Cha Time

Bubble tea is awesome. My cousin in HK first introduced me to it many years ago and then it a chain store called Easyway opened up right next door to uni in Sydney's eastern suburbs (and various other locations). For the uninitiated, the basic bubble tea is a cold (sometimes hot) milk tea with tapioca pearls in it. The variety is amazing though in both tea and toppings - I think the weirdest sickly sweet combo I've seen anyone order is grape tea with rainbow jelly and pearls. Here's a sample of regular bubble tea, and a roasted milk tea with grass jelly.

A few years post-uni I saw a new shop in Chatswood, Cha Time. I fell in love. I went to Cha Time every weekend to get a bubble tea or my other favourite, roasted green milk tea with grass jelly (sounds gross but its awesome. Really). All my bubble tea dreams came true when a Cha Time opened up next to work (now we weren't limited to just Easyway!), and I dragged my Malaysian desk buddy there constantly. After she left, I took my Australian desk buddy there too.

Unfortunately, I left Cha Time behind when I came to London. I was super disappointed when I was taken to a bubble tea place that was "good for London" and haven't been back since ... that was months ago. But you know what? Someone else told me last week that Cha Time was in London! I made it there within 3 hours of finding thsi out, then went back again the next day only to run into a whole bunch of Sydneysider friends who had independently gone to pay a visit. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cha Time lady recognises me now after I asked her for the nth time whether she had a loyalty scheme...

Its not quite the same as Sydney Cha Time but it'll do. For those that are interested, Cha Time is located in Soho, link to the website is here. In the meantime, here's a quick happy snap of Mr T and a couple of our friends enjoying their Cha Times on a sunny Saturday.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Macarons or Macaroons?

Australians have been mad about macarons since an early series of Masterchef, where one of the challenges was to make a macaron tower (visit this page for more info). I recall there were 2 flavours - olive and beetroot/raspberry - and the recipe used by Adriano Zumbo was endlessly complicated.

Loving a challenge, Mr T and I attempted macarons using the Zumbo recipe a couple of years ago – big mistake! It was SO complicated, calling for fairly obscure ingredients like 3g of powder eggwhites (which I actually found in Coles, but never used again… what a waste), that it wasn’t until the second attempt that they began to look like macarons.

I had put macarons out of my memory to the point where I couldn’t even remember the difference between macaron and macaroon, but fortunately for me, a bit of googling revealed that Helen from had posted about this on her blog. And what do you know, she's a Zumbo fan too :-)

So, Mr T and I went to a macaron making class. It was run by Loretta from the On CafĂ© in Clapham, who makes macarons too lovely to eat and she shared a bunch of useful hints and tips as well as giving the most thorough and best quality cooking class I’ve ever been to.

If you are have never made macarons before and are thinking about it, here are some do’s and don’ts to help prevent failure (taken from previous experience and Loretta’s class). Oh, and I highly recommend Loretta's class!

  1. Try making a French macaron first, this is the most uncomplicated of the different macaron types (more on this one later!).

  2. Make sure you age the egg whites for 3-5 days.

  3. If using colouring, go for pastes / gels, not liquid (this will affect the consistency of the mix). Warm colours tend to bake better than cool colours.

  4. Do not undermix the meringue with the almond meal, else you’ll end up with an unpipeable macaron (or if you still can pipe it, the shell will come out of the oven lumpy).

  5. Do not overmix either, else you’ll end up with a flat macaron (like I did).

  6. Use a template to pipe the shells, and bake them on a silicon mat else you’ll end up with half the shells stuck to the tray.

Here is a series of photos from the class, it turns out Mr T made probably the best batch of macarons (his ones are the yellow ones). He even got a well done from Loretta! At least I can claim to have made the lemon buttercream frosting to go inside, the chocolate ganache that we got from class was just a bit heavy and a bit sweet.

Happy macaroning!


Orange sorbet

We got ourselves an ice cream maker awhile ago. Unfortunately as the size of the freezer is so limited, we ended up having to get one with a built in compressor so that it freezes as it goes. It also means that we don't have space for loads and loads of ice cream so its not really too practical to make more than one lot before finishing the last lot...

Here's a picture of the ice cream maker, with Tiger and the vodka to provide context on size. I use this vodka in pretty much every citrus flavoured frozen experiment. Its an interesting flavour - white grape, dragonfuit and papaya - that I'm liking with citrus-y stuff. Miss L brought it back from her Malaysian trip back in April and so far I think I've been the only one to use / drink it!

On a hot sunny day (and probably one of the last days of summer) this weekend, Mr T decided he was tired of lemon sorbet so he made orange sorbet.  This was made with freshly squeezed orange juice but for reason to me still tasted a bit like sorbet with orange flavour rather than orange sorbet.

Miss L thought it tasted great, but I think I prefer orange juice myself... orange flavoured items remind me too much of the orange flavoured cod liver oil that my mother used to feed me!  I think I'm just scarred!


Malaysian care package - prawn rolls, prawn crackers and laksa

Another super exciting thing that happened the other week was my bag of goodies from Mr N. He has just moved to London from Malaysia and had brought me a stack of all my favourite things. Mrs A and I had gone on a trip to her family home in Malaysia last year and this is where I discovered …..

  1. Mini spicy prawn rolls.

These were THE tastiest little morsels that I ate at breakfast every morning. I had to exercise a massive degree of self control as the family only managed to get them when someone had been to Singapore.

I will try and make these one day; I think it'll have to be a weekend where I can sit in front of the tv and roll, roll, roll!

Incidentally my flatmate had gone on holiday to Malaysia and surrounding countries in April so it was only 12 months since I had eaten these. Here are the ones that she had brought back for me – it was the only thing I could think of to request! Apparently it wasn’t a particularly easy task to source these either so I’m very grateful.










2. Prawn crackers

Malaysian prawn crackers how I love thee. Thick, crunchy, packs a punch in terms of flavour, I think I’ve eaten at least half a bag in one sitting before. Even Radley here is disinterested in getting a hug or looking at the camera – this fussy dog just wants the prawn crackers!


3. Laksa paste

While this may not look like much right now, it is the basis for my favourite laksa. Not just any laksa, but Kuching laksa, which tastes quite different from the ‘generic’ laksa that you buy in the shop. The ingredients seem simple enough but there is definitely something about it that puts me into laksa happiness every time.

I was lucky enough to be given more than 10 packets of paste, so I can probably make it last 12 months if I only eat laksa once every 5-6 weeks. However given that I do like to share laksa and other food joys, realistically I might only be eating laksa every 2-3 months with a bunch of other people. Plus my Malaysian friends have to be around to help make it and eat it right?

I'll post about laksa making next time we eat laksa; in the meantime here is a quick happy snap of the a laksa made by Mr T (apologies for the photo quality; I was so eager to eat that I forgot to take the photo until after I had started).

Thanks again to Mr N and family for the presents to feed this greedy guts, much appreciated!


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Triple-toned cake

It is always inspiring reading cake and food blogs, watching food tv etc. and I came across this pastel swirled cake by Sweetapolita.

I was so excited to try it but didn’t have the patience to make buttercream, so instead I modified a blackforest cake. Several hours later I had a chocolate & beetroot cake (over beetrooted this one... oops) filled with cherries, whipped cream, and iced with tinted whipped cream!  Can’t wait till I have a cake turntable and a scraper to get those sharp edges back, but in the meantime, my trusty palette knife is doing just fine.

Chilli seeds

I was a bit dubious when my flatmate said she has chilli seeds to plant as she has always appeared to be somewhat disinterested in plants and gardens. But when I saw them it was the coolest thing! Little sticks with seeds on the end of them and even depth markers to help the anti-gardeners, and all neatly wrapped up in a matchbox. No idea where she picked these up from.

I couldn’t find any pots lying around so I ended up punching holes in an old plastic fruit container instead. I think the makeshift seedling container with quite cute with the cardboard markers sticking out of them. Now lets see if they grow! Good luck little guys!

Japanese cheesecake

My cousin had seen my cupcake bouquet photo and sent me a recipe for Japanese cheesecake. It has been awhile since I’ve eaten Japanese cheesecake – I think it was my mother’s – and I thought I should experiment with a lighter cheesecake for once. I really like the souffle like texture but have always found it to not be quite cheesy enough and a bit too eggy compared to regular cheesecake.

So, I combined several recipes and here is the result and (approximate) recipe I used.

Small word of advice: the texture changes a bit after being in the fridge overnight and actually becomes more cheesecakey rather than souffle like! I think I'd recommend making this the day before you actually want to eat it. 

The cake

  • A packet of cream cheese (around 300g)

  • 3 eggs

  • 40g butter

  • 15g Cornflour

  • 150ml milk

  • 70g sugar


The frosting

  • Small tub of cream

  • Raspberries

  • Blueberries

  • Icing sugar

Part 1 - prep

  1. Take out the cream cheese and butter to soften.

  2. Find a small cake tin (mine was 8 inch) - there is no raising agent in this mix so what you see is what you get in terms of volume.

  3. Separate the eggs. Yolks: put into a double boiler (or pyrex / stainless steel bowl etc. that can go on top of a saucepan of boiling water without actually touching the water). Whites: put into a mixer bowl for use with a electric mixer / stand mixer.

Part 2 - mix

  1. Cream cheese & butter mix: In a large bowl, mix together the butter and the packet of cream cheese. This can be done by hand using a whisk, as long as the cream cheese and butter is soft.

  2. Egg yolk mix: Add 20g sugar to the egg yolks and whisk together. Sift in the cornflour and keep mixing. Turn on the heat to medium and add the milk. Keep whisking until it thickens (warning: this might take a couple of minutes but it will suddenly thicken very quickly - keep an eye on it at all times!) 

  3. Cool slightly and add the egg yolk mix to the cream cheese mix.

  4. Meringue: Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add in 40g sugar gradually as you mix.

  5. Fold the meringue into the cream cheese / egg yolk mix.

Part 3 - pour and bake

  1. Turn on the oven to 150 degrees C

  2. Line the cake tin and put this into a water bath

  3. Fold in the meringue mix with the cream cheese / egg yolk mix and pour into the cake tin

  4. Bake for around an hour and turn off the heat. Cool in the oven for an hour, or more if you can afford to (note that the cake will shrink when cooling)

Cupcake bouquets

When Mrs A asked me to bring cupcakes for a BBQ, I immediately knew I wanted to do something a little different from the bog standard cupcakes on a stand – so I decided to try a cupcake bouquet.

Four shops and a whole lot of googling later I had my foam halves, flowerpots to fit, and new set of piping tips. As I was in a hurry I didn't end up with the specific piping tips I wanted but they did the job relatively well anyway.

I had promised chocolate beetroot cupcakes but then also wanted some light coloured cakes to make a yellow and purple bouquet so I made mini lemon cake and lemon frosting. Here is the finished product:

Here are the chocolate beetroot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I added some stabiliser and it did hold up a bit better than usual to being piped. More experimenting required on this one!