Monday, 15 July 2019

Ruby And White Chocolate Cheesescake

Here is where Mr P. and I differ: he adores white chocolate, while I love it thrillingly dark and sophisticated and bitter.  I keep telling him white chocolate is no chocolate at all:-)  But here I am making a cheesecake which is blessed with copious amounts of the stuff...

I recently got hold of some ruby chocolate, made from the ruby cocoa bean.  This chocolate is apparently made from unfermented cocoa beans with a natural red-pink colour, and a unique fruity flavour.  Crumbs, I sound like an ad, don't I?  Mm, truth to tell, I am a cynic at heart, and I wonder if the pink colour is real.  But hey, that's just little ol' sceptical Sherry talking:-)

so pretty - oops! forgot the nuts 

As ruby chocolate doesn't take well to cooking, I hunted around for a no-bake dish.  I found a recipe for white chocolate cheesecake submitted by Kay Orford, in the lovely Emmanuel Anglican College Ballina cookbook Our Ballina Table.  Kay's recipe is brief, and I have to say it has a few dodgy details (sorry my unknown friend), so I have adapted, blinged up and modernised her recipe.


the base:

150g. of plain biscuits - I used a mix of digestives and butternut snaps

75g. butter, softened (not melted) 

the filling:

250g. (8oz.) cream cheese at room temp.

250 mLs (1 cup) of cream - I used thickened

250g. (8oz.) mascarpone

55g.-110g. (/¼-½ cup) caster sugar (superfine if you are from the U.S.) - this is a very sweet filling, so you may want to use the lesser amount of sugar :-) 

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

250g. (8oz.) good quality white chocolate

250g. (8oz.) ruby chocolate - or milk chocolate if you can't find ruby

the top:

30g. pistachios or blanched almonds, chopped (optional)

60g. cranberries or raspberries or fruit of your choice - preferably one that has a bit of tang or acidity rather than a very sweet one

20g. ruby chocolate and 20g. white chocolate, grated or chopped to decorate


Blitz the biscuits in a food processor till they resemble breadcrumbs, or bash them in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin

Add the softened butter to the processor and zap away till the mixture starts to clump together; if you don't have a processor, I suggest melting the butter and combining that with the biscuit crumbs

Tip the mixture out into a 23cm (9 in.) springform pan that has been lightly buttered and lined on the base with baking paper

Use your hands or the back of a large spoon to push the crumbs onto the base 

Place in the fridge for an hour to settle down

When the hour is up, make the filling: place the cream cheese in the processor (or large mixing bowl), and give it a few pulses to break it up - or beat it soundly with your wooden spoon

Now add the cream, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla and whiz or beat as appropriate till smooth; divide the mixture into two separate bowls

Melt the two chocolates separately in microwave-proof bowls (the ruby chocolate took 70 seconds, and the white took 80 seconds)

Let them cool for a few minutes, then fold the ruby gently into one of the bowls of cream cheese mixture, and the white into the other bowl

Spoon the mixtures alternately onto the biscuit crumb base, and swirl with a knife; you want that lovely swirl of colours to show

Now scatter the fruit, nuts (if using) and grated chocolate over the top and refrigerate for several hours or overnight


You can use ruby with white, or white with milk, or white with dark chocolate - your choice

I used frozen cranberries which I had thawed well (we don't have fresh ones here in Australia), but use your fave fruit

ingredients gathered

blitz the biscuits and softened butter together 

press the mixture firmly into the lined base of the tin 

beat the cream cheese etc together till smooth 

melt the chocolate(s) separately

pour the melted chocolate(s) into the cream mixture 

spoon and swirl the mixtures into the tin 

smooth out the top

decorate with the fruit and grated chocolate

ready to eat

     artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Monday, 8 July 2019

Homemade Mascarpone

I feel weird putting 'cheese' as a label for this one, but that's what it is according to the Italians - an Italian cream cheese from Lombardy.  So here we have my first attempt at making it.  I'll tell you from the get-go that my version turned out a bit well...thinner than I would have liked.  But it is very simple to make, and tastes tangy and creamy and quite moreish.  I figure that since it will melt anyway in dishes like soups and risottos, or be beaten up in cheesecake fillings (clue as to my next blog post - tee hee), that it doesn't really matter too much.  

I came across this recipe in a Cuisine (NZ) magazine a few years ago, and finally I've gotten round to trying it.  This is a microwave version, really simple and quick, though I did leave it in the fridge for a couple of days to thicken up, which they suggest too.  I had to go on a Great Tartaric Acid hunt, as it was not readily found in our nearby supermarkets.  I finally found it in a small, independent grocer in a small country town!  We were out that way, anyway...

ingredients (all two of them) gathered :-) 

Makes about 350g.


600 mLs (25 mLs under 2.5 cups) of pure cream (not thickened)

1/2 tsp tartaric acid


Pour the cream into a microwave-proof jug

Zap it in the microwave on High for 2 minutes (our microwave is 800W)

Let it stand for two minutes

Scatter the tartaric acid over the surface of the cream, and give it a good stir with a whisk

Back in the microwave for another two minutes on High

Set aside for an hour or two to cool and thicken

Now stir it, and leave to strain through a sieve/strainer which has been lined with a double layer of muslin, into a bowl: put the whole shebang - bowl, sieve and cream mixture - into the fridge to finish straining overnight (oh dear, that sounds a bit rude, doesn't it?)

The next day, spoon it into a container, seal it and use within five days - use it in risottos, soups, cheesecakes, pasta sauce - basically anywhere you want to add a bit of richness to a dish


Don't use thickened cream as it has gelatine and/or other thickeners in it which won't work here apparently

You can try this with lemon juice (about 1 hefty tablespoon so about 20 mLs or 4 teaspoons) instead of the tartaric acid

This will thicken more over time, so best to make it a couple of days prior to needing it

I had no muslin so used two brand new, unused Chux wipes

ready for microwaving

pour the cream mixture into the lined sieve 

let it dribble through the muslin or Chux wipes

the last bit of the mixture going through - scrape any extra off with a spatula 

the next day - good-lumpy but not as thick as I'd hoped 

and another day

the second day - and ready to use in various dishes

Wait with bated breath my friends, for my next post, where I use my delicious, homemade mascarpone:-)

 artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Monday, 1 July 2019

In My Kitchen - July 2019

July - the month of American Independence Day and French Bastille Day and Canada Day; the month marking halfway through an Aussie winter.  We've only had a couple of cold nights here in sunny Queensland so far.  I noticed the other day that Scotland was having the same temperatures as we were! - and they're in mid Summer.  You gotta laugh!

So here are a few more things in my kitchen.  Feel free to join in this month, my lovely virtual friends.  And it would be brilliant to see some newbies here, so any of you foodie folk who read IMK but don't join in ...  I am sending brain waves out to you - join in, join in :-) ... 

 In My Kitchen:

a chocolate haul

I bought a few things online from Coco Chocolate; that's their hot chocolate mix bottom left.  Sooo delicious, but not cheap so that's why I made my own.

and then there's olive oils

I ordered these from an olive grove in Victoria; beautifully zingy oils; the lemon one is great in hummus.

another beauty from Sit Still Lauren 

I love her kinda clunky but gorgeous work, with that tell-tale indent for your thumb, making it easy to hold.  There is something so comforting about holding a beautiful, handmade object and drinking delicious beverages from it.

hmm another book?!  Yes indeedy

I loved reading all the Gerald Durrell books when I was young, though I cringe these days thinking about the awful way he 'collected' animals for zoos.  Babies taken from mothers, trees chopped down to reach them, mothers killed to get the babies ...  Oh, how it makes me shudder!  But anyway - I shall enjoy these family recipes, and think of their (somewhat) idyllic life on Corfu in the 1930s.

and more chocolate

And then there was more chocolate; this time from The Chocolate Box in Melbourne.  Online shopping, you are killing my bank account :-)  Delicious peanut butter frogs and fluffy marshmallows.  And a few other things which I shall show you another time, my friends.

as per the label :-) 

I bought this little gem in a very quirky general store in the backblocks of the Northern Rivers hinterland (you know it's the place of my heart) in a village called Clunes.  They have the best cemetery ever!  I might have to be buried there, with the cows and the rolling green paddocks...

 cute green tree frog and black bean pod 

Okay, not strictly in my kitchen but close by.  This is the sweetest little green tree frog sitting in a black bean pod, all made from clay.  The artist is Lindsay Muir, who hails from the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  Below is a photo of the actual pod (courtesy of the Australian National Herbarium).  Lindsay's beans look so real, don't they?  

Image result for black bean pod
black bean aka Moreton Bay Chestnut 

I didn't realise these are Australian natives; for some reason, I thought they came from South America, but no.  In fact, the indigenous Australians have used them for food for millennia.  The leaves and seeds are toxic to livestock though, so farmers have to make sure they don't let their cows near them.  

delicious one tray chicken and veg bake

Nothing nicer than a delicious one tray bake with chicken and veg., flavoured with wedges of lemon and garlic cloves.  We had this with rice one recent cold (for Queensland) night.

brilliant red chillies from a friend's garden

A gift from a friend's garden.  We love chillies in this household!  They go into just about everything we cook and eat: chilli, stews, curries, stir-fries, soups, you name it.  You could even add them to chocolate mousse to give it an Aztec aura.

Okay, that's it from me for this month.  I will await your wonderful posts with breathless anticipation!

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In My July Kitchen:

Avocado & Finger Lime Toast
Not Quite Nigella

Sherrys Pickings

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Homemade Sauerkraut - Part The Second

So I checked the crock after thirteen days.  It smelled ... okay, just a bit earthy and socklike, no bubbles, no mould, all good.  I pulled one of the weights out; everything fine underneath, no nasty surprises.  I tasted it, and it was like salty, pickled cabbage, but not really like sauerkraut.  Mr P. said 'let it be' for another week, so I did. 

looking good on the thirteenth day

I kept checking it each morning, and topped it up with some plain water on the fifteenth day.  And it sat, and it sat ... And on the nineteenth day, I decided enough was enough, and I'd whack it into a jar, and then the fridge.  Did I say one jar?  Hee hee, I needed four jars!  I washed the jars in hot soapy water then shoved them into the oven for fifteen minutes at 170C to sterilise, let them cool for a few and then scooped the kraut into the jars.  I tipped the leftover brine into a jug, and then over the kraut in the jars.  And luckily, I had the perfect amount of brine:-)

peering into the salty depths

and off come the weights

ta dah! 

ready to be jarred :-)

piling it into the jars

brine fills the jars and covers the sauerkraut 

into the fridge for a week or two or three to mature  

I read one blog post which said she puts it into the fridge for eight weeks!  I probably won't last that long.  Okay, so I'm not sure how homemade sauerkraut should taste; apparently it is tangier and crunchier than the bought stuff.  Yes indeed, mine is crunchier, and it is a bit salty and a bit tangy.  I'm hoping it matures a bit more, and gains a bit more tang, but never having done this before, I don't know if it will.  I mean, chutneys and mustards etc taste so much better after time ruminating and maturing, don't they? :-)  We shall see how it goes.  Mmm, Polish cabbage and my chicken and sauerkraut dish coming up soon ...

   artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

As a winter treat, I sometimes buy a mm mm somewhat crazy-expensive hot chocolate mix online.  Mr P. is going through it like a bull in a china shop, so I thought I'd better come up with another way to get a hold of this delicious drink.  I checked the ingredients, which are very simple, and while still not cheap, I will be able to get more bang for my buck putting it together myself.

hot chocolate - warm, dark and delicious

The cacao bean is a thing of beauty and mystery to me.  How on earth did someone think that there was a marvellous drink (or chocolate bar) waiting for them inside that big 'ol bean thingy?  Thank you to the Mayans (and Aztecs) back in 450 BC!  We love you for thinking of it:-) 

Original recipe by Sherry's Pickings:


90g. Valrhona or other good quality dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)

100g. Lindt 70% chocolate block - or any good quality dark chocolate

4 x 30g. Flake chocolate bars or 120g. milk chocolate block

1/4 tsp chilli powder or cinnamon or cardamom (optional)


Place the cocoa powder into a medium mixing bowl

Shave or grate the chocolate blocks, and tip the shards into the bowl with the cocoa powder and spice.  The Flake bars can be crumbled by hand or smashed gleefully with a mallet or muddler :-)

Give it a really good stir with a very dry spoon

Place in a glass jar or tin that you seal tightly; the mix will last for ages in a dark place

On those cold nights, grab yourself a mug, place 2-3 heaped teaspoonfuls of the luscious mix inside, and add boiling water and maybe a spoonful of cream or ice cream on top.  You may want to add a wee bit of sugar to your mug, but Mr P. and myself like it dark, rich and sophisticated :-)  (Remind you of anybody?  Tee hee.)  


You can zap the chocolate by chopping into chunks and throwing into a food processor.  Just don't blitz it too hard; you want lovely shards of chocolate.  I blitzed some of the chocolate in the processor till very small, and got Mr P. to chop the rest into lovely slivers

Add whatever spice you like to the mix; maybe even black pepper, or nutmeg or dried lavender

If you like your hot chocolate a little sweeter or lighter, vary the amounts of dark and milk chocolate, or use a lesser % dark chocolate

If you happen to have one in your pantry (thanks Tiffin Fiona), you can give your mug a big twiddle with a molinillo/frother

glorious chocolate

pebbly chocolate bits

Get Mr P. to chop your chocolate :-)

cocoa powder and chocolate shards

ready for storing - and drinking

got my mug ready already :-)

molinillo/Mexican hot chocolate frother

This homemade version is less than half the cost of the bought one, so I'll be making it myself from now on.  Mr P. is very happy!

artwork © Sherry's Pickings