Easy Sour Cream Baked Cheesecake with White Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Raspberries

“If there’s cheesecake in the house, I’ll have some.” ~ Kelly Ripa

Every year a dear friend comes to our farm to hang out, write and celebrate her birthday. And, of course, birthdays need good cake.

Our cake of choice this year was a simple sour cream cheesecake which we then fancied up with a white chocolate ganache and some fresh raspberries and a drizzle of dark chocolate for the prettiness factor.

Result? A creamy, tangy melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake with that lovely fresh contrast of berry and a hint of lemon. So, so good!

Ingredients and method:

Base

  • 250g plain sweet biscuits (I used Butternut Snaps)
  • 125g melted butter

Method

  1. Prepare a 22cm springform pan by greasing lightly and then lining base with baking paper.
  2. Crush biscuits in food processor until in fine crumbs. Add melted butter.
  3. Press firmly into base of pan. You can take the mixture up the sides of the pan if desired. Chill until needed.

Cheesecake Filling

  • 500g cream cheese
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • finely grated rind of one lemon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius/ 338 Fahrenheit
  2. Cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
  4. Add vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream and lightly fold in.
  5. Pour into tin and bake one hour.
  6. Cool in pan on bench and then chill.

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 250g white chocolate
  • 250ml (one cup) sour cream

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or use a microwave in 10 second increments on medium to low heat, stirring after each session until chocolate is completely melted. Allow to cool until almost starting to set.
  2. Stir in sour cream.
  3. Spread over top of cheesecake and then place fresh raspberries on top. Drizzle with a little melted dark chocolate for a pretty effect.

Holiday At the Farm!


“There is more to life than making a living. Do not work more than you live.” ~ Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Hello, Lovelies!

Right now we have a friend and her little girls vacationing with us here at the farm. Each day the girls have farm chores to do – watering the gardens and fruit trees (it is very dry here right now), feeding the goldfish in the big ceramic pot that sits by the front door, and feeding some hay to the cows and all the new little calves. It’s a late calving season this year, and we’ve had three new calves in the past week and another few will probably arrive soon too!

Amidst all the farm work there has also been time for breakfasts at our favourite Byron Bay cafe, swims in the pool, outings to the bookshop, cooking lessons in my little farmhouse kitchen, time for reading and for colouring in our January Mandalas.

I’ve still been working, sneaking off into my office to write blogs, work on our retreats and courses and to do readings for clients. But work has that relaxed holiday feel to it, and it has been a pleasure to sit down at my desk every day to write and craft our projects for the year ahead.

Yesterday was particularly exciting. We decided that dinner would be a cocktail party on the verandah. No special reason – just because we could.

It was compulsory to wear a flower in our hair, and we all put on some party clothes. Ben chose a great selection of music, and then we sat outside and snacked and talked and laughed the night away. We also had a great box of cards that we took turns choosing, that prompted us to share something we were proud of, grateful for, favourite songs, achievements. That part was probably the highlight of my day!

I made non-alcoholic mango cocktails for the girls, and we adults shared glasses of Prosecco with preserved hibiscus flowers in the bottom of each glass for a fancy party effect.

Our food included fresh local oysters and prawns (shrimp), and a selection of cheeses and dips, crackers, olives, cold meats, fruits and snacks. Delicious. And of course a few morsels seemed to slip off those platters and into our dogs’ tummies. Although I can’t see how that happened!

What can be better in life than creating new shared memories with friends?

Today? More Planner time for me, a little writing time and cooking lessons: foundation biscuit mixture and variations, and later we’ll make tacos for dinner.

I’m wishing you a year of balance, connection, fun and meaningful work too.

Much love, Nicole ❤ xx

Nana’s Easy Pavlova Recipe


“Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.” 
~
 Natalie Babbitt

We have a friend and her young daughters staying with us right now. The girls love to help me in the kitchen, and for their mum’s birthday I helped them to bake and decorate their first pavolava, which is a favourite dessert of their mum.

This recipe was given to me by my Nana, but it was actually her own mother’s recipe. It’s a very simple pavlova – a fluffy marshmallow-centred pav with a thin crisp meringue crust.

It’s almost impossible to stuff up, and the whole thing is prepped and in the oven in around ten minutes. An hour and a half to bake, some time to cool and then it’s ready to eat.

If a six and eight year old can master this recipe you can too! (Can you see the princess in the pavlova? Hint – her eyes are blueberries and her nose is a raspberry!)

Enjoy,

Much love, Nicole ❤ xx

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1.5 cups castor sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour, sifted
  • extra cornflour for dusting baking paper

Method

Preheat oven to 130 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees if fan forced (That’s 260 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees)

Line a large tray with baking paper and then use a plate and a pen to draw a large circle. Take the baking paper, crumple it and then lay it out flat again with the circle face down so no pen gets on your pavlova. Lightly with cornflour, which will prevent the pavlova from sticking.

Whip the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer on high speed until they reach soft peaks. Dump in all other ingredients and then keep beating for ten minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Spoon the mixture out onto the baking paper using the circle as a guide. Build from the edge in. Then use a spoon to smooth it a little and the centre a little lower – this will form the nest when you fill the pavlova later.

Bake for 1.5 hours. Turn off oven and allow to cool in over for another hour. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Fill with whipped cream (you can sweeten it slightly if you prefer. We used 300ml of cream and a tablespoon of castor sugar). Arrange sliced fresh fruit of your choice on top. Good toppings include berries, kiwifruit, mango, banana, stonefruit and passionfruit.

Best eaten soon after compiling as the meringue will soften over time from the cream.

A Snack Platter Dinner Is A Legitimate Thing!


“I believe in a benevolent God not because He created the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo, but because He gave us snacks.” 
~
 Paul Rudnick

Our neighbours came over for dinner last night.

We get together quite often, and many times our dinner is not a proper meal. Instead it is a dinner of snacks.

Our friends will bring some. I will rustle some up. Fresh harvest from the vege garden – maybe some little tomatoes, green beans or a nice crunchy capsicum (bell pepper), crackers and dips and cheeses and relish and nuts. Maybe some leftover salad or roast meat or vegetables. Whatever else we can find that is snacky.

Then we add wine, or bubbles, or tea. Throw in some good conversation and a few laughs. Music, of course.

Perhaps something sweet to finish. Fresh fruit or whatever biscuits, cake or chocolate is hiding in the pantry.

Maybe, after a while, some kind of game. Cards Against Humanity is a favourite.

Quite often I’ll make us all a Golden Milk latte or a mug of chai to round out the night.

It’s an easy thing to do, to throw together an assortment of snacks. It’s low key, and if you’re tired or unwell it makes having company a pleasure rather than a chore, which is as it should be!

The energies of 2019 suit relaxed get-togethers and shared company. Maybe you could try a snacks platter night some time soon, and ask all your guests to contribute.

Hugs and love, Nicole❤ xx

Simple Christmas Baking and Treat Recipes

“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.” B.C. Forbes

 

It’s less than a month until Christmas, but there is still plenty of time to whip up a tasty treat or two to share with friends, to gift, or to make your own Christmas a little more yummy.

One of the things I love about food as a gift at Christmas is that it is something almost everyone appreciates, and it is a consumable so it won’t add to the growing mountain of plastic waste, pointless gag gifts and credit card debt.

When you share your gifts think about using wrapping and packaging that won’t cost the earth. Go find an old tin or some pretty old china at the Thrift Store, or wash and reuse glass jars with a circle of bright fabric or paper tied over the lid to make it festive. Cardboard, paper, ribbon, string, fabirc, waxed cotton and flowers from the garden all make great packaging and decoration too.

Here are some of my favorourite Christmas cooking ideas. All of them are easy, quick and well-tested by at least one of my Christmas Elves (Ben, Rufous, Cafe Dog, the neighbours or the staff of the Bangalow Post Office!) and me. Just click on the link to go to the recipe.

Macadamia Shortbread Recipe

 

Easy Fruit Cake Rum Balls

 

Festive Fudge Recipe

 

Heavenly Chocolate Brownies

 

Gluten-Free No Bake Yummy Slice

 

Last-Minute Christmas Cake Recipe

Five Minute Fudge

 

Easy Peach and Vanilla Jam Recipe

 

Prize-Winning Coconut Ice

 

Green Goji Bliss Balls (Healthy but AMAZINGLY GOOD!)

Much love, Nicole  xx

 

 

Easy Fruitcake Rum Ball Recipe for Christmas

“You little beauty! I wait all year for these Rum Balls!” ~ Michael the Tractor Man

 

We live on a farm, as members of a small regional community here in the Byron Bay Shire. Each year we use the same services, eat at the same cafes, shop at the same markets. Over time the people who staff these places have become friends – people whose names we know and whose lives have become intertwined with our own.

So at Christmas time we love to share gifts with the people who have served and supported us throughout the year.

I’m planning to make my Festive Fudge, shortbread and Christmas cakes to give as gifts. But I’ve been in bed for most of the past month so my preparation is behind and today Ben will be seeing the man who services our mowers and chainsaws, and the man who repairs and services our tractors. So we need rumballs, stat! With Bundaberg Rum, of course, because that’s how we roll in this household. It’s tradition!

These rumballs are one of the fastest and easiest recipes I know. And oh my goodness, they are DELICIOUS!!! Fudgey and flavoursome, great texture, and not too sweet. I whipped up these Easy Fruitcake Rum Balls last night, in about twenty minutes from start to finish.

If you don’t like the taste of rum try brandy, Frangelico, Kahlua, Tia Maria or even Grand Marnier. Need it alcohol-free? Substitute rum flavoured essence, vanilla or hazelnut syrup or even a coffee essence.

And if you live somewhere hot at Christmas time make sure to keep the finished rum balls in the fridge. In fact if it’s meltingly hot where you are you may need to chill the mixture first before rolling it.

Happy making, lots of love, Nicole xx

Ingredients:

  • 1.2kg of fruitcake (Buy two x 800 gram dark fruitcakes and use one and one half cakes)
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) of dark rum
  • 3 x 200g blocks of dark chocolate
  • 3 to 4 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut (Note – you could substitute chocolate sprinkles for some or all of the coconut if you prefer)

Method:

  1. Choose a large bowl. Break the cake into tiny crumbs in the bowl and then sprinkle the rum over the cake. Mix well and leave to stand for five minutes.
  2. If you have a  microwave melt the chocolate by breaking the first 200g block of chocolate into pieces in a heatproof bowl. Melt on medium for one minute. Stir and then melt on medium for another 30 seconds. Stir and if all melted add chocolate to cake mixture. Stir well.
  3. Repeat process for remaining two blocks of chocolate, melting and mixing one block at a time.
  4. If you don’t have a microwave use a double boiler  – break all of the chocolate into a large bowl and place the bowl over simmering water. Stir until melted. Add the chocolate to the fruitcake mix in thirds, stirring well after each addition.
  5. Take heaped teaspoons of mixture and roll into balls using your hands. If it’s boiling hot in your kitchen chill the mixture a little first to make it easier to roll. Toss the balls in coconut to cover. You should get upwards of 80 balls. (Results vary depending on how much you eat while making!)
  6. Place on a tray or in a container in one layer and refrigerate until firm. After the balls are hard you can stack them on top of each other, but wait until they are set or they will lose their shape.

Here is the recipe and the taste test in pictures for you (and you’ll notice that Rufous Dog has managed to sneak into yet another food pic) 🙂

 

Aunty Doff’s Easy Weet-Bix Fruit Cake

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.” ~ Giada De Laurentiis

 

I was given this recipe by Aunty Doff, who was my Nana’s beloved sister. We stayed at her home on the Central Coast of NSW once when I was in primary school and she made this cake to welcome our Dad and us after a long drive. Of course, I asked for the recipe! This is a terrific simple bar loaf and I made it countless times during my school and university days. It could be whipped up for afternoon tea, and have enough left for our lunchboxes the next day. Better yet it’s the kind of cake that is pulled together from humble pantry staples.

There’s nothing fancy about this cake, but it is moist and flavoursome and easy for kids to whip up on their own. You just need a large bowl and wooden spoon, some boiling water and an oven.

Don’t be afraid to substitute the fruit for whatever dried varieties you have to hand. I’ve also used drained canned fruits such as pie apples, apricots, peaches and two fruits chopped into pieces and that’s delicious too. If you use canned fruit feel free to substitute half the boiling water for the juice from the can for extra flavour.

if you want to add chocolate chips or nuts to your cake add them at the end of making the batter so they don’t go soggy.

This cake is great on its own, served warm with ice-cream or yoghurt as a simple dessert, or served cold and spread with butter. It will keep well if stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about five days. If using canned fruit in your cake keep the cooked cake in the fridge. Enjoy!

The Heppell Family, early 1940s, Sydney. Dorothy (Aunty Doff) is 2nd from the left, and Joyce (my Nana) is on the far right.

Weet-Bix Maths

*If you’ve only got Weet-Bix crumbs don’t let them go to waste. One Weet-Bix biscuit crumbled is about 1/3 cup. So 1 and 1/3 cups is equivalent to 4 Weet-Bix, or about 65 grams. If you don’t have Weet-Bix substitute a similar breakfast cereal. I’ve used Sultana Flakes and also All-Bran with good results.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 Weet-Bix, crushed (*See note above)
  • 1 cup of raw sugar (I often use half a cup, and yes you can use plain sugar or brown sugar or you favourite sugar substitute too)
  • 1 cup of mixed fruit, chopped into small pieces if fruit size is large. For today’s cake I used a mixture of sultanas, dried apricots and dates.
  • 3 Tablespoons of butter (60 grams)
  • 1 cup boiling water (250 ml)
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • Optional – your choice of 1/2 cup of chopped nuts or seeds for top of cake. Today I used Walnuts and Sunflower Seeds

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
  2. Place the Weet-Bix, fruit, butter, sugar and boiling water in a large bowl. Mix well and stand for five minutes.
  3. While the Weet-Bix softens line a Bar Tin (8cm x 25cm) or cake tin of your choice with baking paper. Don’t get too fancy. No-one ever died from having an imperfectly lined tin!
  4. Add all other ingredients to your wet ingredients and stir well.
  5. Spoon mixture into the prepared pan. Using a wet hand pat the mixture into the corners of the tin and flatten it gently so that the batter is evenly distributed. If you are using nuts or seeds sprinkle them onto the cake and press them in lightly with a clean hand.
  6. Place in oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed or a skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Cooking time will vary depending on what size tin you use, and what kind of fruit and flour you choose.
  7. Cool for five minutes and then remove from tin and place on rack to cool.
  8. Enjoy eating your delicious cake, courtesy of Aunty Doff’s great recipe!

Look below for the step-by-step pictures…

 

How To Soak Dried Fruit For Your Christmas Cake!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” 
Calvin Coolidge

Do you make your own Christmas fruitcake each year? If you do it’s time to soak your fruit, in preparation for a flavoursome and moist cake. If you don’t why not join us and make your own. I promise it’s easier than you think, and the taste of a homemade Christmas cake will always surpass a store-bought one. My grandmother Marga taught me the importance of fruit soaking for a great-tasting cake, and I think of her every year when I prepare my fruit.

Here are my two favourite Christmas Cake Recipes. Both use 1.2kg of mixed fruit. Good combinations include raisins, currants, sultanas, mixed peel, glace cherries, cranberries, prunes and dates – but use what you prefer. I often buy a kilogram bag of mixed dried fruit and then add a 200g bag of glace cherries. To soak this much fruit I use a cup of liquid – either alcohol or black tea. Don’t use a fruit juice to soak over time as it can ferment or go moldy!

This first recipe is for a traditional ‘Make and Mature’ cake. This involves creaming together eggs and butter, sifting in the flours and spices and fruit and then slow baking. The texture and aroma of this cake are so incredibly good. (It’s the cake that is featured in the picture at the top of this post.)

Traditional Christmas Fruit Cake

The second is my ‘Last-Minute’ Christmas fruitcake. You literally melt and mix this cake in a big saucepan on the stove. It has no eggs and is a condensed milk fruit cake. So good! I know, it’s a recipe that can be made in a hurry if you didn’t have time to soak your fruit and ‘feed’ your cake, but it will taste even better if you’re organised enough to soak your fruit in advance.

Last-Minute Christmas Cake

No matter what recipe you choose, or even if you already have a recipe of your own to follow, the first step is to soak the fruit to make it plump and flavoursome.

What To Soak With And For How Long
You can use alcohol or black tea. With alcohol use dark rum, brandy, sherry or whiskey. My choice is usually a dark rum or brandy. Soak with alcohol for up to one month.

With black tea you can use a standard cup of very strong plain tea, but it also tastes amazing to use a flavoured black tea. I have used a vanilla-scented black tea, and also a chai tea and both of these added depth of flavour. If using tea soak for up to two weeks.

Note: If you live in an especially hot place fruit can ferment. Make sure to keep it in a cool dark place (away from pets, small children and thieving partners) while it is soaking.

Cut Up Your Fruit First

Prepare the fruit by cutting any larger fruits into bite-sized pieces. Remove any pits or small stalks that you find. I usually leave cherries whole if small or cut them in half if they are super-big because I love the visuals of them studded through my cake, but feel free to leave whole or to cut as small as you desire.

Then make one of two choices.

1. Place your chopped and sorted fruit into a large ceramic bowl. Pour the alcohol or tea over. Stir well. Cover the dish with some kind of lid. Don’t let any metal touch the fruit.

2. Try my jar method. Take a large glass jar, big enough to fit your fruit. Layer the fruit or mix together and then spoon into jar. Add alcohol or tea. Place lid on tightly and then turn jar upside down a few times to distribute liquid.

Stir or upend the jar occasionally until the fruit is plump and moist and ready for your cake.

If the liquid is completely absorbed you can add a little more, a tablespoon at each time, every few days. This is known as ‘feeding your fruit’.

When you are ready to bake your cake take the fruit out of the bowl or jar and reserve any syrup that is left behind. This can be used to brush over the cooked cake (which is known as ‘feeding your cake’ but it is also good on ice-cream!

Sending kitchen happiness your way, Nicole ❤ xx

 

Salted Caramel Rice Pudding Recipe

“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something. ” 
Mich Ehrenborg

This simple rice-based gluten-free dessert is a modern twist on a family favourite. The pudding is sweet, creamy and has that salty more-ish kick.

It can be easily made using your favourite kind of milk, so vegans and people with food intolerances can enjoy a dessert that everyone else in the household will love too. I often make this recipe with coconut milk, but have also made it with soy milk, rice milk and almond milk. It works well with cows milk too if your tummy likes that kind of milk.

The pudding can be enjoyed warm or cold.

PS – I have also been enjoying adding a few spoonfuls of collagen powder to this recipe. I have a connective tissue disorder, so adding gelatin or collagen hydrolysate to my soups, stews, smoothies and other recipes has helped me to improve my joint, cartilage and ligament health, skin elasticity, gut function, nails and hair. (Obviously, if you are a vegan you would avoid this step as collagen is an animal product.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup short grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 litre of milk of your choice
  • 1/4 cup of coconut blossom sugar (If you can’t find this then use palm sugar or brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Extra salt and sugar to taste. Optional: Coconut yoghurt to serve.

Method:

  1. Bring the rice and water to the boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
  2. Add milk, a little at a time, stirring well.
  3. Add sugar and stir well. If you are adding collagen powder put it on now and stir well so that it dissolves.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally so that rice does not stick to bottom of pan.
  5. When rice is thick and creamy, and grains of rice are soft add vanilla and salt. Taste and then add more sugar or salt if necessary.
  6. To serve spoon into bowls. Top with a dollop of coconut yoghurt, a drizzle of cream, or your favourite fresh or canned fruits.

This will keep well, covered and refrigerated for up to four days – if it lasts that long!

 

Retro Party Food Catering For the Non-Cook

Carly and me and the Retro Seventies Pineapple ‘Horses Doovers’ Tower

“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.” 
Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

 

Are you a party-goer who can’t cook?

Or perhaps you are thinking of a retro-themed get-together with some family or friends? And you are also a domestic disaster or perhaps completely lacking any kind of kitchen equipment beyond a sharpish knife.

Never fear, we have the solution!

My dear friend Carly and I lost a friend suddenly some years ago. Kate was hilarious, madly individual, and the most horrendous cook I have ever met. Nothing she made ever turned out. She mostly lived on fruit, minute noodles, cheese and bread. But she has two dishes for which she was famous – a gala savoury creation she called her ‘Horses Doovers (Hors D’oeuvres)Tower’ which is a Retro 1970s pineapple studded with canapes, and ‘Cupcake Kebabs’.

In honour of Kate’s life and friendship Carly and I recently whipped these up for a very special celebration, and they were very well received.

So, if you can’t cook to save your life but still want to impress at your next party, try Kate’s recipes. You and your food will be a hit!

Sending big Retro hugs to you, Nicole ❤ xx

 

Horses Doovers Tower

Ingredients:

  • one large fresh pineapple that stands up nicely without wobbling
  • cubes of cheese (Cheddar or Colby is good)
  • kabana cut into rounds
  • small pickled onions
  • stuffed olives
  • small dill pickles/cornichons
  • cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • tinned pineapple pieces
  • toothpicks

Method:

Thread toothpicks with a selection of ingredients, one of which must be cheese. Leave space at either end of the toothpick. Press toothpick into pineapple. Cover entire surface of pineapple and then add some additional filled toothpicks to the serving plate at the base of the pineapple. Serve with your favourite party drinks, music and disco dancing.

Cupcake Kebabs

Ingredients:

  • assorted mini cupcakes
  • small wafer biscuits
  • jam roll cakes cut into slices
  • any other small cakes or cake pieces of your choice
  • marshmallows
  • kebab sticks

Method:
Thread cakes, wafers and marshmallows onto skewers. Pile onto a platter and serve with champagne or cups of tea.