The Emergency Panna Cotta Birthday Cake

It was my mother’s birthday last week and I fully intended to surprise her with a grand two-layered strawberry and blueberry cheesecake with a dark Oreo cookie crust. It would be tinged pink and purple with the puree of fresh strawberries and blueberries, and decorated with a gorgeous mound of ripe cherries, strawberries and juicy blueberries. On the eve of the birthday it was all going according to plan- the cake was all done and fully decorated- when disaster struck! The whole cake toppled over and fell splat on to the floor when I tried to unmould it from the tin…

What to do? The supermarket was already closed so getting more ingredients to make another was out of the question. I looked frantically in my pantry trying to come up with an idea for a second cake… and finally came up with this Strawberry, Pandan and Green Tea Panna Cotta Cake. It has a vanilla cookie base with a layer of green tea panna cotta studded with fresh blueberries, then a layer of strawberry panna cotta and finally topped with some raspberry jelly.SONY DSC

Decorated with some fresh berries and flowers picked from the garden, it doesn’t look too bad for a last-ditched effort!

Birthday disaster averted, hooray!SONY DSC

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things.

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Get the Grill on for Yum-Yum Mussels!

It’s summer here in sunny Auckland and, for me, nothing beats getting the grill on for a feast of fresh seafood and smoky vegetables!

Grilled mussels are always popular but accompanied with this amazing Yum-Yum sauce makes it spectacular! It only takes minutes to make and is creamy, tangy and sweet with a hint of chili kick- you’ll want to put it on everything!

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Ingredients

  • 10 cooked mussels in half shell
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp malt vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • A dash of chilli powder
  1. Combine mayonnaise, tomato sauce, sugar, vingear/lemon juice, paprika, garlic powder and chili powder to make the Yum Yum sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  2. Top each mussel with the sauce and place under the grill until the sauce is bubbling hot. Serve immediately.

The Non-French Onion Soup

It’s a new year and it’s out with the old and in with the new! This decidedly Non-French Onion Soup re-invents the old tried-and-true recipe in a Japanese kitchen!

What is so special about this Onion Soup?

First of all, it is flavoured with a light but flavourful Japanese dashi stock that allows the sweet flavour of caramelized onions to really shine. A few dried porcini mushrooms are also added to give a deep, earthy savoriness to the broth. Finally, a few dashes of tart balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice mix) completes the soup with a kick of spice, citrus and tartness!

Served with some crunchy rice crackers, this soup is wonderfully satisfying yet will not weigh you down- perfect for the warm summer months!

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Ingredients

  • 3 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 600ml dashi stock
  • 6 slices of dried porcini mushrooms
  • a few drops of balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in a little water (optional)
  • some shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice mix), to serve
  • some rice crackers, to serve

Method

  1. In a saucepan with a little vegetable oil, slowly cook down the onion with the garlic and salt until very soft and caramelized. After approximately 15 minutes of cooking, add in the bay leaf and fresh thyme. Be sure to stir the mixture from time to time.
  2. In the meanwhile, soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the dashi stock
  3. When the onions have caramelized (after approximately 30 minutes of cooking), pour in the dashi stock and porcini mushrooms. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and thyme. Add in balsamic vinegar to taste.
  5. Whisk in the cornstarch solution to lightly thicken the soup (optional)
  6. Serve hot with shichimi togarashi and some rice crackers on the side.

Here’s to a New Year like this Strawberry Salad!

Wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends!

I am welcoming in the new year with this scrumptious Strawberry Salad that embodies all I am wishing for: a Healthy, Fresh start filled with Sweet moments, Vibrant experiences and new Gastronomic DelightsSONY DSC

Without a doubt this has become my favourite salads of all time! Ripe sweet strawberries and cherry tomatoes, cool crunchy cucumber and fragrant basil with a tart balsamic reduction is simply heaven on a plate!

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe strawberries, halved
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Approximately 6cm cucumber, thinly sliced and seeds removed
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Approximately 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • Light olive oil
  1. To make the balsamic reduction, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan and turn down to a simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Arrange strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber and basil on a plate. Drizzle over the balsamic reduction ans olive oil. Season well with salt and black pepper. Enjoy!

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Perk-up Smoked Chicken with a Miso-Alfredo Sauce!

Sure, smoked chicken tastes perfectly fine on it’s own but it’s just a bit plain and not very exciting at all…

It’s time for my mighty Miso-Alfredo Sauce to the rescue!

The strong flavour of the smoked chicken can really stand up to the creamy sauce flavoured with salty-sweet white miso paste and nutty Parmesan cheese. The miso takes Alfredo sauce to the next level by adding a depth of flavour that is quite hard to describe but is absolutely delicious! Be sure to serve this with plenty of rice or pasta (or orzo if you want both)

Smoked chicken has never tasted so good! Mission accomplished!

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Ingredients

  • 1 smoked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk or cream
  • 1-2 tsp cornflour dissolved in a little water, if required
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  •  sugar, to taste
  • salt and white pepper, to taste
  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in miso paste. When combined, add the evaporated milk or cream. Season with sugar, salt and white pepper to taste. If you would like a thicker sauce, whisk in the cornflour and cook over low heat until thickened.
  2. Add in smoked chicken and cook over low heat until chicken is warmed though.
  3. Scatter over green onions and serve immediately.

Caramelized Roasted Grapes with Rosemary

If you haven’t tried roasting grapes yet- do so now! I guarantee that you would thank me afterwards (or not, since you simply couldn’t get enough of it…)

Roasting transforms fresh grapes into soft, sweet, sticky gems with warm caramel notes…simply delicious! The addition of fresh sprigs of rosemary softly perfumes the grapes, adding to the depth of flavour.

Since this was just an experiment I am regretting that I only made a small batch, hence I strongly recommend that you double the amounts I have given below because I next time I surely will!

How about making a batch of these yummy gems to accompany your cheese and crackers? Topping off sliced baguette with ricotta and and a drizzle of honey? As a side to your roast chicken? Or even in a fresh salad of wild rice, pears and almonds with balsamic dressing? The possibilities are endless!

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Ingredients:

  • A small bunch of seedless grapes
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or thyme)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt

Method

  1.  Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Line a small baking try with baking paper.
  2. Toss the onion slices, grapes and rosemary in a little oil so that they will not burn during baking. Layer them in the baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and loosely cover with foil.
  3. Bake until the grapes and onion are soft and caramelized, approximately 1 hour. Stir the mixture a few times during baking. Remove the rosemary sprigs when serving.

Indian + Italian = Butter Prawn Curry Rice Gratin

How do you take a thick, luscious curry to the next level? By pouring it over fresh fluffy rice, grating over a layer of soft cheese and putting it under the grill until the cheese is gooey, bubbling and golden brown!

Without further ado, let me introduce to you my creation- Butter Prawn Curry Rice Gratin! Succulent prawns and juicy button mushrooms are smothered in a creamy tomato curry sauce infused with garlic, ginger, browned onions, cumin and chili flakes, which is then topped off with golden melted cheese. With each mouthful you get the piping hot creamy rice flavoured with the sweet and spicy curry balanced by the salty cheese!

Mmmmm just delicious!

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Ingredients

  • 12 prawn cutlets
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced and blanched
  • 4-5 tbsp tomato sauce
  • some sugar, to taste
  • some cream/ coconut cream/ evaporated milk
  • some cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Method

  1. Marinate prawns with the garlic, ginger, cumin, chili, salt and oil
  2. Pan-fry the prawns until half-cooked, set aside.
  3. In another pan, fry the sliced onion with some oil until very soft and browned over low heat.
  4. Add in the prawns, mushrooms, tomato sauce and some cream/ coconut cream/ evaporated milk. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 mins. Taste the sauce and season with some sugar and salt.
  5. Spread the cooked rice in a thin layer at the bottom of a gratin dish, pour the curry over the rice and scatter over the grated cheese. Put under the grill until the cheese has melted and golden. Serve immediately.

Merry Christmas with a “Fruit” Cake!

I don’t know about you, but I am actually not a big fan of Christmas fruitcake! Instead I have jazzed up my favourite banana (it is a fruit!) cake with chocolate chips and covered it with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache. Decorated with some banana chips, red and green cherries and a few silver cachous, it looks just as festive as the traditional fruitcake!

Have a Merry Christmas everyone! SONY DSC

Jeweled Raspberry Cheesecake Tart

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Doesn’t pomegranate seeds look like little beads of shiny red jewels? I cannot believe that I have neglected this beautiful fruit all along- it fits perfectly into what I look for in cake decorations: it has a vibrant colour, is easy to use and a pleasure to eat!

The sweet yet tangy burst of flavour from each pomegranate seed compliments the silky cheesecake filling flavoured with fresh lemon, raspberry puree and a dash of vanilla. This is all encased in a crunchy biscuit base with a hint of warm ginger!

You really cannot go wrong with this cool fruity dessert- be sure to make enough for seconds!

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Ingredients:

Approx. 250g Gingernut biscuits
Approx. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
200g cream cheese, at room temperature
50g thick Greek yoghurt or Mascarpone cheese

200ml sweetened condensed milk
30 ml fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Approx. 4 tablespoons thick raspberry puree, plus extra to decorate
icing sugar (optional)
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Directions:

1. Place the Gingernut biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer the biscuit crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in the melted butter until the mixture is well combined.

2. Press the biscuit mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a tart tin. Cover the crust with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and Mascarpone cheese or Greek yoghurt until smooth and then stream in the sweetened condensed milk. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, raspberry puree and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Taste mixture and sweeten with icing sugar if required. Pour the filling into the chilled biscuit crust. If decorating, pour on top some of the extra raspberry puree and create swirls using a knife or skewer. Cover the tart with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours, or until firm.

4. When ready to serve, take the tart from the fridge and remove from the tin. Top the tart with the pomegranate seeds then slice and serve.

Vitamin-charged Kumara Cake with a Sesame Crunch!

On a grey, rainy day what I crave is a slice of warm, moist loaf cake fresh out of the oven with a hot cup of tea, all curled up with a novel (or a cookbook) on my plushy sofa!

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The mashed kumara (sweet potato) keeps this cake wonderfully soft and moist, whilst the top is crunchy and nutty thanks to a toasty sesame-seeded crust! You will feel great knowing that both kumara and sesame seeds are natural Superfoods packed with nutrients (such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B1,vitamin B2, manganese, copper, potassium, niacin, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and dietary fiber) to nourish your body!

Now, I think it’s time for a second slice…

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