Mango Cheesecake for Christmas

>> Wednesday, December 25, 2013

People have been very surprised when they found out that for the 12 years I've lived in Australia, this year is actually the first time that I would be spending Christmas and New Years here. I'm surprised myself too that it's taken me this long to see Santa in the heat of summer!

In the past, I'd likely have been traveling somewhere up the northern hemisphere visiting my parents during this festive and joyous season. As I scheduled my travels ahead this year (and as as much as I miss the winter hot chocolates and the often ugly holiday sweaters), I've been quite excited about spending summertime here. 

No heavy winter coats, no dodging left and right from the winter flu and no darkening skies in the afternoon. Just looong summer days in my t-shirts and sandals.

One small highlight for me has been the array the fruits that December offers in Australia...fragrant mangoes, plump cherries, juicy dribble-down-your-chin white peaches, and nectarines...oh, the list goes on! 

Did I tell you I've been purchasing frozen mangoes over the past winter just to snack on?

Needless to say, when we purchased a whole tray of fresh mangoes last week, I was giddy like a child!

Recipes after recipes bubbled up in my head as I pondered long and hard what to make with the mangoes apart from eating them as they are - the criss-crossed cheek method.

After experimenting with Ottolenghi's soba noodle with aubergine and mango followed by a cooling mango lassi, my family requested a mango cheesecake!

This is not the type of cheesecake I usually make - which is baked and has a super light and fluffy texture (and which also to my surprise is the most popular recipe on this blog!)

This mango cheesecake is raw and dense - set with gelatine leaves and at the base it has a layer of digestive cookies followed by a layer of cream cheese mixed with mango puree, and finally topped with layer of mango slices covered in mango puree jelly! Oh and decorated with more fresh mangoes!

The result is a mango-filled cheesecake for the hot summer days. And the best thing is that it requires no baking (just some patience when the cake sets in the fridge!).

Each mouthful is smooth and creamy set against the juicy sweet mangoes. And with a slight tang/tartness from the yogurt too!

Today is Christmas (at the time of posting) so I hope you are all having a wonderful and joyous Christmas whatever your circumstances may be currently. 

Over the years I've noticed that it isn't about receiving gifts that makes Christmas so meaningful. It's giving them and watching the look of surprise on people's face as they unwrap the presents. Without any words, you feel closer to one another.

This reminds me of God who held nothing back from us by sending the only Gift that could bridge the gap between us and Him - the best Gift of all, and the Gift we needed most...the Savior Jesus and His message of grace. 

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" - 2 Corinthians 9:15

I'm feeling a great surge of gratitude this Christmas. I pray you are too! 

Wishing you His joy today and always :)

Mango Cheesecake
6 inch cake

  • 100g digestive cookies
  • 50g melted unsalted butter

Mango cream cheese:
  • 200g pureed mango
  • 200g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 120ml pouring cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 10g sheets of leaf gelatine (around 3-4 sheets)
  • 50g greek or plain yogurt
  • juice of half a lemon

Mango jelly 
  • 150g pureed mango (I used a stick blender to puree)
  • 2 mangoes (1 to place in the gelatine layer and 1 to decorate with on top of cake)
  • 50ml water
  • 10g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5g sheets of leaf gelatine (~2 sheets)

1. Process the biscuits until they are like crumbs, then add the butter and pulse again. Line the bottom of a 6 inch/15cm tin with a removable base (or a springform tin), pressing the biscuits in with your hands or the back of your spoon. Put the tin in the fridge to set.

2. Submerge the 10g gelatine leaves in a dish of cold water and leave to soak and soften for 5 minutes.

3. Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth and add in the sugar, cream and milk and mix until combined and smooth.

4. Transfer the cream cheese mixture into a small pot and place on the stove over low gas and whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Take the gelatine leaves out of the water, give them a good squeeze to get rid of excess water, and stir one by one into the cream cheese mixture (they will dissolve instantly). Leave to cool for a few minutes.

5. Add the yogurt, lemon juice and pureed mango into the cream cheese mixture. Leave to cool completely.

6. Pour into the cake pan and smooth down slightly.

7. Leave to cool in the fridge for around 3-4 hours until set.

8. Submerge the 5g gelatine leaves in a dish of cold water and leave to soak and soften for 5 minutes.

9. Put the 150g mango puree, water and sugar and lemon juice into a pot and heat up over low gas.

10. Take the gelatine leaves out of the water and squeeze dry, and stir into the pot.

11. Cut two cheeks from the mango and remove the skin on both cheeks. Cut the mango into around 0.2cm slices.

12. Remove the set cheesecake from the fridge and distribute the mango slices evenly on top. Slightly overlap mango slices in a concentric circle at the centre of cake.

13. Pour the cooled down mango puree with gelatine into the cake pan over the mango slices. They should cover the mango pieces. Leave to set in the fridge for another 3-4 hours.

14. To serve, run a knife between the cheesecake and the tin to loosen it, remove it from the tin (with the removable base).

15. Cut the remaining mango into square pieces (it's not easy so try your best!) and pile on top of the cake to decorate! Take the cake off its base and put it on a serving plate.


....on holiday in Tokyo

>> Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dear friends,

Apologies for the complete lack of post over the past weeks! 

After a few hectic weeks wrapping up work and changing my nephew's diaper, I found myself in Tokyo again for a break. Thank God for this time of much needed rest!

This is a quick post to share with you what I've seen and what I've eaten while being here. All photos were taken using my camera phone (learning to travel "light"!)

Hope you have a lovely week.


We were served this green tea on entering a tea/pottery shop. The sakura-shaped cup makes the green tea tastes that much nicer ;)

Pondering Japanese bird lady.

A girl patting a wild cat. I noticed the Japanese love their cats! And there are cartoon characters of cats everywhere!

This was such a refreshing dessert at Henri Charpentier @ Ginza. It's like eating an apple that tastes better than an apple...totally makes sense!
Consists of apple mousse, apple compote, caramel mousse with a macaron base!

On the window display in Ginza

This is one of the most interesting department store displays I've seen hanging from the ceiling at Isetan. The photo doesn't do it justice - makes it look a bit witchy!

This chick is made up of many little chicks at Roppongi!

What to do after a long day of walking? Hot green tea soup with red beans and mochi of course! 

Chestnut souffle @ Le Souffle! I could't really taste the chestnut but was impressed with the hieght of the souffle.

I couldn't help but notice this beautifully pruned tree outside this house. It's like a giant bonsai!

Fancy LV building in Ginza from the Bvlgari building where we had afternoon tea.

This is a bit creepy. We went to a ramen place where they put you in your own cubicle and all you can see in front of you is this - hands of another customer waiting for his ramen. When you are served your ramen from the "window", they close the window off with a blind and you're left alone there all by yourself...with you ramen. *weeps*. Oh, and it was yummy ;)

I am going to learn to make this matcha jelly-like dessert when I get home. You take a piece of the glutinous "jelly" and dip it in brown sugar syrup and roll in around in bitter matcha powder. So oiiishi!!

Japanese people love their fried food - I am now breaking out! Can you see the deep fried egg yolk in the photo? *cholesterol alert*

Dainty lil strawberry cakes

Dark chocolate icecream with 80% dark hot chocolate @ Cacao Sampaka. This is the FIRST hot chocolate I've tasted that is more bitter than sweet. Enjoyed it sooo much!

Inside a newish department store Kitte @ Tokyo Station.

Green tea anmitsu..more matcha "jelly" goodness!

This cutie was tugging at my heartstrings...

My dinner - colourful inari sushi from department stores.

One of the best things about Tokyo is the array of desserts on display...I'll just try to eat with my eyes most of the time.

This is the dessert at one of the most memorable meals we had at Ryuzu - a 2 Michelin star restaurant. Their lunch deal is such a bargain (Y3600 which is less than AUD$40!) The head chef even comes out and talks to you after your meal - apparently he trained under Joel Robuchon too!

View of a busy street in Shibuya 

Outside the Shibuya station on Halloweens day.

And finally...I've found Hachiko! (Have you seen the movie Hachi? It will make you cry!)

That's all for now! I will be back soon with more travel updates :)


Peanut Butter (and Almond) Cookies

>> Monday, October 14, 2013

[HEART] Learning to be content.
[EYES] Siberian Husky and blossoming frangipani on my balcony.
[EARS] Blasting air conditioning - summer (and sticky heat wave) is truly here!
[NOSE] Fresh laundry and camomile tea hmmmmm.
[HANDS] Buttery fingers making cookies!

While it seems like friends in the Northern Hemisphere are being creative with pumpkins in their kitchen, I've been churning out batches of cookies lately - mostly oatmeal cookies with olive oil (recipe next time perhaps!) They are wholesome and loved by the family, and I don't feel too bad (for their waistline) when they reach for more.

But today, I felt like a more indulgent type of cookie. Crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth kind.

The type of cookies laced with peanut butter and studded with almond (or not!). 

And taken with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. 

We are making (almost) identical peanut butter cookies today! It's not often I make them this neat and pretty. These are made using a 7cm cookie cutter and not just roughly spooned and dropped onto a baking paper as I normally do with my cookies. 

The dark freckles on the cookies are undissolved rapadura sugar which are used in place of brown sugar.

Excuse me for the lack of step by step photos with these cookies. I hadn't intended to post this at all initially...I will however post the photo of the cutest little bum and feet I have ever laid my eyes on instead and hope that you overlook the slight glitch!

Welcome to the world, dear baby nephew

You rushed (too quickly) into the world with a head full of black hair.
At only a few weeks old, you already have us laughing all the time - pulling all sorts of funny faces I couldn't imagine a baby to make.
And produce sounds I also didn't expect to hear from someone so small.

You are SO loved, little one!

Peanut Butter and Almond Cookies
Adapted from Donna Hay

  • 100g butter, softened 
  •  ½ cup (140g) smooth peanut butter 
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  •  1 teaspoon baking powder 
  •  1 ¼ cups (220g) brown sugar  (I used 3/4 cup Rapadura sugar)
  •  1 egg 
  •  1 ¼ cups (185g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted 
  •  ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda, sifted 
  •  Whole almonds, for decorating (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). 
  2. Place the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and brown sugar in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until well combined. 
  3. Add the egg and beat for 2-3 minutes or until pale and fluffy. 
  4. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and beat until a smooth dough forms. 
  5. Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 5mm thick and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  6. Using a 7cm-round cookie cutter, cut 22 rounds from the dough. Place on lightly greased baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, leaving room to spread, and press the almonds into the rounds to decorate. 
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are golden. 
  8. Allow to cool on wire racks. 

TIP! The peanut butter will make the dough a little crumbly, so take care when cutting out the rounds


Cocoa Panna Cotta

>> Friday, August 23, 2013

When I was in high school, I found out that instead of passing on her high cheekbones and smooth skin genes to me, my mum gave me her genes contributing to high cholesterol. I still remember the day my doctor told me that she's never seen anyone my age with such a high cholesterol level, and presented to me a guide to healthy eating issued by the NSW government.

That was quite a shock to me. Me? Really? Sure, I may be a liiiiiittle on the chubby side, but hey I thought that was just 'baby fat' that'll disappear eventually! As reality sank in and as I read up on the risks associated with having high (bad) cholesterol, I really thought I had to say goodbye to those luscious desserts like crème brûlées, butter-filled pastries like croissants and my favourite deep-fried seafood basket (or anything deep fried, really.)

And I became overly sensitive to whatever was on my plate then. I would push away my favourite fish roe (caviar) sushi at Japanese restaurants and apply strict portion control to any dish that contains traces of butter or cream (e.g. ice-cream!). In my head, I was constantly calculating how many egg yolks I had eaten that week, and dissecting food on my plate so much that you'd probably be put off sitting next to me.

And I started to exercise. There was a period in my life when I'd go to the gym 5 times a week - even on Saturday mornings I would walk 30 minutes to the gym and do 2 hours of fitness classes. Slowly I began to see my cholesterol level come down bit by bit. But no matter how much exercise I did, it was still considerable higher than most people's, due to the genetic component. 

These days, I'm definitely nowhere as meticulous about my diet as before (and don't exercise much these days.) Egg tarts, laksa and fast foods I will enjoy once in a while, but I ensure that along with portion control, my diet is loaded with wholesome cholesterol-lowering foods - like oats, nuts and fatty fish (omega 3 fatty acids) so that my cholesterol level stays under control.

And if you've been following my blog for a while, you'd know that this is not a blog filled with butter-rich recipes or cake with layers of cream in them. You are also less likely to find anything overly rich or sweet. I may indulge once in a while but over the years, I've learnt to substitute for more wholesome alternative ingredients in my cooking and am still learning! 

Panna cottas used to be something that I would not even think about making. The idea of jellifying pure cream used to make me shudder. I would imagine my arteries clogging causing an early stroke and the newspaper article would read, 'Stroke strikes young girl after consuming panna cotta'. 

But after I saw this panna cotta in Donna Hay's magazine this month, I knew I had to make it. My sweet tooth talked me into making it. I have made several minor adjustments to the recipe. Yes, it still contains cream so if you're watching your weight (or cholesterol like me), you should probably share around. It looks luscious and indulgent and indeed it tastes that too! The addition of buttermilk to cut back on the cream does not make much difference to the taste. I was worried that I have added too little sugar, but it turned out perfectly sweet to my palate.

It's great to indulge once in a while and this definitely makes for a simple and no-fuss dinner party dessert! 

Oh and you can omit and cocoa and make a mango version too like I did:

Tweaks: I adapted the recipe from Donna Hay. Instead of the 2 cups of cream called for - I used 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of buttermilk. In place of the white caster sugar I used raw sugar and cut it down to ½ (from 1½ cup - it was sweet enough for me.)

Cocoa Panna Cotta
  •  ¹⁄³ cup (80ml) warm water
  •  3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
  •  1 cups (250ml) single (pouring) cream
  •  1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
  •  ½ cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  •  1 cup (100g) Dutch cocoa
  •  1 cup (250ml) milk
1. Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine and stir to combine. Set aside for

5 minutes or until the gelatine has been absorbed.

2. Place the cream, sugar, vanilla bean paste and cocoa in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently, add the gelatine and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl.

3. Stir through the milk and pour the mixture into 6 x 10cm (180ml) deep fluted tart tins.

4. Refrigerate for 3–4 hours or until set. Turn out onto plates to serve. Makes 6 For best results, make ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Tip: To turn the panna cottas out onto serving plates, invert the tin onto the plate and shake lightly to release the panna cotta. (I actually soaked the tin in hot water for a few seconds).

I'd like to know, has your health ever changed the way you cook or eat before?


Strawberry Gâteau de Crêpes

>> Sunday, July 28, 2013


It all started with a “I’m not in a mood for the usual cakes” type of gchat conversation with my sister whose taste buds have changed drastically ever since she started eating for two. 
“But make me something different, I'm craving for something sweet”.

Being at work, I tried to recall what I have in the pantry and fridge at home. Have they invented a refrigerator with scanners attached telling me what I have in stock at the touch of my mobile app? Mental note to self - if not, must look into it when I get home and patent the idea asap.

When I did get home, I acknowledged that ideas I come up with at work are sometimes not the best and I also decided to make a crepe cake. That was the better of the two.

This strawberry crepe cake is something that can be made with your usual kitchen staples...and some strawberries of course. I found out that in Australia, strawberries are in season today and everyday as they are farmed around the country in different climatic regions. How lucky we are living here!

This cake reminds of my childhood. When I was a young girl, I was never into cakes or desserts. Until one day, I walked past a fancy cafe in a department store in Taiwan and my eyes caught sight of a very similar strawberry crepe cake - it was the most beautiful cake I'd ever seen. I could not even begin to count how many even layers of golden soft crepes were sandwiching the ruby red strawberries sliced with such precision and the oozing pale cream. And so I just stood there, eating with my eyes until my mum whisked me away to run some errands.
I did go back to the same place a few years later. It certainly didn't taste as good as I had it in my head after all those time. But I can assure you that this one here, 20-something years later, definitely tastes like what it should have (although it does not look as good - the pastry cream did not have time to set in the fridge!)

These crepes are easy to make - you don't even need a crepe pan. I used my normal pan/wok and just measured the batter (1/3 cup) to make sure each layer is the same size.  The sweet, juicy and tart strawberries and the not-too-sweet pastry cream makes for the best paring. I made the crepe batter and the pastry cream the day before, making the assembling day a breeze!


Note: I cut the recipe below down completely by 2/3, resulting in around 10 crepes!

Strawberry Mille Crepes Cake (Gâteau de Crêpes)
Adapted from New York Times who adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. 

For the crepe batter:
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch salt 
  • 2 punnet sliced strawberries
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
For the assembly:
  • Corn oil
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch
  • Confectioners' sugar
1. The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. Batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.  

2. Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.

3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

4. Assemble the cake the next day: Bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes. (Since I cut down the recipe by 2/3, I somehow ended up with ~10 crepes).

5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.

6. Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a very thin layer of pastry cream, then place the sliced strawberries on a thin layer to cover, and then cover with another layer of thin pastry cream. Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (in my case, 10), with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

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