All out of nowhere, London is seeing sunny blue skies and highs of 20’C. The weather forecast is also looking remarkably good for the next few days, and I am simply combusting with excitement at the thought of revisiting Scoop this weekend after several months of not gorging on their delicious gelato.

I was initially planning to blog about a Persian pomegranate and walnut chicken stew I made a while ago, but decided that this unprecedented excellent weather warranted a “summery” post. The stew will just have to wait, as delicious as it was!

I made semifreddo for the first time last summer (and yes, they have sat in my pile of backlogs for almost a year now), and thought the good weather was an excellent reason to finally blog about them.

Semifreddo is Italian for “half cold”, and refers to any type of semi-frozen dessert. I call it the “cheats” way to making ice cream, as no churning is needed to make it i.e. no ice cream maker needed. And seeing as I’ve been trying to refrain from adding to my evergrowing collection of kitchen appliances (I am fast running out of counter space!), semifreddo will do very nicely thank you. Till I eventually get an ice cream maker, that is.

I made two batches of semifreddo: one with gooseberries, and the other with raspberries. I also experimented with various ways of presenting the semifreddo, as you can probably tell from the photos. I made some into pops, some into a ‘loaf’, and some into mooncakes.The mooncake moulds I used are jelly molds, and I did worry that the semifreddo would not unmold properly… thankfully they managed to retain the intricate designs post-unmolding!

What I really enjoyed whilst making this was the flexibility to experiment – you can choose to make seperate fruit/semifreddo layers, swirl the fruit mixture into the semifreddo, or use the fruits as they are. I initially planned to make a raspberry swirl semifreddo in a loaf shape, but got too lazy to puree the raspberries and so just used the berries whole. It worked out well though as most of the raspberries sunk to the bottom and thus produced quite a lovely design.

This is a very easy frozen treat to make, and I shall definitely be experimenting with more flavours this summer. Am already planning to make a black forest version (with cherries, kirsch and chocolate) as well as an apple crumble version. Ooooh the possibilities.

What is your favourite semifreddo/ice cream flavour?

Basic semifreddo mixture
Adapted from a recipe in Donna Hay Magazine, issue 49

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks, extra
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups single cream (alternatively, you can use whipping cream, or even double cream)

1. Place the eggs, extra yolks, vanilla and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Heat bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and using a hand held electric mixer, beat for 6-8 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and pale. (I use a hand held electric whisk, but I’m sure a normal whisk would do just as nicely)
2. Remove bowl from the heat, and beat for a further 6-8 minutes, or until cool.
3. In a clean bowl, whisk the single cream until soft peaks form.
4. Gently fold the cream through the egg mixture until well combined.
5. (If you are planning to make a flavoured version, add your fruits/fruit puree/other ingredients now.)
6. Pour into 2 litre capacity mold/tin.* Freeze for 6 hours, or overnight.

* Alternatively you may choose to make individual portions of semifreddo – if this is the case, use small containers/bowls/tins/glasses. If you make it in a loaf tin and intend to unmold it whole (instead of scooping out individual scoops of semifreddo), do remember to line the loaf tin with clingfilm before filling it with the semifreddo mixture.

For the raspberry semifreddo:
Mix 750g raspberries with 2 tbsp icing sugar, and stir until the raspberries are slightly macerated. Add this to the semifreddo mixture after step (4) above.

For the gooseberry semifreddo:
Mix 600g gooseberries with 1/4 cup caster sugar. You may need more sugar if your gooseberries are very tart. Cook in a pan over low heat, until the gooseberries break down slightly (it took me approximately 10 minutes to get to this stage). Add this to the semifreddo mixture after step (4) above.

More Chinese New Year cookies: Pineapple “nastar” tarts

I’ve always had a thing for pineapple tarts. After my beloved peanut cookies, pineapple tarts are next on my “must overindulge in” list during Chinese New Year. My favourite pineapple tarts to date are the ones my mum buys from a Malay lady – melt in the mouth yet crumbly pastry encasing a lovely round of pineapple jam = perfection.

I must say one thing though – pineapple tarts are MUCH more time consuming compared to peanut cookies. I mean, in comparison those peanut cookies were an absolute doddle. Thankfully Catty dropped by to help me make these, and you know what – I could not have done it without her help! She initially thought that she would be “providing the chatter” and “taste testing”… little did she know how much work she would have to do… 😉

There are a few reasons why these are time consuming. 1) The pastry dough has to be “piped” out using a special mould – this is not dissimilar to cookie presses, and gives you the typical scalloped lines you see on the face of the pineapple tarts. The piping process was the hardest part of all. In the end, we decided that the best way to approach it was to have the mould filled with pastry dough at all times – and even then, it was very unpredictable. Push/pipe too slowly and you get breaks in the dough, which essentially means it then cannot be used.

2) The cookie dough is VERY fragile. Very. Even when you get a perfect strip of piped dough – you then are faced with the challenge of not destroying it. We found that the easiest way was for Catty to pipe the strip of dough directly onto my palm. I then placed a ball of pineapple jam ball on it and wrapped it up. Piping the dough onto a baking tray is also an option… but believe me when I say it is very hard to lift it off the tray without destroying it somewhat. So yes, much easier if one person does the piping, and someone else wraps. Trust me on this one.

Because I made too little pineapple jam (I saved half a pineapple to err.. eat with rojak sauce), we had some leftover pastry dough. So we made some matcha tartelettes (from some leftover white chocolate & matcha ganache that I had from baking the day before) and some mini blueberry pies. And you know what, those matcha tartelettes were amazing. If you eat them when they are warm, the filling oozes out whilst the delicate pastry melts in your mouth. Definitely a keeper.

But back to the pineapple tarts. These actually turned out pretty well. The pastry was light yet crumbly, and had that essential “melt in the mouth” texture. I did feel that the pastry lacked “fat”, and this is probably because I used a mixture of butter and oil in the recipe. I also thought the pastry could do with being slightly sweeter. The jam was also delicious – you can adjust the sugar content according to your personal tastes, and to the sweetness/tartness of your pineapples. I thought the jam was too sweet, R thought it wasn’t sweet enough, and Catty thought it was fine.

And before I get to the recipe, just a note to say that I had to add an extra 40-50ml of corn oil to the dough as it was originally too crumbly, and wasn’t forming a cohesive dough. I have incorporated this into the recipe below by increasing the amount of butter used.

Chinese New Year pineapple “nastar” tarts (Tat nenas)
For the jam:

  • 2 pineapples (my pineapples weighed approximately 600g each)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you may need more or less depending on personal taste, and the sweetness of your pineapples)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 2 tbsp wheat starch (alternatively, use plain flour)

1. Grate the pineapples, and drain off any excess pineapple juice.
2. Place the grated pineapples, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves in a pot, and cook over medium high heat. Stir the jam mixture every few minutes to ensure it does not burn.
3. When the mixture starts to dry out (this can take up to 1 hour), add the liquid glucose and wheat starch. This helps to make the jam more cohesive and therefore easier to roll into balls. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the jam is dry and sticky enough to be rolled into balls.
5. Cool the pineapple jam, then roll into 2cm diameter balls. You may prefer to do this the day before you make the actual tarts.

For the pastry:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 tbsp custard powder
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 280g butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp water

1. Sieve the flour, cornflour, custard powder, milk powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer, until it turns pale and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla extract and egg yolk, and mix until just combined.
4. Add the sieved flour mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and mix until it forms a cohesive dough. If it is too crumbly, add some corn oil to the mixture (slowly) until it forms a nice ball of pastry dough.
5. Pipe out a 3 inch strip of pastry using the nastar mould.
6. Place a ball of pineapple jam onto the pastry strip, and roll it up. Repeat with the remaining pastry and jam.
7. Mix the egg yolk and water together, and use this to lightly glaze the tarts.
8. Bake in a 170’C oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous year of the Rabbit. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Fig mochi cupcakes

I have a confession. I have a weakness for anything made from glutinous rice flour. Be it tang yuan (glutinous rice balls), muar chee (a Malaysian snack), mochi (a Japanese snack/wagashi), or mochi bread – I love it all. There’s just something about the chewy goodness of glutinous rice flour that makes it so irresistible, to me at least.

It is this weakness for glutinous rice flour that led me to be intrigued the moment I saw Y’s post on mochi cupcakes. Cake + mochi in one? Could it work? Well, there was only one way to find out: to try it out for myself. And I can very categorically say that yes, cake + mochi work exceptionally well together.

It’s hard to find the right words to describe the texture of these babies, and the best I can do is to say they are “chewy but not overly heavy/cloying”. Those of you who have eaten food made from glutinous rice flour will probably understand what I’m getting at, but I’m betting that the rest of you will have no idea what on earth I’m going on about. Maybe one of my readers can help me out here?

But as I was saying, mochi cupcakes are yum. What I also like about them are the endless number of variations one can have – flavours I’ve made so far are matcha (green tea), blueberry, cherry and most recently these fig ones. Plus they’re gluten free! I have plans to make chocolate or peanut butter ones in the near future, so stay posted for that.

I’m sending these fig mochi cupcakes over to the lovely Deeba of Passionate About Baking. She’s a fantastic baker who manages to churn out all sorts of delicious baked goods even in the sweltering Indian heat, and is hosting this month’s Monthly Mingle which is themed “Fruit in Baking”. I’ve never actually taken part in any blog events, but I guess there has to be a first for everything!

On another note, don’t forget to check out my Hotel Chocolat GIVEAWAY! 🙂

Fig mochi cupcakes
Adapted from this recipe on Lemonpi
Makes approximately 12 cupcakes

  • 225g glutinous rice flour
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 187g evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 3 figs, cut into 1-2cm slices
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 175’C.
2. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with muffin cases, and set aside.
3. Sift the glutinous rice flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and mixed spice.
4. Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (I use a stand mixer, but you could just as easily use a handheld electric mixer).
5. Fold in the melted butter into the egg/sugar mixture, followed by the evaporated milk and vanilla bean paste.
6. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients in two batches.
7. Pour the cupcake mixture into the prepared muffin cases (make sure to only fill it to about 3/4 full, or it may overflow). Place a fig slice in each muffin case, and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Passionfruit yogurt cheesecake & the winner of the CSN giveaway!

Every now and again you come across something that you know you simply have to make. Sometimes it’s a recipe you see in a cookbook, sometimes it’s something you see on the television, and sometimes it’s something you see on other food blogs. On this occasion, it was Stephane’s passionfruit tofu cheesecake that caught my attention. Tofu? In cheesecake? Definitely interesting, as I’d never heard of it before.

I still had some Total Greek yogurt at the time, so decided to try substituting the tofu for yogurt – and then prayed hard that it would work out. And thankfully, it did work. The yogurt provided a beautifully creamy texture to the cheesecake layer, and I could even tell myself it was “healthy” because I used fat free Greek yogurt and light cream cheese.

Instead of making them into mini cakes, I decided to make them into tarts. What can I say? I’m a bit of a rebel when it comes to cooking – I can’t stick to instructions and am always adapting recipes to suit my mood on a particular day. Having said that, I’m not someone who believes that recipes are something that need to be followed to the letter – I agree that it’s important when it comes to things like pastry, but when it comes to day to day cooking I believe it’s more than acceptable to tweak the recipe to suit your liking.

And because I only have a limited number of tart cases, I used ramekins for the remaining cheesecakes (or in this case, cheesecake pots). I quite like how these turned out – the only tricky bit was scraping up every last bit of the biscuit base which was wedged into the groove at the bottom of the ramekins. I’m a HUGE fan of biscuit bases – I believe that it is a very important component of cheesecakes, and if I must be honest I think it’s my favourite thing about cheesecakes. Strange? Perhaps.

But before I get to the recipe, I have to announce the winner of the CSN Stores £50/$75 voucher giveaway! Thank you to all of you who participated, and after compiling all the entries – has chosen entry #41 as the winner!

Congratulations, Leilani! You’ve just won yourself a CSN Stores gift voucher worth $75/£50! I hope you enjoy spending it. 🙂

Passionfruit yogurt cheesecake
Adapted from this recipe on Zen Can Cook
Makes one 8 inch cake/10-12 cheesecake pots

For the biscuit base:

  • 15 digestive biscuits, crumbed
  • 120g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the yogurt cheesecake:

  • 400g greek yogurt (I used Total fat free Greek yogurt)
  • 450g cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Philadelphia light cream cheese)
  • 3 tablespoons passionfruit juice (I used Tropicana orange passionfruit juice)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (I used 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
  • 3/4 cup sugar

For the passionfruit jelly:

  • 4 ripe passion fruits, juiced – reserve the seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatine

For the biscuit base:

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Butter an 8 inch cake tin/ramekins/tart tins. If using a ring line the bottom with aluminum foil and place on a baking tray.

2. Put the digestive crumbs in a bowl, and add the sugar, ground ginger and salt to it. Mix well.

3. Add the melted butter to the crumb mixture, and mix until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin/ramekin and press it down in an even layer. Bake until golden (takes approx 10 minutes – this may differ according to the size of your tin) and let it cool completely.

For the yogurt cheesecake:

4. Put the yogurt and the passion fruit juice in a food processor and mix until smooth. (I used a stand mixer)

5. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat until warm to the touch. Add the powdered gelatine to the warmed cream,  and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

6. Put the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds/vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until fluffy.

7. Fold cream, followed by passionfruit yogurt mixture into the cream cheese mixture until incorporated.

8. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the crust, and refrigerate until set. This will take at least 6 hours.

For the passionfruit jelly layer:

9. Strain the passionfruit juice and place in a small saucepan over low heat. (I didn’t strain it)

10. Add the powdered gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

11. Meanwhile rinse some of the passion-fruit seeds and place on top of the set cheesecake.

12. Pour the passionfruit mixture on top, and refrigerate for at least one hour/until set.

13. Serve!

Mixed berry yogurt gelée

It’s gotten awfully nippy in London in the last week, and I’ve had to start wearing scarves again. I’d been holding off on my scarf wearing, simply because in the strange world that is my mind, it’s not autumn until I have to resort to scarves. But sadly, summer is now well and truly over, and my (rather extensive) scarf collection will be put to good use again.

As some of you may know, I have an immense backlog when it comes to blog posts. As I was looking through it, I saw photos of the mixed berry yogurt gelée that I made recently – and thought it was the perfect post to bid goodbye to summer.

I’m a huge fan of yogurt (there’s always yogurt in my fridge), and I use in many ways – a simple snack, dips, curries, desserts… And the list goes on. So, its no surprise that I was immediately drawn to the idea of yogurt gelée when I saw it on Heather’s blog.

Rather coincidentally, the people at Total contacted me, and asked if I would like to try their range of yogurts. Maybe they knew of my love for yogurt? Anyway, what caught my attention was the claim that their 2% and 10% greek yogurt would not split when cooked. As I mentioned above, I use yogurt to cook curries (because its muchhh healthier than using coconut cream regularly), but have always found that they split – leaving a slightly “bitty” curry. It doesn’t affect the taste, but let’s face it: it’s not very attractive.

Photo courtesy of Total

So, I figured that the best way to “test” Total’s yogurt was to put it to the hob. And I am pleased to report that it is a lot more resistant to splitting than any other yogurt I’ve used in the past. After using the whole range (they do it in full fat 10%, 2% and 0%) in a number of recipes, I found that the full fat version was beautifully un-splittable even when heated over high heat. The 0% version did split, but this was only after a good few minutes of it bubbling happily on the high heat (plus, they never claimed that the fat free version was unsplittable anyway).

Of course, the gelée requires the yogurt to be heated, and I’m very glad I chose to use the full fat yogurt as it turned out beautifully. The mixed berries are placed into the containers first then flash frozen in the freezer before the yogurt layer is poured on top of it. This gives you lovely distinct layers. If you get impatient and do it before the berry layer is properly frozen, you get slightly ‘smudged’ lines (like me)…

Do note that I didn’t use any gelatine in the berry layer, which means that tastes like a chilled berry coulis when you come to eating it. If you want to have both layers in jelly form, add 1/2 tsp gelatine (dissolved in 1 tbsp water) to the mixed berry mixture.

Mixed berry yogurt gelée
Adapted from this recipe on Sprinkle Bakes

For the mixed berry puree layer:

  • 250g mixed berries (I used frozen mixed berries from Waitrose)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar (you may need to use more/less depending on how sweet/tart your berries are)

For the yogurt gelée layer:

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt (I used Total)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste – optional (you can also use vanilla extract/half a vanilla bean)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatine
  • 2 tbsp cold water

1. Place berries and the honey in a food processor or blender, and whizz until it forms a smooth puree.

2. Taste the puree, and add the sugar according to how sweet you want it to be.

3. Pour the mixed berry puree into your containers (you can use anything from ramekins to glasses to mugs – obviously something see through will be best so you can see the layers and colours), and place in the freezer.*

4. Whilst your mixed berry puree is setting in the freezer, make the yogurt gelée. Pour the water into a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatine over the bowl. Set aside for a few minutes to allow it to bloom.

5. Combine the yogurt, vanilla (if using) and sugar in a pan and stir to combine. Heat over medium high heat until it thins, this should take anywhere between 3-5 minutes.

6. Add the gelatine mixture to the yogurt mixture, and stir to combine. ** Remove the pan from the heat, and let the yogurt mixture cool slightly. (It should not be piping hot when you pour it into the containers.)

7. Remove your containers from the freezer, and layer the yogurt mixture on top of the mixed berry puree.

8. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and serve. This recipe makes 6 ramekins/5 ramekins + 2 shot glasses worth of gelée.

*To make a ’tilted’ layer: When freezing your mixed berry layer, place your glasses/containers in a larger bowl so it is tilted – and gravity does the rest for you!

** Heather microwaves the bloomed gelatine mixture for 10 seconds (it will turn liquid), but I didn’t do this as errr…. I have the tendency to burn things in the microwave.