Marbled chocolate cheesecake: decadence not dirham dense

[Do excuse the title; as you have probably surmised, titles are not my strength.]

I have been meaning to post this recipe for some time now, but had quite a lot going on so here we are three weeks later!  This recipe is based on the lemon cheesecake recipe, with some minor changes.  It’s very easy to make, tastes delicious and looks great for a special dinner or occasion.

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Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake

About 10 servings

Ingredients

For the biscuit base:

12 digestive biscuits

60g butter, melted

For the cheese topping:

8 cheese triangles

115g labneh

125ml cream (“Fresh cream” in small boxes)

1 egg

2 tbsp corn flour

112g caster sugar

A few drops of vanilla essence

12g cocoa powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease a 8” loose-bottomed tin.  To make the base, crush the biscuits in a chopper or in a bag with a rolling pin until they are almost a fine powder.  Add the melted butter and combine to create a paste-like consistency.   Press the mixture into the bottom of the tin so that it covers it evenly.  Refrigerate the base until the cheese mixture is ready.  

For the topping, put the cheese triangles into a bowl and beat with a hand mixer for a few minutes until it forms a smooth cream.  Fill the kettle with tap water and boil.   Add the labneh, cream and eggs and beat again for a few minutes.  Beat in the sugar and corn flour.  Spoon half of the mixture into a separate bowl and add the cocoa powder. Mix until well combined.  Add the vanilla essence to the other mixture.  Spoon one of the two mixtures into the tin at intervals, then spoon the other mixture in the gaps.  Make sure the base is completely covered.  Swirl the mixtures together slightly with a toothpick to create an attractive effect on the top of the cake.  Cover the bottom and sides of the tin with foil so that there are no leaks.  Put the tin into a deep roasting tray and pour the boiled water into the tray so that it covers the bottom.   Place the roasting tray with the cheesecake tin inside in the oven.   Cook for 55 minutes.   The cake should be firm around the edges and have a slight ‘wobble’ in the centre.   Remove the tin from the tray and leave the cake until completely cooled.   Put the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.  Serve and enjoy.

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I am not a great fan of chocolate cheesecakes, but even I couldn’t resist this recipe.  The chocolate and vanilla flavours balance each other out beautifully.  

Pumpkin Smoothie: The Unsung Pocket-Friendly Smoothie

Now and again, I find myself halfway through the day and hit by a sudden lethargy.  Sometimes it’s from being inside and sitting in one place for too long, which can happen quite often when you’re working as a freelancer.  Recently, the high pressure and warm temperatures that these crazy windy storms have been bringing hasn’t been helping either!  So, when I find myself in that situation, I turn to the kitchen for an energising kick and smoothies can be just the thing.

The problem with smoothies is the most commonly used ingredients are usually berries, which are generally expensive, or even very expensive (think blueberries).  This has often put me off making them.  Today, however, I decided to give it another go and came up with a new, very cheap and delicious recipe, which also conveniently uses the recipe I posted yesterday!

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Pumpkin Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

170g (a small tub) plain yoghurt
75g frozen pumpkin puree balls (if you don’t have any, you can use room temperature pumpkin puree, but you will need to refrigerate it before drinking if you want it cold)
1 tbsp water
2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
A dash of nutmeg

Method

Put all the ingredients in the blender, except the sugar and nutmeg. I recommend using a jug blender for this, but if you don’t have one, you can use a hand held blender and a jug (you might want to let the pumpkin soften a little before blending it, in that case).  Blend until the pumpkin puree balls have disappeared completely. Taste and add the sugar and nutmeg, adjusting the amount to your personal taste.  Blend again briefly.  Serve.

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I really enjoyed making this recipe as it was so quick to make and tastes great.  I hope to be posting some more smoothie recipes soon, in sha Allah.

Pumpkin Puree Balls: Say goodbye to pumpkin pie filling

I think I might have mentioned this before, but I didn’t really grow up eating pumpkin.  The first time I cooked pumpkin myself was to try out a soup.  I realised it was a very versatile and easy to use vegetable and decided to try and incorporate it into my cooking more often.  I can’t say I have managed to do that as much as I had hoped for, but I do use it occasionally.

Recently, I discovered pumpkin pancakes and decided I wanted to try and make them.  I had a nice pumpkin in the kitchen and was ready to go for it.  When I started looking for recipes, however, I was surprised to find almost all of them calling for packaged pumpkin pie filling.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to use artificial, sugary orange paste instead of fresh, quick-cooking, not to mention very cheap, pumpkin.  Whatever their reason, I was determined to use fresh pumpkin, but soon realised that if I wanted pancakes for breakfast, I would have to peel, chop and cook the pumpkin first.  Then, inspiration came to me in the form of a pack of frozen spinach and I present the result below.

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Pumpkin Puree Balls

Ingredients

Pumpkin (as much as you want to freeze ahead)

Method

Half fill a pot with water and put it on the heat to warm up.  Make sure the steamer fits over the pan.  If you have an electric steamer, then prepare it accordingly (I don’t have any experience with them!).  Peel the pumpkin.  If you have a whole pumpkin, I find it easier to cut it in half first so that it is stable.  Once it is peeled, remove the stringy centre and seeds, and chop the pumpkin into approximately 1cm cubes.  Put them in the steamer and cover.  They should take about 25 minutes to cook.  Check them every 10 minutes or so and when they are completely soft, remove from the heat.  Place them in a bowl and mash until pureed.  Leave it to cool, then, make the puree into rough balls and place on a flat baking tray covered with baking paper.  Put the tray in the freezer until the balls are frozen, then store in a zipper bag in the freezer.  

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Freezing it in balls rather than as one mass of puree means you can take small amounts out at a time, as necessary.  When you need pumpkin puree for a recipe, whether it’s pancakes, muffins or anything else, all you need to do is take the right amount out and leave to defrost.  If you need it immediately, you can defrost it in the microwave.

Baraniya belbayd: Aubergine and tomato with egg

I was introduced to this dish by a dear aunt who recently passed away, may God have mercy on her.  I really enjoyed it, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given my general opinion of aubergines or baraniya, as it is called in Algeria!  It may not be terribly aesthetically pleasing, but it makes up for that in flavour!  The way my aunt made it was a little different from the way it is photographed here in that she incorporated the egg into the dish rather than serving it on top.  However, both dishes are equally delicious, so I shall record the recipes for both of them here.

This recipe is great as a side dish or as a satisfying supper!

I have found that the smaller variety of aubergine is the best buy in the UAE, as the larger ones are almost inevitably bitter, no matter how much they are salted.  While aubergines are a deliciously rich vegetable, a bitter aubergine can almost ‘burn’ your mouth with its bitterness!

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Baraniya belbayd
Serves 1

Ingredients

One small aubergine
Salt
Two cloves of garlic
One tomato
Ras elhanout (if not available, replace with cumin and coriander)
Paprika
Water
Parsley
One egg

Method

Put a shallow pan with a lid on the heat.  You want a pan that is big enough to accommodate the aubergine so that all the pieces are in contact with the pan.  Turn the pan on so that it heats up.  Top and tail the aubergine.  Chop it into small cubes, about 1 cm on all sides.  Add about ¾ tablespoon of oil to the pan, this may seem like a lot but aubergine absorbs a lot of oil.  Having the pan and oil hot when you add the aubergine does help to reduce the amount of oil absorbed, however.  Add the aubergine cubes to the pan carefully as the oil will splash a little.  Shake the pan to ensure that all the aubergine is on one level (touching the pan).  Add a level teaspoon of salt.  Cover and leave on a medium heat for five minutes.  Peel the tomato and chop into cubes about the same size as the aubergine.  Stir the aubergine so that the other sides cook.  If you notice a lot of the aubergine looks dry, add ½ tablespoon of oil.  Cover and leave for another ten minutes.  Crush and chop the garlic finely.  Add it to the pan after the ten minutes is up and mix in.  Leave covered for two minutes, and then add the tomato, half a teaspoon each of ras elhanout and paprika, and two tablespoons of water.  Mix and cover, leaving to cook again for about five minutes or until the tomato has disintegrated a little.  Mix in the finely chopped parsley.  At this point, the two recipes diverge.

To make the original recipe, add the egg to the pan and mix well.  Cover and leave for about two minutes.  Serve.

If you want my variation shown below, remove the mixture from the pan and put it in your serving bowl.  Return the pan to the gas, add a little oil and fry the egg according to your preferences.  Serve on top of the aubergine and tomato.  If you would like to reduce the oil content, you could poach the egg instead.

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Both dishes are delicious eaten with a fresh samoun bread roll or a  of baguette.  I like to eat this dish the Algerian way, using the bread as a spoon to absorb all the delicious flavours.  Enjoy!

I’ve just come across this website, which is dedicated to educating people about their eating, cooking and shopping habits in order to cut down on food waste.  I thought I’d share it here so that others might benefit from it.

Tags: link

Kidney bean wraps: no meat, speedy treat!

The other day, I found that dinner time had crept up on me and I had nothing ready: no meat defrosted, no rice soaking, no plan!  So, I looked in the cupboard and discovered a tin of red kidney beans, and had an idea!  This meal is very quick to prepare and requires very little cooking time.

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Kidney Bean Wraps

Makes about 5 wraps

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tin (400g) red kidney beans

200 ml boiling water

1 tsp tomato puree, heaped

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cinnamon

A bunch of parsley, chopped

salt

2 carrots, peeled and julienned

2 cucumbers, peeled and julienned

2 tomatoes, roughly chopped

A generous amount of jarjir (rocket)

A tub of yoghurt

Hrissa, if you want an extra kick!

5 medium flatbreads (“Arabic bread”)

Method

In a medium non-stick saucepan, gently fry the garlic in about half a teaspoon of oil for a minute.  Drain the beans and add to the pan, along with the spices, salt and tomato puree.  Combine the contents and pour in the water.  Leave to cook uncovered on a medium heat for about 15 minutes while you prepare the vegetables.  Add the parsley to the pan.  Set it all out on the table and let everyone put together their own wraps!

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These are equally good at room temperature and great for lunch boxes!

Perfect porridge: please sir, can I have some more?

It’s been a while, I know, but rather than make excuses and dwell on my irregularity in blogging, let’s just get on with it, shall we?

I recently came across a blog post that made me feel distinctly guilty about the numerous and rather unhealthy pancake breakfasts I’ve been having recently.  Therefore, being only too aware of the need to improve my diet somewhat, I decided to take a break from the pancakes and try a more nutritious alternative: porridge.

For many, porridge has the bad reputation for being a stodgy, bland and generally uninspiring breakfast choice.  Yet, when I first tried it I loved it straight away.  Apart from being a nourishing, warm and tasty start to the day, it is also very adaptable to individual taste.  I enjoy trying out different flavourings for my porridge and you can too using this basic recipe.

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Porridge

Serves 1

Ingredients

4 dessertspoons (or 50g)  white oats

1 dessertspoon (or 15g) caster sugar (or light brown sugar for a caramel flavour)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

100ml cold milk

50 ml water

handful walnuts (optional)

1/2 banana, sliced (optional)

Method

Into a small - preferably non-stick - saucepan, add the oats, sugar and cinnamon (if using).  Put the pan on a medium heat and measure out 75ml of the milk with all the water in a measuring jug.  Add the liquid to the pan and stir with a wooden or plastic spoon.  Leave for 3 to 4 minutes, until the oats have become soft and the porridge is creamy, stirring well occasionally to ensure the bottom is not browning (or burning!).  Turn off the heat and add the walnuts, if desired, breaking them in your hand, and then the rest of the milk (you can adjust the amount of milk you use depending on how fluid you like your porridge).  Stir briefly.  Serve immediately in a bowl (I like to top it with the banana and a swirl of honey ).

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Your imagination is probably already running wild with alternative ideas for flavourings and I’d love to hear them.  In the meantime, I’m sure you’ll find that this porridge is nothing like that dreadful meal reserved for Dickensian orphanages and workhouses!

Countdown to Eid: The Rest

I am keeping my promise and am posting the rest of the recipes I made leading up to Eid, should you wish to try any of them out.

Banana and walnut tea loaf - GoodFood 101 Cakes and Bakes

I’ve made this cake several times and it has always come out delicious.

Toll house cookies - Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes

These are basically little chocolate chip biscuits.  Very simple to make.  The only issue I had with it was the dough seemed a bit bland (although I was the only one who had this complaint so maybe it was my cold that was taking all the flavour out of everything!).

Peanut squares - Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes

This was not a recipe I would normally make, but since this Eid I decided to be a bit more adventurous and try some new things, here we are!  To be honest, I’m not a big fan of peanut butter cakes in general, but this was very easy to make and tasty.

Caramel crunch bars - Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes

I haven’t had rice krispie bars for a long time, so this was fun!  Straightforward to make, my only tips are: 1) do not leave the marshmallows and caramel to melt on their own (I ended up with some burnt marshmallows due to that mistake!), 2) get the finished mixture into the tin as quickly as you can since it cools and solidifies very quickly.

Assorted Tarts - Be-Ro Flour Home Baking

Tarts can seem a little intimidating, but they really aren’t difficult to make and the result is pretty and delicious.  I made all of these using the same shortcrust pastry (recipe).

Bakewell tarts (recipe)

The recipe is for one large tart, but I always prefer to make individual little ones.  There are two main variations on the bakewell tart; one uses ground almonds and ground rice as the main ingredient for the filling, the other uses semolina and almond essence.  I really really really don’t like almond essence; I find it gives a very artificial, overpowering taste so, unless cost is a major issue, I very much recommend using ground almonds, which the linked recipe does.

They’re also very pretty!

Butter tartlets (recipe)

I’d never made these before, but I liked the way they turned out.  Also a very easy mix to put together!

Jam tarts (recipe)

You really can’t get easier than jam tarts.  They’re usually a big hit with everyone too!  I know all of ours disappeared in no time!

I hope you enjoyed my Countdown to Eid miniseries.  I found it a lot of fun and a chance to share some recipes from some of my favourite cookbooks.  I will hopefully be getting back to producing some bargain recipes soon.  I’m also working on my new cake business and will put updates here as it progresses.

Belated Eid wishes - have some cake!

I had planned to continue my countdown to Eid posts and post all the cake recipes I’d made before Eid, but unfortunately my plan was thwarted by a particularly evil case of flu.  So, here I am four days late with my Eid post: the culmination of my baking frenzy over the last ten days or so of Ramadan!

Eid Mubarak!

I’ll be posting the rest of the cakes I made with their recipes over the next few days, in sha Allah! :)  I hope you had a lovely Eid!

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I am considering selling some of my baked goods on order.  If you’re interested in finding out more and are in Al Ain (and possibly Dubai or Abu Dhabi), please do contact me and I would be more than happy to discuss!

Random Recipe: Coffee Iced Doughnuts

It was only the second time I’d made doughnuts when I tried this recipe (the first time being baked rather than fried so one could say it doesn’t count), but they turned out delicious and not hard to make (albeit a little messy).

Coffee Iced Doughnuts (recipe) - Amuse Bouche blog

 

As you may notice from the photos, the first few I made have a pretty thick coating of glaze on it, but after adding a little water to the glaze mix it turned out well.  I also used normal coffee granules instead of espresso powder.  While others disagreed, I personally found that when using the coffee glaze, the batter may have gone better with it if the amount of lemon zest was reduced to half a lemon.