24 Jan 2014

The Best Ever Chilled Cheesecake (+ variations)

I'm on a diet.
Yes. I said it. And this time, it's for real, and I can't mess with it because I just put it out there for the entire world to be a witness to.

Why? Because I've got a wardrobe full of clothes I love and that don't fit me anymore. That's a good enough reason, isn't it?

I'm following the Weight Watchers weight loss program. I chose it because it's a diet that includes all types of food and drink. I'm even allowed a certain amount of treats per week, which more or less allows me to eat a big piece of any cake I like once a week. It also fits with the fact that I like to eat out a lot, and I see it as something I will be able to follow in the long run (not like the super fast diets that make you eat only certain foods, for you to put all the weight back on again as soon as you start eating normally again)

The key is building a balanced diet (incredible, right?!) and planning treats to really enjoy them, rather than just eating any old junk food that comes to hand and which is often not that great.

So far so good, I've lost 1.4kg in 2 weeks. So it's slowly but surely!

The Best Ever Chilled Cheesecake
(+ variations)

God knows I love baked cheesecake like the New York Cheesecake, but this one is undoubtedly my all time favourite. As it's a chilled (not baked) cheesecake, its texture is smoother, lighter. I just love it. 
This base recipe allows you to be creative and personalise your cheesecake by adding any flavour you might like : Fruits, Fudge, Chocolate, Toffee...
Just play with it, and enjoy!


600g cream cheese (full fat)
200g double cream (light if you like)
100g (more or less, to taste) caster sugar
Half a sachet of gelatine + 2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 pack of digestive biscuits (approx 12 biscuits) : hobnobs or ginger nuts
40g of butter, melted
a drizzle of golden syrup
any optional addition : pieces of toffee, fudge, fresh fruit cut in pieces, etc

Make the cheesecake

1/ Preheat the oven to 180deg C

2/ In a food processor, process the digestive biscuits until they ressemble fine crumbs. Alternatively, put them in a freezing bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they ressemble fine crumbs. 

3/ In a large bowl, mix the crumbs with the melted butter and a drizzle of golden syrup until well combined. Press firmly onto the base of a 22/24cm diameter round cake tin with removable bottom (the golden syrup is my personal addition to the traditional recipe. I find that it seals the crumbs together and form a lovely crunchy base). Cook for 10-15 min in the oven until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

4/ In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Add the double cream and mix until well combined. 

5/ Take a break to prepare the gelatine: in a small bowl, mix together the gelatine powder and 2 tbsp of water. Heat in the microwave for 10 sec until the gelatine powder is completely dissolved (add 10sec more if needed), mix well and leave to cool for 1 min.

6/ Add the gelatine to the cheese mixture and mix well. Add the sugar, the vanilla, and mix well.

At this stage, you can add any "dry" addition ("dry" in order not to compromise the cheesecake mixture) that you wish to the cheesecake mix : toffee, fudge, fresh fruits (avoid very juicy fruits like pineapple, peaches, citrus, etc)

7/ Pour the cheese mixture onto the cake base, smooth the top with a spatula, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. Take the cheesecake out of the mould and serve.

Almond and seed brittle decoration (like on my picture)
On a silicone baking mat, spread roughly chopped almonds and sesame seeds.
Make a caramel in a small pan (heat 100g of sugar, with no water. Just let the sugar dissolve without mixing, until the it turns into a golden caramel)
Pour the caramel over the nuts on a thin layer, leave to cool completely before cutting into chunks.
Decorate your cheesecake with little chunks of brittle (they look rough on purpose)  

Blueberry (or other red fruits)
Just drop whole fresh blueberries in the cheesecake mixture before spreading it onto the base.
An hour before serving, make a blueberry coulis by heating fresh (or ideally frozen) blueberries in a small bowl with sugar in the microwave for 2 minutes. Mix and leave to cool completely before pouring over the cheesecake (once taken out of the mould)

Toffee / Fudge
Cut fudge candies in small pieces and add them to the cheesecake mixture before spreading it onto the base.
An hour before serving, make a toffee sauce by heating 50g of light muscovado sugar with 40g butter and 150ml of double cream in a small pan. Mix and cook until it turns to a toffee colour. Leave to cool, and pour over the cheesecake before serving

Picture courtesy of Pierre, who took a picture of my cheesecake very quickly in my lounge before we dug into it!

15 Jan 2014

Chocolat The Travelling Bear - Best of Kerala (India)

The other day, Chocolat my travelling bear found this article of a travelling fox in Metro, and it made him smile, thinking of all the potential travelling stuffed animals around the world, waiting to be discovered (and bumped into!)

As I mentioned before, Chocolat, The Man and I went to Kerala (India) last October.

Kerala is probably one of the great destinations if you wish to visit India for the first time.
It's one of the richest states (rich, by Indian standard of course, which still means quite poor compared to our western countries).
In Kerala, the level of education is said to be one of the highest in India. It results in overall higher standards of living than in other parts of India (you see less people living in extreme poverty than you would in other places), a great tolerance between the several religions represented in the region, and very open-minded and very kind Keralan people.

Keralan food is diverse, delicious, delicate, not too spicy (which is great for unaccustomed european digestive systems). As a large chunk of the population is vegetarian, Keralan people cook stunning vegetarian cuisine, but you can also enjoy many fresh local fish, prawns, lobsters, etc.

Over two weeks, we were able to explore cities (Cochin), the beautiful backwaters, beaches (Varkala), and mountains (Munnar and its tea plantations), making up for a diverse trip over a short period of time. We travelled around in local buses and trains, which (it's true) take a lot of time to cross, compared to what, at home in Europe, would be fairly short distances, but which are such a great way to meet and live like locals. I can only highly recommend it!

I'll soon share some of the great recipes I discovered and brought back from Kerala, but in the meantime, here are some pictures of our lovely trip.

Like us, Chocolat my travelling bear enjoyed every single minute of it!


Varkala Beach

Munnar, tea plantations


Where is Choco?

6 Jan 2014

Plum and pear pie

Happy New Year!
May it be full of joy, wearing an apron or a party dress.
May it fulfil your dreams of richness and creaminess 

May it bring lots of fantastic sights to remember and record through the camera lens.
How were your holidays?
Mine were: 
- for foodies: I made my family discover lots of British dishes and we filled our bellies with large spoonfuls of cheesecake, beef and ale stew, chicken pie, fish and chips, etc
- a bit tiring: I've heard that when you become a parent, your inner "super-self" that doesn't need to sleep more than a few hours a night takes over to enable you to cope with the lack of sleep. Well, let me tell you that this doesn't happen when you become an auntie. 7.30am still feels like the middle of the night to me!

- full of a child's laughter and smiles and great family moments.

In a nut shell, I had great holidays!

old style pear and plum pie recipe

Plum and pear pie

Plums and pears bring just the right combination of sweetness and tanginess to this pie, making it just a bit more exciting than an apple pie.
Super easy to make, the lattice pattern on the top of the pie gives it this traditional and homey look.

2 sheets of sweet shortcrust pastry (I'm not going to give you the recipe for my wholemeal shortcrust pastry yet because I'm not completely happy with it. but a good quality shortcrust pastry from the supermarket will do)
2 pears
5 or 6 plums
3 or 4 tbsp of sugar
20g butter

Make the pear and plum pie:

Preheat the oven at 180deg C.

1. Line a pie dish with 1 sheet of pastry

2. Peel, stone and cut the fruits in large thumb-sized pieces

3. In a pan, gently cook the fruits with the sugar and butter, mixing gently and not to often, for 10 min, until the fruits are cooked but not mashed. Leave to cool.

4. Spread the fruits and their juices on the pastry case. With the other pastry, make a lattice pattern as shown here.

5. Lightly brush the top pastry with milk and bake in the oven for 30 min until golden. Serve warm with cream or custard.

easy recipe pear and plum pie

easy recipe plum and pear pie

plum and pear pie easy recipe

recipe pear and plum pie

recipe old style pear plum tart