Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Avocado and Lime Cheesecake (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Almost Raw, Almost Vegan)

Avocado Cheesecake

Welcome to the next instalment of "Sarah experiments with avocado desserts!"

You may remember my previous avocado baking experiments: Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Chocolate Avocado Icing; Avocado Chocolate Marble Pound Cake; and Dense Chocolate Avocado Brownies.

I really stepped out of my comfort zone with this one - a gluten free, dairy free, (almost) raw, (almost) vegan avocado and lime "cheesecake". I'd been interested in how the creamy texture of avocado would stand up in an uncooked dessert (raw cheesecake, smoothies, ice-cream etc.), and much Googling led me to this raw cheesecake recipe in The Telegraph by bloggers Hemsley & Hemsley. I tweaked the recipe quite a bit, but the structure follows theirs, and I imagine you could use this structure to make your own different flavoured raw cheesecake creations.

The base is made up of nuts, coconut, cocoa nibs, dates and coconut oil, whizzed in a food processor until sticky and crumbly - a similar mixture to what you'd use for bliss balls or raw brownies, that type of thing.

Cacao nibs, dates, coconut oil

I did say that this cake was "almost" raw, and that's because I toasted the hazelnuts and desiccated coconut. You could always leave out this step if you are after a strictly raw recipe, but (obviously) I don't follow a raw diet, and toasted nuts and coconut just smell too good!

Hazelnuts and coconuts toasting

Base mixture

This mixture gets pressed into a lined tin. The original recipe says to use an 18 centimetre springform tin, but there was way too much mixture for that! I divided the base between an 18 centimetre springform and a 20 centimetre square tin.

Now, the filling. The bulk of the filling is provided by avocado flesh (I found that two of my giant Reed avocados from Barham Avocados made up the required 560 grams!) and a generous amount of coconut oil. (I later realised that the coconut oil helps the mixture stay solid).

Limes, avocados

Lime juice gives the mixture a tangy flavour, and prevents discolouration, and honey provides sweetness. (Obviously, using honey stops this from being vegan... I'm sure any vegan readers out there will know better than I which sweeteners would work best. Perhaps maple syrup or agave?)

Either way, the ingredients are whizzed together in a food processor until smooth and creamy.

Filling mixture

From here, you just need to pour the mixture into your prepared tins and let them set in the fridge overnight.

And ta-dah! I have to say, I was quite proud of myself when I sliced the cheesecake - it looked just like the raw cakes and slices I'd seen at hipster cafes around town. I cut the square into bars and shared it with colleagues. (Selected colleagues, I should say, who I knew wouldn't be weirded out by the idea of avocado in a dessert!) 

Avocado cheesecake slices

Surprisingly, the cake travelled well. I sliced it at home, gently transferring the slices to a tupperware container, and they managed to make it to work intact! (Remember to keep them in the fridge, as the filling starts to soften if left out at room temperature for too long).

The round one was quite pretty too - I decided to decorate it with raspberries, because I love the colour combo of pale jade and vibrant red. However, it didn't just look nice, but tasted good too - the gently sweet raspberries really complimented the strong sour lime taste of the cheesecake. I managed to transfer the entire cake from the tin to the serving plate for photos, and then back to the tin to transport to my parents' house, where we had it for dessert tonight. It didn't break - phew!

Decorated with raspberries

I really liked the cheesecake - it had a great creamy texture, and I liked the sticky-soft base with the fragrance of coconut and crunchy pops from the cacao nibs. I think I might amp up the chocolate factor next time and add a bit of cocoa powder to the base (similar to Hannah's raw brownies, which I love), but other than that, I like it just as it is.

Avocado and Lime Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from The Telegraph, by Hemsley and Hemsley

Ingredients
For the Base
125 grams hazelnuts
45 grams desiccated coconut
70 grams cacao nibs
185 grams pitted dates
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
For the Filling
560 grams avocado flesh (approx. 2 very large avocados)
200 millilitres lime juice (approx. 4-5 limes)
175 millilitres coconut oil, melted
Zest of one lime
190 grams honey
Raspberries to decorate, optional

For the Base
Place the hazelnuts and coconut in a dry frying pan. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant and lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
Place all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until the mixture is crumbly and holds together when pinched.
Line a 20 cm square tin and an 18 cm round springform tin with baking paper. Divide the mixture between the two tins and press down firmly. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.
For the Filling
Place all ingredients in a (clean) food processor, and blend until smooth. Taste and add more honey or lime juice as required.
Divide the filling mixture between the two tins, and smooth the top with a palette knife.
Refrigerate overnight.
For the square tin, you can lift the entire cheesecake out at once using the baking paper. Decorate with raspberries if desired.
For the round tin, gently run a knife between the edge of the tin and the cake, remove the side of the tin and gently slide the cake onto a serving plate. Decorate with raspberries to serve if desired.
Makes one 20cm square cheesecake and one 18cm round cheesecake

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Unblogged Files: February 2015

Phew! It feels like we have raced to the end of the month! February was really busy for me! Let's take a look.

First up: breakfasts. I am clearly making the most of the last shipment of Reed avocados for the season! (Don't forget to check out my tutorial: "How to Slice an Avocado".)

Avocados on Toast, Toast with honeyed ricotta and berries

Avocados on toast, Toast with a hardboiled egg

But I do occasionally eat non-avocado breakfasts too, honest! You may remember the crumpets with honeyed ricotta and berries I made earlier this month, well, I also enjoyed them savoury, with spinach, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and hot habanero sauce. Some plain old peanut butter on toast made an appearance. By the way, Darryl's fresh roasted peanut butter is The Best, and well worth shelling out for. Also, more green smoothies.

Top left: Toast with Darryl's Fresh Roasted Peanut Butter (BEST)
Top right: Crumpets with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, spinach, hot sauce
Bottom left: Crumpets with honeyed ricotta and berries
Bottom right: Green smoothie (1 c spinach, 1 frozen banana, 1 peach, 1 c milk, 1 tbs oats, 1 tbs peanut butter)

As I told you last month, I'm still trying to eat out for lunch only once a week... I'm still loving the beef bimbimbap from By Korea (1/222 La Trobe Street, Melbourne VIC 3000), and Rice Workshop in Emporium is always reliably tasty. And right now I'm super into the crazy cheap and super filling boreks from The Borek Bakehouse (481 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000). That spicy lamb borek in the picture? $3. Boom!

Left: Spicy lamb borek from The Borek Bakehouse, (481 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
Top right: Beef Bimbimbap from By Korea (1/222 La Trobe St, Melbourne, VIC 3000)
Bottom right: Spicy Teriyaki Chicken Don from Rice Workshop (Emporium, Level 3 321 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000)

Mamak (366 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000) does great nasi lemak, roti canai and - my favourite - icy Malaysian drinks. Kopi ais for me!

Left: Nasi Lemak w Curry Chicken - $12
Top right: Nasi Goreng - $12
Bottom right: Roti Canai - $5.50

With my homecooked dinners this month, there was a clear division between comfort food...

Top left: Cheese platter
Top right: Beef goulash with potato dumpling
Bottom left: Baked pasta with eggplant, meat and cheese
Bottom right: Baked crumbed pork chop and roast veggies

... and lighter dishes. Salmon, soba and broccolini is such a good combo! (See my old post for the recipe!) And in the bottom left pic you see a Thr1ve-inspired dinner: chicken meatballs (with cayenne, spring onions, egg, parmesan and some breadcrumbs), with marinated zucchini salad, baby spinach with pepitas, boiled broccoli, mashed sweet potato, roast capsicums and avocado. So many veggies!

Top left and bottom right: Marinated salmon with soba & broccolini
Top right: Egg and spinach fried rice
Bottom left: a Thr1ve inspired plate

But lest you think I was getting too healthy (hardly!), I also did a bit of baking in February. Chocolate pound cake (from Joy the Baker's Homemade Decadence book)...

Joy the Baker's Chocolate Pound Cake

...and my all-time favourite, Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cheesecake. You gotta make this cheesecake! It's the best.

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cheesecake

My parents took me out for a couple of fancy meals this month: dinner at Kenzan (45 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000), where we enjoyed a giant sushi sashimi platter and fabulous tempura...

Dinner at Kenzan

...and Lantern Garden (608 Station Street, Box Hill VIC 3128), for lobster noodles and pippies in XO sauce with crullers.

Dinner at Lantern Garden

Another night, I cooked a Chinese dinner for my parents - all Fuchsia Dunlop recipes, of course, all from Every Grain of Rice. There was braised chicken with shiitake mushrooms, twice-cooked pork with garlic stems and Chinese brocolli stir-fried in garlic. #awesomedaughter

Chinese feast

I didn't explore many (any!) new cafes this month, but found myself at Plantation (Level 2, Melbourne Central, 300 La Trobe Street, Melbourne) more times than I care to mention. Yum.

Plantation

One night I caught up with some girlfriends for drinks at Romeo Lane (1 Crossley St, Melbourne VIC 3000). My friend Alaina suggested it, and the bar was awesome! Excellent cocktails, great decor and friendly staff. Winner.

Romeo Lane

We then headed over to nearby Spring Street Grocer (157 Spring Street Melbourne, VIC 3000) for gelato! I had chocolate sorbetto, salted caramel and walnut gelato, and hazelnut gelato - all fabulous.

Spring Street Grocer gelato

Of course, we celebrated Chinese New Year in February. Happy new year everybody! We had reunion dinner at my parents' house on Chinese new year's eve, with all our favourites - roast pork, roast duck, salted vegetable and duck soup, loh bak and chicken curry. What a feast!

Reunion dinner

And on Chinese New Year itself, I caught up with my friend Alaina for our annual tradition of bubble tea at Gong Cha! Iced green tea, half sugar, extra pearls, salty milk foam.

Iced green tea with salted milk foam and extra pearls, half sugar

And for dinner on Chinese New Year, Sandra and I did our annual CNY tradition: "Two Girls One Duck" - sharing a whole Peking duck at Simon's (197B Middleborough Road, Box Hill South VIC 3128). So crispy, so tasty, so delicious.

Peking Duck

We also took a little weekend away this month, going to Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. The beaches were stunning, and we discovered a couple of great foodie spots - blogpost to come!

Murray's Beach

As you may have noticed, I haven't been doing many events lately, but I couldn't resist attending a Taste by Appointment evening hosted by Grey Goose Vodka at Saint Crispin (300 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066). The event included a three-course meal and a cocktail-crafting masterclass. The food and cocktails were delicious, and most importantly, the evening was really fun! Blogpost to come.

Grey Goose "Taste by Appointment" at Saint Crispin

The next morning, and in no way related to the previous evening's activities (ahem), I desperately wanted something salty and greasy. This ham and cheese croissant from Plantation totally hit the spot.

Ham and Cheese Croissant, Magic

Plans for March - one or two events, spending time with family and friends, work, gym, the usual. Quiet yet fun!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cambodia 2014: Street Food Tour

Final post from our Cambodia trip! Today imma tell you about the Street Food Tour we took!

On our first day in Siem Reap, we visited Pre Rup for sunset, and on the way back to the hotel, our tuktuk driver drove down this incredibly busy long road with stalls on either side. (I later realised that this was the famous "60 Road"). There were lights, there were dozens and dozens of food stalls, selling BBQ, noodle soups, sweets, fruits and more. There were stalls selling clothes and other nicknacks, and there were people. Lots, and lots of people! Walking, cycling, in cars, in tuktuks, in motorbikes... buying food, eating, shopping, hanging out with friends. It looked amazing and so fascinating!

Fruit stall

We totally wanted to get down and start exploring, but we had no idea where to begin. We don't speak Khmer, we didn't know what all the food was, whether or not it would upset our sensitive Western stomachs, and we didn't even have any of the local currency of riels. (Everywhere else we'd visited up until then only used USD). So we resigned ourselves to the idea that this world was cut off to us tourists.

Fresh Fruits

However, when we took that "Cooks in Tuk Tuks" cooking class at the River Garden Hotel a few days later, we saw that they also offered a street food tour which takes adventurous foodies to 60 Road. The idea is that you "get to walk with the locals, eat amongst the chaos of the street and experience the unique way the Khmer people enjoy the delights of their Street Food". Perfect! We booked ourselves in for a tour the next day.

Deb, the (Aussie!) owner of the River Garden Hotel and tour guide, took us to visit Psar Leu Market to pick up a few snacks, then took us to 60 Road, where we wandered up and down the stalls to buy more food, before enjoying it as a little picnic. All the while, she gave us an insight into Khmer food culture and explained what the stalls were selling. The food, transport and tour guide were all included in the $25USD price per person. Deb was great, very passionate about Khmer food and culture, and clearly loves living in Cambodia. She speaks Khmer and had the knowledge to advise which foods are safer for tourists. (Obviously, she doesn't own these stalls so can't guarantee the quality of every single food item, but she has the knowledge to advise which items are generally safer).

At Psar Leu Market, we started by picking up some steamed rice cakes with fresh shaved coconut, peanuts and sugar to eat later (picture at the bottom of this post). Based on what we ate during our trip, I find Khmer desserts to be very similar to Malaysian desserts - lots of sugar, coconut milk, glutinous rice and peanuts! Deelicious.

Rice flour, coconut and peanut dessert

We also got some of these fantastic fried rice cakes and noodles to eat straight away. The rice cakes were made of glutinous rice flour, formed into a dough, with chopped spring onions mixed through. The little patties are fried on a hot griddle, and served with a fried egg and hot chilli sauce. The noodles were fat and short, and stir fried with lots of bean shoots. I loved both of these!

Egg noodles, rice and chive cakes, fried egg

And then we were off to 60 Road...

Insects!

Insects appear to be popular in Cambodia - apparently they're a great source of protein. I wasn't adventurous enough to eat these, but Deb said we should avoid them anyway because she could see they had been refried quite a few times in lukewarm oil. Have any of you eaten insects before? What did you think? I hear that deep-fried grasshoppers are just like crunchy popcorn!

There were heaps of stalls selling unripe fruit, covered with chilli, and sold with a variety of chilli sauces and pastes, sugar, salt and lime juice. We bought a few different ones to try.

Sticky fruit

Fruits and chilli sauce

Below was a variety of corn I'd never tried before - it looks like regular corn but was super chewy!

Chewy Corn

Below we have some grilled snakes, with the intestines popping out as a feature. Deb offered to buy these for us but I wasn't adventurous enough to try, as I found the appearance a little offputting! (I actually had eaten snake prior to this, back in 1997 as part of a Chinese banquet where the snake meat was served, all shredded up, in a soup, so I have no problem with the idea of eating snakes, it was just the presentation that threw me).

Grilled snake

A bit more "foreigner friendly" were these deep-fried pieces of baguette with school prawns. We bought a piece to try, which came with a lime wedge and a mixture of salt and kampot pepper. (By the way, Cambodian Kampot pepper is The Best! It has such a wonderful peppery flavour and aroma, but isn't harsh at all).

Deep-fried school prawns on baguette

Deb also suggested we try Khmer sausage.

Sausage stand

This stall sold a few different varieties of sausage, including kinda normal processed sausages (like frankfurters), but the traditional Khmer sausage to which she was referring was a skinless pork sausage, made with preserved meat. It had a strong, salty and slightly sour flavour. I really liked it.

Khmer sausage

These steamed eggs were a bit of a novelty for us. A hole is carefully pierced in either side of the raw egg, the yolk and white are allowed to come out, and then whisked with salt and pepper. After this, the whisked egg mixture is carefully poured back into the shells and then grilled until cooked. After all of that... it just tastes like a boiled egg!

Grilled eggs

Now we get to what I think is the highlight - the grilled meats! There were dozens and dozens of stalls selling various grilled meats - frog, chicken, quail, fish, and more. Interestingly, all the stalls up and down the road each seemed to sell the same selection of meats. This was a bit of a change for me from the hawker stalls of my hometown of Penang, where stalls tend to specialise in one thing and the good quality ones get really famous and popular. Here in 60 Road, all the barbecue stalls were practically identical.

Barbecue

In terms of food safety for our sensitive Western stomachs, Deb suggested that we choose the skewers with the least amount of charring, as the meat tends to get re-grilled throughout the evening and potentially the next day (don't be a judgmental douche; Cambodia is still a third world country), and obviously the skewers get darker with each re-grilling.

Snake, Frog

From this stall, we bought two skewers of frog (I've eaten frog before, I have no qualms about eating it), and a barbecued dried snake. The dried snake here looked a bit more like jerky, and less confronting than the barbecued fresh snake we saw earlier, so I thought I could give it a go. Also, when was I going to be eating snake again? Live a little, Sarah!

Skewers! With different types of meat, offal etc.

Barbecue!

Okidoki! After all of that, we took our bags of food to one of the little picnic areas (picnic mats on the side of the road, with thick plastic sheeting as a roof) and got stuck into our food!

You can see the grilled frogs below - these were stuffed with a lemongrass pork sausage mixture, which I think had some cartilage mixed through it. I normally don't like this type of texture so much, but I loved the lemongrass pork flavour so much that it didn't bother me. They were really delicious, and I ate two frogs! (Deb said afterwards that few of her tour participants are so adventurous, muahaha. I'm so hardcore!)

Grilled frogs

In the next photo you can see a little prahok wrapped up in a banana leaf. Prahok is a uniquely Khmer condiment, a salted fermented fish paste. It has a really pungent salty-sour aroma, like Malaysian belacan, stinky tofu, or strong blue vein cheese. I think it's a love-it-or-loathe it type of food, but I loved it! (Unsurprisingly, I also love belacan and blue cheese!)

Grilled frogs, snake, prahok, grey bits of egg

You can also see the grilled dried snake in this picture, and the grey cubes are pieces of those grilled eggs I wrote about above. (They're grey because of the pepper in the mixture!) Regarding the snake, I'm glad I tried it, but wasn't a huge fan - it was chewy and had a fishy aftertaste (this is because they're water snakes, apparently).

Ok, onto sweets! Here are those steamed rice cake cylinders that we'd bought at Psar Leu market. These were topped with sugar, crushed peanuts and fresh coconut shavings. Unsurprisingly, they were delicious.

Rice dessert!

And then we were almost done! We cleaned up, and walked back to the tuk tuk. On the way, we bought these steamed rice stick snacks. They're a mixture of white glutinous rice and beans, unsweetened, and steamed in bamboo. I found these more interesting than tasty - very chewy and bland, when I was expecting (hoping for!) sweetness.

Rice stick "dessert"

But if you want sweetness... there were quite a few cake stalls as well! These all looked very similar to Malaysian kuih to me, so I was ok with not trying these, but I was really intrigued by those big pancakes at the back that you can see the lady preparing.

Cakes

These coconut pancakes are a little hard to describe - the outside pancake, served cold, was pliable but still a bit stiff (kinda like a stale prawn cracker in texture), and filled with sugar, peanuts, glutinous rice, beans, and shaved coconut. They were seriously awesome!

Coconut pancakes

We didn't try the honeycomb, but I thought it was interesting to share. The honeycomb is sold (and eaten) complete with bees and larvae, which are a good source of protein.

Honeycomb

And that was the tour! We really enjoyed it, and I would absolutely recommend doing it. As a food lover, I found it totally fascinating, and it really gave us an insight into contemporary Khmer culture that we certainly didn't see in our hotel or on our temple visits. (Both of which were still awesome, and totally worthy of my precious time and hard-earned money, in my opinion).

At the time of our visit, the tour cost $25USD per person including tuktuk pickup from your hotel, tour guide, and all food. See the River Garden website for latest information.

And now I'm done with the Cambodia posts! Here are the other posts from my trip to Cambodia: