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Award winning (!) Kiwi, Lime and Ginger Cheesecake

28 Jul

The cheesecake (minus the kiwis!!)

This recipe (save for some tweaking) appeared on my blog when it started, just over 3 months ago.

When I saw the Ocado World Recipe Challenge (to celebrate the world cup) I just had to enter this recipe which is a delicious and easy crowd pleaser. And I am pleased to say, that with the help of some friends, my lovely blog readers, and the enduring love affair that most of us have with cheesecake, the recipe ‘won’ the challenge, and was the most popular recipe out of the finalists. If, like me you are an Ocado shopper, then click the link here to the recipe, and in one easy click, you can add the ingredients to your shopping basket.

My reward, apart from bringing the secret of a quick and easy dessert to the time-pressed, is £200 to spend on a Virgin Experience Day.  I am currently debating between a chocolate making workshop, a case of wine or a day at a spa. Decisions decisions.!

In case you missed the recipe the first time around, I have published it again here. If you do give it a try, and I would love your comments letting me know how you got on.

For this recipe you will need

A round 23cm springform tin, greased and lined

250g ginger nut biscuits or 100g digestives or shortbread biscuits and 150g ginger nuts

100g melted butter

1 tin condensed milk (yes really – condensed milk. Just trust me on this one)

2 x 250g tubs mascarpone cheese

5 unwaxed limes

Method

Make biscuits into crumbs either in the processor, or by placing them in a large (strong) clean plastic food bag and pulverizing them mercilessly with a heavy implement, like a rolling-pin. This can be quite satisfying. Mix with the melted butter. Press into base of tin, then put in fridge to set for at least half an hour, or if you are running late, try 10 minutes in the freezer.

While that is chilling, zest 2 of the limes (I use the microplane) and then extract the juice from them all. Limes can be awkward little devils, and reluctant to give up their juice. When they are warm, you get more juice out, so I often pop them in the microwave to warm them up.5 or 10 seconds per lime. I would probably put them all in and zap for 30 seconds altogether.

Empty mascarpone into a large bowl. Add condensed milk and lime juice and zest. Mix until combined and smooth (do not overmix or it becomes a little thin). You can do this by hand or with the electric beaters (about half a minute works for me).

Empty mixture into the tin, over the biscuit base. Cover with clingfilm, then place in fridge for at least 4 hours. Remove from tin once set and place on serving plate (I often leave it on the tin base, rather than risking a collapse).

Serve

Stand back and wait for the compliments. They will come. I promise..

Alternatives

If you don’t like limes you can make this the traditional way, using lemon juice and lemon zest (juice of 2 lemons, zest of 1), and plain digestives.

The gingernut biscuits are quite hard and make the subsequent base quite hard. As a result I tend to combine them with digestives or shortbread biscuits to alter the texture but retain the ginger taste, which contrasts well with the lime.

If like me, you make the mistake of only buying one tub of mascarpone, I have used half cream cheese. The result is a bit less firm, but still delicious.

Taste the mixture before you place it in on to the base. If you prefer a bit more zing, add the juice of another lemon or lime.

Go on, treat yourself. You deserve it

Birthday Party for a 4 Year Old Boy. Part 3. The sundries, the party bags, the entertainment…

23 Jun

I’m not sure when children’s birthday parties turned from a very easy to organise group playdate (in my childhood), to the angst ridden ‘ I have to throw my child the best party ever’ type of even that sends even the most cool and collected mother into overdrive.  I don’t recall the party bags of my childhood containing much more than a bag of sweets, a balloon and a piece of cake, yet now parents are so anxious that their child’s party is success, I have known mothers that have spent several hundreds of pounds, paying for entertainers, handmade luxury cakes and party bags containing gifts that rival the type of gifts the child might receive. 

So now, I would like to urge you to quell those fears that might send you on a midnight supermarket extravaganza, take a deep breath, and stop the madness!  Easier said than done I know.  I too have ‘over gifting’ and ‘over-catering’ urges, that I have to keep in check.  But it is possible. And lets face it, all the children usually want, is to run around together and a bit of chocolate. 

Party Invite

 

Invites. We made ours this year. Not because I am a mad keen crafting mummy. Simply because I couldn’t find invites in our chosen theme (Disney cars) and a had a box of stickers and an afternoon to kill. The recipients loved them, especially as each invite contained their name.  A morning occupied and a job completed. Result! 

The Party Table

 

Firstly the decor of the table. I really am not keen on being over-themed at a party. You know. Your child likes a toy. You buy the tablecloth, the plates, the cups, the hats etc. To my eye, it’s all a bit busy. I don’t mind buying one or two things, but it can add a lot to your bill to get everything in the one theme, and once the table is laden with food, nobody can see all that branding anyway.  I prefer to opt for plain old paper banqueting roll (more eco than plastic), then maybe one thing (like plates) in the party theme. 

Balloons. I usually order 2 or 3 helium balloons that i use to make a birthday ‘throne’ for the party girl or boy, then a big bag of multi-coloured balloons (or single colour theme if you prefer). 

Party games 

For Davids party this year I was lucky enough to have good weather so most of the games were abandoned as the kids played in the garden.  But just in case you are not so lucky, here are a few ideas aside from the ubiquitous (and almost compulsory) pass the parcel. 

  • Ice your own biscuit. Buy plain biscuits (I like shortbread), then leave icing and sprinkles on the table for the kids to decorate their own
  • Ice your own cupcake. As above but with buttercream icing and plain un-iced cupcakes
  • Make an edible  necklace. Use liquorice as the string, and thread with cheerios or hula hoops
  • Face painting. Rope in older children and any available adults to paint the childrens faces.  I am pretty hopeless at it, yet the kids still love it.
  • Treasure hunt. Either make a trail with clues for older ones, or simply hide fun-size sweets then get the kids to find them
  • Pin the tail on the donkey. An old scarf can be the blindfold, and you can draw the donkey on some paper in advance with the kids
  • My childhood favourite. The mars bar game. Get the children into small groups of about 6. Lay out hat scarf, gloves etc. Also lay out a chocolate bar (like a mars) on a plate with a knife, and fork. Get the children to throw the dice in turn. When they get a six, they have to dress up, then cut into the chocolate bar before they can eat that piece. While they are racing to do this, the others furiously throw the dice in turn, trying to get a six. If they are successful, the person dressing up has to stop and pass the clothes on to the new winner.  This game kept us occupied for hours as kids.

Party Bags 

Like I said, these seem to have got out of hand.  While I admire the generosity of some parents, I can’t also help feeling some guilt about the amount of landfill these bags filled with 5 minute gifts often contain.  I therefore tend to try to opt for something that might get some use before ending up in the bin.  I also hate plastic bags, which again will end up in landfill. So I either get paper bags that we decorate ourselves, or this year I simply wrapped the party ‘prizes’ in plain paper and decorated with stickers. 

One good option (although more popular with parents than kids I fear) is books. If you choose a retailer like The Book People, and buy a set of books that you split up, add a balloon, some chocolate and the cake, and you have organised a lovely, useful and fairly eco-friendly gift. 

This year I put the following in Davids Party presents 

  • Colouring book (in party theme)
  • Bubbles (also in party theme)
  • Balloon
  • Kinder chocolate and biscuit

Probably not the most exciting gift in the world, but hopefully one that might get some use and some smiles, before retiring to the landfill site. So that’s me done. Luckily our party season is now over until February, so I can relax, and pick up a few more ideas for next year from other busy mums. 

Please post your thoughts and comments too. I am always on the lookout for new ideas and shortcuts.

Birthday Party for a 4 year old boy. Part 2. The food

21 Jun

Food at a child’s party can be a social minefield these days. Everyone has their own ideals and standards about what is ‘appropriate’ fare for a child’s party, and I am no exception. (How much easier our parents had it, in the days when crisps, fizzy drinks and hydrogenated fats were all the rage!!)

Not everyone has the time, or the inclination to prepare the food themselves.  In the light of our current ‘how on earth are we going to pack up this house in 4 weeks status’ I was almost tempted to make a mad dash to M&S myself. However, there is something truly satisfying about putting something home-made and personal.  I find the trick is to keep it simple, and to try not to do too much. A little advance planning, and a shopping delivery, meant that the preparation took about the same amount of time as if I had ventured out to the supermarket to buy everything.

MENU

  • Sandwiches – Ham, Cream cheese, Cheese, Marmite (about 4 rounds of each type)
  • Cocktail Sausages
  • Sausage Rolls
  • Breadsticks
  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Skips and Hula Hoops
  • Fairy Cakes
  • Vanilla Ice cream in cones with sprinkles or a flake
  • Fruit Juice drinks or mini- bottles of water

    cookie cutter sandwiches

You may wonder if it is possible to give a ‘recipe’ for sandwiches. Not really. But there are a couple of tips and tricks I have picked up along the way, that make life easier. The first is to get the butter out the night before you need it, so it is very soft and spreadable.  Also, the quality of the bread matters. I tend to buy a premium brand, medium sliced loaf. It’s not what we have usually but is perfect for these type of sandwiches.  And here is a tip I learned from Mary Berry. You can make the sandwiches up to 2 days in advance. I didn’t on this occasion but I have been known to make them the day before. To keep them fresh, cover the sandwiches in damp (not wet) kitchen towel, then double wrap in cling film. Keep them refrigerated. The damp kitchen towel and cling film will stop them drying out. I like to get the children involved with the cookie cutters (saves cutting the crusts off) so we usually offer a variety of shapes and sizes.

Stars and circles

Cocktail Sausages. On this occasion I bought them ready cooked. Don’t send me to the gallows just yet. I usually prefer to cook them myself as I find the pre-cooked ones a little dry, but on this occasion time was short, so needs must.

Jazzed up 'home assembled' sausage rolls

Sausage rolls. I do not make these from scratch. Its more of an assembly job. I bought some sausage meat, added chopped sage (from garden) and shallots (from freezer) then wrapped in ready-made puff pastry. Cook for about 20/25 minutes on 190 degrees. I have also been known to squeeze out the contents of sausages onto the pastry as the filling. Tastes much nicer than the shop version, and really not an awful lot of effort. My 2yo happily joined in with this little exercise.

Breadsticks. Remove from wrapper and place in beakers

Crinkle cut cucumber

Cucumber – Peeled and cut with a crinkle cutter

Grapes – An abundant supply. Washed and de-stalked

Watermelon – Chopped into small pieces. I bought a mini- watermelon which has hardly any seeds. Served in a large trifle dish. This was a big hit with the little ones.

Fairy Cakes – I used the Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Cupcake recipe and placed Disney Cars rice paper cutouts on top. I also helpfully forgot to take a picture! If you are short of time, then leave the uniced cakes out on the table with the icing and some sprinkles, and the kids can create their own.

Vanilla Ice Cream.  I have been known to make my own!  On this occasion it was shop bought. I still like to check the ingredients as many use Invert Sugar Syrup and other unappealing ingredients. I opted for a supermarket own brand Organic Vanilla type, which had a fairly innocuous ingredients list, and served it in a cone, with my childhood favourite flake 99.

This amount of food was enough to feed about 12 children, and a few hungry parents, and the leftovers were polished off by myself and the OH for dinner. A complete carb overload, but totally satisfying!

Watermelon Heaven!