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There’s a relatively new craze that seems to be snowballing out of control, maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. I’m talking about raw food. I had heard about it but up until last week I didn’t really think it was for me. I love baked, toasty, warm goods. End of story… Or so I thought. Then along came the Unbakery Cookbook and it piqued my interest. So I put myself to the ultimate test, could I love a cheesecake that wasn’t baked or ‘cooked’ in any way? Yes. Yes I could.

I’d describe a raw cheesecake, albeit rather inaccurately because it isn’t like anything I’ve ever eaten before, as similar to an icecream mousse on a base somewhat reminiscent of a bliss ball. It’s not super sweet but it’s perfect and you could eat it for hours without feeling overloaded with richness. If you eat a lot of sugar normally, you are going to find this cheesecake seriously lacking in that department. All I can suggest is to add more maple syrup, or sweetener of your choice, to give it the boost you need (but seriously, it’s pretty flippin’ good without all the extra sugar).

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In my haste – by that I mean excitement of course – to make this cheesecake, the filling ended up being thrown together after dark. So unfortunately there are no pictures for those steps. Don’t worry, it was just everything thrown in to the food processor and blended together until a very smooth paste formed.

You might have noticed my wee baking paper trick taught to me by my mum. It is a great, no fuss way to line the base of any springform tin without having to trace a circle, cut it out and then make adjustments so the paper circle will actually fit. If you turn the springform base upside down, place a sheet of baking paper on top then clip the whole thing into the ring. You’ll not only save precious minutes but it’ll make it much easier to lift the cake off from the base which is especially good for cakes you don’t want to invert onto a cooling rack thus marking the top.

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A great tip when working with sticky mixtures such as this base is to wet the back of a metal spoon with very hot water. This stops the mixture from sticking (for a short while) and when it does start to stick again simply rewet. It’s super easy and will save a lot of time and frustration.

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Voila, the cheesecake is ready!

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There are certain things I’ve always thought would be a superb idea to make at home and yet somehow I always end up buying a pre-made version at the supermarket. Lemon and barely cordial was one of them, vanilla essence the other (of course the list extends much further than that but i’ll refrain myself). High quality vanilla essence can be ridiculously expensive especially if you go for the organic, top shelf stuff *guilty* so when I was given a mountain of pods I knew exactly what to do.

The whole concoction takes about as long as you’re willing to give it. It’s kind of like fruit cake though, the longer you leave it to mature and develop the better it tastes (although if you don’t like fruit cake then that’s a pretty bad example). This bad boy has been in my pantry for two weeks now but I’m probably going to leave it for another month or so before I start using it. Don’t strain out the black little spots when you’re ready to use it, treat them like gold. Vanilla seeds are great aesthetic enhancers in cakes, icings, ice creams and sweet muffins as well as lending loads of extra flavour.

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With Christmas just around the corner (yes we’re talking about Christmas and it’s not even December) if you whip this up right now and leave it to infuse in your pantry you’ll have super special little gifts for family and friends.

Multiply or divide the following recipe at will.

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Why would anyone go to the trouble of making their own almond milk? Well, the suppliers of nut milks have you fooled. It costs nowhere near the excessive prices featuring at your local supermarket and, surprise, surprise, it can be made in a pinch (disclaimer: it does require overnight soaking). You will also be needing a super hardcore hand blender or a stand blender – please no food processors, it’ll end up in disaster.

While normal milk is delicious, nutritious and very hard to beat, I have recently decided to try and cut out lactose for couple of weeks. Basically I’m testing to see if it changes my abnormal amount of coughing. Coughing that tends to increase exponentially whenever I pig out on yoghurt (my main lactose vice). Yes, I could buy lactose free milk but where’s the fun in that? I now have the opportunity to test out all the different nut milks and still pay less than lactose free milk.

Naturally when needing a delicious, spot-on, vegan/raw/vegetarian recipe I turned to my ex-design teacher. After scouring the internet I noticed that her ‘rule of thumb’ recipe had significantly less nuts in it than others. If you want something even richer, milkier and nut flavoured you can add more nuts but do try this reduced number first. It was the perfect amount of nuttiness without overpowering my morning muesli. You can also add a teaspoon (or less) of maple syrup into the nut milk or blend up one date per 500ml right at the very end. Taste it before sweetening! You may be pleasantly surprised.

Oh and did I mention this ‘rule of thumb recipe’ works for all other nuts as well? If you don’t have any almonds at hand try hazelnut or cashew.

At the end of your milk escapade you’re going to have about two tablespoons of almond meal. If making larger batches than I, I highly recommend you dry them on low in the oven, or in a dehydrator, then store then in an airtight container in the freezer. You can use the almond meal later on in cakes, cookies, smoothies, muffins, etc. or you can choose to leave your milk unstrained thus eliminating all that fuss. It’s really not a fuss, but it’s less fuss than no fuss if you catch my drift.

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Wow.

This is the greatest cookie I’ve eaten, so far.

I think I’m still in shock.

Let me start by saying that The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is a treasure trove of flavour combinations and played a huge role is my random addition of the two spices, nutmeg and cardamon. If the book hadn’t been staring at me while I wondered how to make this cookies a bit more special I highly doubt I would be as elated as I am now. I found the book when I was out shopping with mum one day and we both instantly fell in love with it. Needless to say it’s a heck of a lot cheaper online and if you’re living in New Zealand I recommend going to fishpond and buying it from there as it’s almost $10 cheaper than book depository. I don’t know whether they ship outside of New Zealand though which is why BD is the link used above. Anyone who loves to bake will be guaranteed to fall in love with this book.

Now back to the cookies. I’ve made many double chocolate cookies before but they have never been like this. The combination of the spices add a level of depth to the cocoa that I’ve just never experienced. It’s kind of like adding coffee to your brownie mix. You can’t taste it but we all know the brownie tastes a million times better with it than without.

These cookies also have half the amount of sugar the original recipe asks for. I don’t know about you but I don’t like over sweet baking. If you do, add an extra cup of white sugar and cream it in with the brown. That or you can always use a combination of milk and white chocolate if you don’t want to add in the extra sugar. Personally these are sweet enough as they are and all the more moorish because of it! When they cool completely the almonds get really crunchy which is quite delicious despite the chocolate flavour overpowering them somewhat. They are in there more for the texture than for the cookies to be almond flavoured. Obviously the chocolate is the hero in this recipe (there were quite a few complaints in the original recipe’s comment section about that).

Best eaten warm when the chocolate chunks are still a little molten. I think I shall have another one right now…

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What is this? Two posts in less than a week when in recent months it takes weeks for a new recipe to come up? Well it just felt so mean to leave everyone hanging for a week while they had their caramel sauces ready to go with no sticky date pudding to accompany it. Also, last night I hashed together one of the most delicious cookies I’ve ever made and/or tasted. I was so excited I realised that I couldn’t wait two weeks to share it with you. So, in honour of instant gratification, this post is getting shoved forward so next week I can share the most moorish, delicious cookie recipe with you. Yes I realise that is setting high expectations, and no I don’t think it will fail the imaginary, impossibly high standards of the masses. Well… *knock on wood*

I’m going to level with you, the reason or inspiration behind whipping this up the other night… I’ve never had sticky date pudding. For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated dates. Well the dried ones at least. I figured out I love fresh dates a couple of years back but that is entirely besides the point. Typically I (used to) avoid anything with dates in it because rationally, dates are not delicious, so anything with dates will be equally not delicious. Right? Wrong. Well I’ve learnt my lesson now and while I still won’t go near a dried date. I officially love things with dates in them.

So if you were like I was, or if you weren’t I urge you to try out this pudding recipe. It’s so simple and easy it hurts. The great thing is it doesn’t taste easy to make, nor does it look it, so you will be winning many hugs and praises if you make dessert tonight I promise. Pair with vanilla bean ice cream and the crowds will go wild.

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Caramel sauce, or otherwise known as butterscotch sauce, is wonderfully easy to make and tastes a million times better than store bought. For this recipe I just used a standard soft brown sugar but I imagine a light muscovado sugar would be delicious. Admittedly, I didn’t make this sauce – I was busy playing computer games and my partner wanted the sauce to be done so he could have his sticky date pudding drenched in caramel; for once he was more impatient than me for dessert.

While caramel sauce doesn’t keep forever in the fridge, it should last up to two weeks. That’s about the same amount of time cream would last in the fridge. It will get a bit firm sitting in the fridge so if you want it more sauce-like, heat in a pot on low until desired consistency is achieved or, in a microwave, blast it in ten second bursts. Either way works fine although I always find the stovetop way means I can keep a closer eye on it. This is the perfect accompaniment to just about any pudding, cake, ice cream or sticky date pudding (sorry but that recipe comes next week! In the mean time, have a sneak peek)

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I think sometime in the near future I will have to post up my chocolate fudgey sauce that is both rich and chocolatey without a single piece of actual chocolate in it. Brilliant right?

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After four solid weeks of work my block course “Designing For Events And Festivals” is over. Now for a week break before I charge head long into major project. Hopefully with one less paper I will find more time to bake as much as I was last year. Although there is now the problem of who will eat it all; there are significantly less hungry mouths to feed than when flatting with a whole bunch of friends. No matter, food attracts people like moths to a flame – I am sure I can find someone to pawn my food off to. Perhaps I should even start selling it?

This is a great, quick to make, on-the-go snack that satisfies those gnawing pangs of hunger before they grow too strong. It’s definitely healthier than store bought muesli bars as well. It’s gluten free and with a quick swap from honey to agave it can be vegan friendly too! If you’re allergic to nuts then using a seed butter such as sunflower would allow you to join in on the energy ball rampage.

The energy balls are a little chewy (no complaints here, I love it like that) but if that’s not your jam then I suggest using quick cook oats instead of wholegrain rolled oats. The recipe in itself is hugely customisable as well. Chocolate chips or dried fruit can be added with a bit of extra peanut butter and a bit of honey helping to keep the balls together. I would also recommend dabbling with spice combinations such as cinnamon and cardamon or a splash of vanilla. I however did none of this, as my pantry was rather bare bones at the time.

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Just before we get into the recipe, here is a quick preview of the installation my team and I have been working on the for the last four weeks. They are glass jars suspended from the ceiling with macrame hangers filled with UV reactive liquid that glows under a black light. The picture doesn’t really do it justice but if you squint your eyes and tilt your head to the left you can sort of imagine what it would be like. Enjoy!

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Why Thursdays? Well it might change in another two years but for now I love it. I hope I’m still food blogging in two years! So to mark the change in name, a beautiful hand chalked inspirational quote – because who doesn’t love them? By Bijdevleet in the Netherlands. Hello and happy Thursday everyone x

*edit: It turns out this was my 60th ever blog post too! Well timed, well timed indeed.

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It finally hit, the winter flu. Right in the middle of my block course as well. Darn. Naturally, this meant a trip to the supermarket to stock up on all things vitamin C and comforting. I ended up with a strange combination of lemon, honey and fresh ginger drinks, and Cookie Bear hundreds and thousands. I believe it’s important to always balance the healthy with the not-so otherwise where’s the fun in being sick? Oh wait… Anyhow, getting me through my sneezy, eye watering mornings is this muesli. A recipe my mum passed on to me after I complained about not having enough protein in my diet. Thanks mum!

I made it about a week ago now but hadn’t found the time to post it up (The result of a block course as I’m sure you’re all aware. An entire semester in 4 weeks you say? No problem.) The great thing about this, as is with all muesli’s, is the optional inclusion of just about everything under the sun; dried fruit, different nuts, more nuts, no nuts, seeds, seeds and more seeds! Have it with milk or nut milk, yoghurt, poached fruit, fresh fruit, all of the above. I’m getting a bit carried away here but you catch my drift.

The last thing before you get stuck into the recipe is a mini announcement. Designerfoodie will be changing its name (this coming Thursday) to Thursdays and becoming a ‘.co.nz’ instead of a ‘.com’. Why I hear you ask? Well if we’re going to be honest I never really liked designerfoodie but it made sense at the time and two years later I still hadn’t thought of a better name. In high school I used to bake a huge batch of cookies on a Wednesday night to be ready for all my friends at school the next day, Thursday. Thursdays are also, in my opinion, a little underrated. So don’t be surprised when the URL changes, designerfoodiecom will link to thursdays.co.nz until it expires in October.

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I think this is the first brownie (stuffed full of delicious chocolate) that I’ve come across that somehow manages to not be dense, fudgey and feel like a satisfying weight in your stomach. In fact the brownie literally melts with each bite. I have no idea what I’ve done or why it turned out like that (perhaps I should have been a food scientist) but I love it! Despite being so delicate when eaten, they hold together really well and for all intents and purposes – they look exactly like a dense brownie.

You could ramp this bad boy up further by swapping out the chopped dark chocolate with some white chocolate drops, desiccated coconut or swirl caramel into the top, that’s the beauty of brownies – versatility. Or you could use this as the base in the raspberry cheesecake brownies I made some while back.

Enjoy!

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