Birthday cake

For my birthday this year I  made a cherry cheesecake so I could have as much cake as I wanted.

cherry cheesecake

I based the recipe off the London Cheesecake in Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I’ve made this cake several times, with various modifications and it always works out well.

This cake has an hour in the oven, plus it needs to be refrigerated to fully set, so I usually make it one day ahead.

The first modification is to use almond meal for the base instead of crushed biscuits, this is a quick and easy way to make a gluten free cheesecake base.

The base:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter (or vegetable oil)

Put almond meal and butter or oil into a frying pan on medium heat. Stir together, and move gently around the pan so that the almond meal toasts evenly. Once it is a nice golden brown, turn off heat.

The trick to this cheesecake is that it baked in a water bath. Grease a spring-form pan and line with baking paper. I cut the paper into a circle a bit bigger than bottom of the pan, and use strips of paper to line the sides. Unlike other cakes, I like to set up the pan so that the paper is sticking out where the bottom and the sides meet before using the spring to clasp everything together.

Then wrap the outside of the pan in two big sheets of aluminium foil. I scrinch the foil over the top edge of the pan to  keep it in place, and cross the rectangles of foil over each other to make sure there are no gaps.

Press the toasted almond meal and oil into the bottom of the pan to make the base and refrigerate.  Pre-heat oven to 180ºC or 350ºF.

The filling:

  • 500g cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of castor sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla, and add in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time until you have a thick and smooth consistency.

This is the basic cheesecake filling. Nigella adds in some lemon juice at this point, but  because I’m modifying the recipe to make it a flavoured cheesecake, I skip it.

  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 1/3 of the cheesecake mixture

In a blender or with a stick mixer puree the cherries and sugar with one third of the cheesecake mixture until smooth and evenly mixed.

Bring out the pan and pour half the remaining plain mixture over the base. Then alternately spoon in the cherry mix and the plain mix and swirl together to make a marble effect. The plain mix will be thicker than the cheery mix, which is why it is good to start with a layer of plain.

Place cake tin into a large and deep baking pan, and the fill the baking pan with water so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the cake tin. Place on middle shelf of pre-heated oven and bake for 50 minutes.

The Topping:

  • 3/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat together until smooth.

After 50 minutes, the cheesecake will have gelled, but still be a bit wobbly* when you bring it out. Gently spoon over the sour cream topping until it is evenly covered, then return to oven for addition 10 minutes.

When the time is up, remove from oven and carefully remove cake tin from the water bath. Place entire tin, foil and all, on a cooling rack. When it is cool enough to touch, you can remove the foil. Once the cake has cooled, cover and refrigerate.

When you are ready to serve, release and remove the sides of the spring-form pan. If, like me, you are making this for eating at home, you can leave the cake on the base of the pan and serve directly off that. If you have a special occasion, this is where the extra baking paper comes in handy. remove paper from the sides of the cake, then very gently lift the paper up around the edges of the base, and holding onto the paper, slide the cake onto a serving plate.

Serve and eat!

*A technical term

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Wool Day 2010

So it’s May again, and that means the Old Bus Depot Markets has had their annual Celebration of Wool.

This year I got a lot of bright greens and some autumnal tones.

wool day 01

wool day 02

From left to right:
Knitabulous fifty-fifty (50% wool 50% silk) in “fresh”;
Knitabulous softsock (75% wool, 25% nylon) in “Limes”;
Happy Spider spider socks (100% new wool) in “Forbidden Fruit”;
unnamed handspun (label has a spinning wheel stamp, any one out there know who made it?) 100% wool;
2 skeins of Fibreworks Merino 4ply in colourway 8;
Happy Spider spider socks (100% new wool) in “Flambe”

Very importantly, I set a budget for wool, and stuck to it. Even if I did get some money out on the day so I could eat lunch and buy some lovely things to take home from the food section, including a pomegranate vinegar which is just right.

One of the reasons I wanted so many bright greens is that I have just about completed the finishing touches on the cardigan coat I started knitting right about this time last year. All I need to do now is attach the hood, and make a belt.

(Actually, I finished the body by about September, and then expirmented with hood shapes based on sock shaping methods but culdn’t quite get it right, so I did some small projects over the summer, and finally settled on a hood style this week using ideas from both the Cassidy hoody by Chic Knits, and the Braided hood Tunic in Interweave Knits, spring 2010.)

Here’s a quick peak:
guava 03

I really ought to update about the projects I’ve actually finished, but that requires taking photos. One day it will happen.

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Sunday Cooking

Lately it seems that I’ve been cooking more on Sundays, which makes sense in that Sundays are a day when I’m generally at home with time to cook (even though I’m also home a couple of days during the week). Here are couple of things I’ve made recently:

Lemon Roast Chicken:

chicken 031

I more or less followed this recipe. The less part being that I didn’t have any rosemary so I substituted za’atar instead, and that after an hour at 180 C my chicken was not cooked through, so I put it back for another 30 minutes.

I also made a quick gravy with the pan juices while the chicken was resting, and blanched some green beans to balance out the meal.
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quince and duck

And yet again it’s been an absolute age since I posted. I was without a desktop computer for a few months of 2009, and while I love my eeepc, it is not the greatest when I want to work with photos.

Speaking of photos, I finally copied over 300 pictures from the camera this weekend, and here are some of them.

Quinces: over the winter there was an abundance of quinces at my local grocer and I used them often.


Sauteed with butter and cinnamon to go in a lamb and quince tagine


quince glaze 02
making quince glaze


The light in this photo is annoyingly yellow, but I’m planning to install a new operating system soon, and can’t be bothered downloading any image editing software before I do that.

Anyhow, it’s what I cooked for dinner last night: roast duck breast and kumera, steamed greens with grana padano, and sliced cucumber with anchovy fillets. It was pretty delicious.

I’ll try to do more of this updating thing this year, even if it’s just pictures without recipes.

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Chicken with vegetables and lemon tajine

chicken tajine 02

I’ve been wanting a tajine for a few years now, so it was a no brainer to include a couple of options on our wedding gift wishlist. Unfortunately, the store where we had our list was out of them at the time, but our friend T. ordered one and gave us a jar of preserved lemons and some Tunisian spice mix to be going on with.

The problem with shipping tajines is that if they are not padded and packed correctly, they can break in transit, and that’s what happened to the first lot which arrived in the shop. Then some arrived, but they were not the ones from the Lombok Pottery Centre, which is what I’d listed and T. had ordered.

Last week, at the Wool Day market, I’d stopped at a stall which sold spices and oils and vinegars, and ended up with some Ras El Hanout, which is a traditional Moroccan spice mix. The next day I found out my tajine had arrived, so I took it home after work.

I had thought about cooking with it on Tuesday, which I had off, but it took most of the afternoon to season it by soaking until all the air bubbles were gone (about an hour in the sink each for the base and the lid), then letting it air dry, and finally seasoning it by rubbing olive oil all over the inside, and placing in a warm oven for a few hours. (Tajines shouldn’t be moved quickly from hot to cold or vice versa, so I put the tajine in a cold oven, which I then turned on and allowed it to heat slowly. When was done I turned off the oven and let it cool before removing the tajine). That didn’t leave much time for the type of cooking which needs a long, slow simmer, so I made a quick curry in the wok, and left it until my next day off.

In the meantime, I browsed through Morrocan style recipes, and thought about what I might like to cook. In the end I settled on a hybrid between chicken tajine with seven vegetables, chicken with olive and lemon, and chicken with ginger and garbanzo beans (all from Food Down Under)<sup1 to create a dish with chicken, vegetables, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) and preserved lemon. Partly this was because I didn’t have the right ingredients to make any of those recipes, but did have some. But I have a pretty good track record when it comes to putting flavours together, so I wasn’t worried about exactly following a recipe, and even though it was my first cooking in a tajine, it wasn’t the first time I have made dishes which are meant for tajines.

This is what I came up with:
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Wool Day mini-splurge

As all Canberra knitters know, last Sunday was the annual wool day at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston. There are a couple of other yarn and fibre related days, but this one is the first of the year.

I got there fairly late in the day, because it was Sunday and for me that means sleeping in and taking it slowly, but I still managed to get a nice selection of yarn. I also got some Knit Picks wooden dpns and circs, which make me very happy.

So, without further ado. pictures of yarn.

fibreworks reds

The first thing I did was find the Fibreworks stall. I’ve got yarn from them for 3 years running, and it is always beautiful and they don’t sell online, so this is the best time for me to get it. This year I was all about the red hues, with two skeins of merino in autumnal reddish browns, and one skein of silk in brilliant reds.
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Norwegian Cinnamon Buns – à la Nigella Lawson

buns 50

“I’ve always thought that bad weather has it’s compensations, most of them culinary”

So says Nigella Lawson in her introduction to this recipe, and it’s true that as the weather gets colder, the desire for warm, freshly baked things grows stronger, at least, I always find it does. As does the my desire for comfort foods in general.

When I was very little, my parents had a friend called Jenny who used to babysit me occasionally. I don’t remember much about Jenny except that she had long hair which she wore in two plaits, and for a special treat she used to give me white bread with butter that was sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar which crunched between my teeth like tiny, sweet grains of sand. (As I said, was very little, certainly young enough to recall eating sand.) I don’t eat sugar and cinnamon sandwiches anymore, but I do love cinnamon pastries, buns, and doughnuts.

So when I decided to try baking with yeast for the first time since… well, lets just say that last time I baked with yeast, the whole process was being supervised by an adult (who probably took care of any tricky bits), it didn’t take long to settle on these cinnamon buns for my first attempt. Part of my reasoning was that, if, for some reason, the buns should fail to rise, I would probably find some way to eat a sticky, doughy, cinnamony accident, whereas regular bread or rolls would be tossed way. As it was, I didn’t have to worry, they rose beautifully and were exactly what I wanted.

buns 56

Well, almost exactly. The recipe calls for a hot oven (450°F or 230°C), and Nigella says:

“Put in hot oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, by which time the buns will have risen and will be golden-brown in colour. Don’t worry if they catch in places…”

I left mine in for 25 minutes and they didn’t only catch on top, which is okay, but were completely burned on the bottom. However, dealt with this by breaking off the burnt bottoms, and eating the perfect soft, slightly sweet, and very cinnamon flavoured centres.
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