If life sends you limes…

…. make cheesecake.

Those are little flecks of lime zest, nothing more sinister. Not my most impressive food photography, but it was a total afterthought…

Our nearby farm shop sent out an appeal recently, asking local residents to do at least some of their fruit & veg shopping there to help keep it afloat. So I obliged. They had some very nice sugar bananas, beautiful pumpkins, and a basket of lovely limes. The first two are on permanent cycle through our kitchen, but I don’t normally keep citrus in the house, I tend to buy it when I need it. These were too nice to pass over, large and glossy and obviously full of juice.

I’ve made many no-bake cheesecakes over the years, mostly with mango or passionfruit, but it was Time for Lime. This cheesecake is light and airy and has just the right amount of zing : creamy. I also didn’t make the base too sweet. The gelatine gives it reliable set without the need for baking, and there’s comparatively little sugar. I also used lactose-free cream and Philadelphia cream cheese, but the Husband couldn’t tell the difference, and certainly the texture and performance are the same as the regular stuff.

Ingredients 

Base
150g/6oz plain tea biscuits/Graham crackers (I used Arnotts Milk Arrowroot)
100g/4oz unsalted butter, melted
1½ tablespoons raw/golden granulated sugar
1 pinch salt

Filling
500g/18oz cream cheese*, at room temperature, chopped into chunks
½ cup caster/superfine sugar
½ cup lime juice (approx 2 large limes)
Zest of 2 limes
4½ tsp powdered gelatine**
300ml/10oz whipping/heavy cream, very cold

Directions

Make the base:
Line a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Turn the base upside down before you do so, as this will make removing the cheesecake much easier. Process the biscuits into the texture of dry sand. (If you don’t have a food processor, put the biscuits in a resealable plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin or heavy-bottomed pan.) Mix in the melted butter, sugar and salt until well combined, like wet sand. Pour into the lined cake tin and, with a ramekin, wine glass, or anything with a flat base, press and pack the crumbs into the bottom. Refrigerate until ready to fill.

Make the filling: Sprinkle the gelatine over the surface of the lime juice in a microwaveable bowl and stir to dissolve as much as possible. Allow to bloom and turn gelatinous. Microwave on high for 15 secs, stir and repeat. Stir until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Cool for 5 minutes. Put all ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for a couple of minutes till aerated and smooth. (You could also use a hand mixer, but it will take longer – and start on low speed or it will splatter.) Pour this filling onto the chilled base and smooth off the top. Refrigerate for 3 hours at least.

I barely lasted that long… certainly not long enough to remove the baking paper from underneath 😉

 

*Don’t use the whipped, dip-type, use the block, Philly-type.
**I used powdered because that’s what I have.

The Travels of Mouse, Part 5

We went to see my mate Diesel Dog!

Diesel Dog

Yesterday, Mum and Dad and Aunty Chippy and Uncle Jonathan and I all went over to Diesel’s. The humans talked and drank tea and coffee and ate cake, and Diesel and I explored his back yard, had good sniffs and then went for snoozes. The Dads went up the back yard to Uncle Wayne’s shed and talked about man stuff, and the Mums sat in the shade on the patio and talked about lady stuff, including Blogs, whatever they are (This is a blog, Mouse – Mum). I’m sure they should be talking about Dogs, not Blogs…. The Aunties are now ‘friending on FaceBook’ and ‘following on Instagram’ (more human noises, I dunno….).

Uncle Jonathan is taking the photo…

Then they had lunch. I didn’t have any, of course, but this is what I could smell: home made focaccia, butter, buffalo chorizo, three kinds of cheese, samosas, tamarind relish, mint relish, mushroom-stuffed red peppers, zucchini pickle with onion and mustard seed, rocket pesto, Japanese mayo with preserved lemon, honey, grapes, walnuts, pineapple cake and mascarpone.

I still prefer Diesel’s mat to my own comfy quilt…

They took photos, too. Aunty Dale showed the house and the back yard and the vegetable cage and her stained glass potting shed. Diesel got them to throw his toy so he could catch or retrieve it. I just lay about looking decorative. Aunty Dale had bought me a present! Dried duck liver treats!  Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to help myself, so most of them are still sitting in their bag on top of the wardrobe, out of my reach…. She gave Mum a kilo bucket of honey and a jar of tomato and chilli chutney, which Dad will steal for himself once he discovers it… Mum gave her the Woolly Thing and the teapot picture she made. I still think my present was best…

Aunty Dale has bought Diesel some really smart clothes! He has overalls, and a denim jacket, and a puffa jacket, and a Hawaiian shirt with pineapples on it… Mum told me not to get excited, it wasn’t going to happen, although she is still going to make me a hi-vis sweater for winter walks when it’s dark. It will be fluoro yellow fleece and have stripes of orange and reflective tape down the side, to make sure I can be seen. Sounds very nice, but I still have overall envy – they were dark blue denim and had a pocket on the bib on his back, and a hole for his tail… Aunty Dale says he loves them, and always gets very excited when it’s time to put them on.

Then we came home via the Lookout so Mum and Aunty could take photos. There were lots of black clouds on the way, and Mum had to cancel the dinner booking because the dog-friendly table is outside and we couldn’t all sit there in a downpour. But it was OK, because Aunty Chippy arranged takeaway, and we were warm and cosy and the Staff had curry and I had proper food. Mum said it was a record day – despite wearing a bright pink linen shirt all day, and eating lots of drippy things, she hadn’t spilled on herself once! I thought it was a good day too. Playtime with Diesel, a back yard to roam around in, lots of good things to sniff, and everyone said what a good dog I am.

Today, Mum and Aunty are going to sew and eat Mum’s banana cup-cakes. None for me, of course (I am apparently a Very Bad Boy where banana cup-cakes are concerned). I don’t know what they mean, I am only an innocent, much-maligned doggo who has never, ever stolen banana cup-cakes… And of course, I am a Lovely Boy and a Good Doggo (most of the time, we won’t mention cup-cakes, will we?). Mum says it’s for my own good, so I maintain my figure.

It’s raining again, so I shall stay with Dad while he reads, and supervise… with my eyes closed.

Sweeeeeet!

Another gardening first for me.

We’ve harvested our first pineapple. It’s not very big, but then it has been the beneficiary of total neglect, scant water, altogether too much sunshine, a fair bit of humidity, and the gentle attentions of the dog: booping it with his nose (big mistake, ouch, prickly!), brushing past it rudely and coming perilously close to actually peeing on it.

It smells divine. The sort of fresh, tangy, sweet, intoxicating smell you will never, ever get from a shop-bought fruit that has been harvested at a time not necessarily its peak, travelled, been stored in a cold room and then lain around in the shop for a week or two.

So, well, it’s at the peak of ripe perfection right now, and needs eating right now. I’m thinking with Greek yoghurt on muesli. The Husband is in favour of grilled, on a ham steak, with perhaps a fried egg on the side. Well, he’s a bloke, what do you expect?

Either way, I shall be keeping the top and sticking it first in a pot and then in the ground to root and start its own pineapple plant. Remember the tiny baby pineapple flower I showed you months ago? This is the final fruit.

Baby pineapple

From 3cm across in the photo on the left to the full sized ripe fruit above. The old plant has fruited and will eventually die back, never to fruit again. The leafy top is the way to get it all going again.

More delicious tangy sweetness, one day.

Stink Eye

No one can stink eye like a dog.

Having got up at 6am to feed his Majesty, two carefully prepared bowls of rather tasty food, I poured myself a cup of coffee, grabbed a banana cupcake and retired back to bed. Normally at this point, there is a session of dog worship. He’s allowed on the bed this one time, after I’ve put a cotton bedspread over my precious heirloom quilt. He gets admiration and intensive strokies.

So I settle into bed with coffee and banana cupcake beside me. I call him. He comes bounding in and does a standing leap onto the bed. And then he freezes. The nose swivels. The nose wiffles… and then swings inexorably towards my banana cupcake. He begins to reach for it. I tell him No in a very decided voice. He lies down, reluctantly, still sniffing. I pick up my cupcake and he thrashes upright. Well, OK then. He’s not going to give up. He gets more NO!

He leaps off the bed and hunkers down into his best sphinx position. I dig in. I glance down and I am getting stink eye unto the seventh generation, straight down the barrel of his aristocratic needle nose. Clearly, in his mind banana cupcakes are ALL the property of Mouse Dog, I am now eating his food, and it is beyond the pale. I hold his eyes while I bite into them, asserting my dominance over this tasty, crumbly, bananan-y morsel. He stalks off in outrage, and is currently sulking on his bed. Note to self: do not eat banana cupcakes in front of dog, it is mental cruelty.

Mum 1, Mouse 0.  Mwahahah!

The strange case of the banana cupcakes

It was a complete mystery.

To begin with, we’d smugly imagined we had the only greyhound in existence who didn’t steal food carelessly left within reach for more than 10 seconds. Biscuits, toast, chicken soup and full meals had all survived the ‘needle-nose test’. Foolishly, we congratulated ourselves on having a most unusually angelic hound…

Until today.

As previously mentioned, we have a lot of small, sweet bananas ripening in the garage, and I wanted to use some of them up. So it was a banana bread and cupcake baking session this morning, using my favourite recipe:

Banana bread
2½ cups self-raising flour
3 mashed bananas (or 5 of the small sugar bananas)
¾ cup of soft dark brown sugar
3 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
½ cup sultanas
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F
Mix everything together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl till there is no visible dry flour left. Dollop the batter into cupcake cases or loaf tin(s) and put in the oven – 25 mins for cupcakes, 40 mins or so for loaves. Check with a skewer after 30 mins, and cover loaves with foil after 30 mins if necessary.

We did half and half: one smallish loaf, and a batch of 9 cupcakes. Half a dozen of the latter disappeared with cups of coffee for lunch. I left the remaining three on a plate beside my chair while I did something else for a couple of hours. It didn’t even occur to me to move them… When I came back and thought about photographing them for a post, they were gone. Plate empty. Initially, I suspected the Husband, but he disclaimed all knowledge. I looked at the dog. Innocent expression… lack of dismembered cupcake remains… no bits of paper case…

Eventually, I tracked down the scene of the crime.

A few random crumbs. No other signs, not a shred of paper. Clearly, they were excellent cupcakes!

Of course, he had to eat them on my beautiful rug….

 

In case you’re concerned, I’m not worried about the quantity of chocolate or sultanas he’s ingested. There was only half a cupful of each in one loaf and 9 cupcakes, and while he had three cupcakes and may have an upset tummy for the next day or so, I don’t think the amount is going to be very harmful.

Short stuff

We’ll start with the good stuff.

The bananas are ready!

These little babies are Ducasse or sugar bananas. You cut the stem before they’re fully ripe, or you’ll lose the lot to the possums, birds and fruit bats.  You then hang the stem in a warm, airy place (in this case, our garage), and cut the hands off as they ripen. It’s going to take a while to get through this lot, they’ll ripen fast and we’ll need some help, so I’ve already given some away. Neighbours and family will all be eating bananas for a while.

Now for the not so good.

My 97 year old father is in hospital with a broken femur. They found him quickly after he fell, and surgery was the same day. If all goes well, he’ll be up and walking in the next day or so. We’ll see how that goes, but he’s 18,000kms away and there’s a 10 hour time difference… It’s  hard to just wait for information.

And my eye infection is back, with a vengeance, and now it’s in both eyes. I have stronger antibiotics. If that doesn’t do the trick, the next stage is a bit alarming: CT scan, hospital, intravenous antibiotics. So I’m strongly favouring the antibiotics doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. It’s been 12 days since this nonsense started, and instead of just one site of infection I now have three. I feel like I’ve been punched in the eyes, and it’s not nice.

I’m not having a good time right now. These things are sent to try us…

Jelly roll

Not the fabric kind, just for a change!

On Wednesday, I picked over and halved 2 kilos (nearly 4½ pounds) of cumquats, covered them with water, and simmered them for 2 hours till tender. I then put them in a muslin cloth, first in a colander over a bowl, and then tied into a bag, hanging over the bowl, for the juice to drip out. I didn’t get a whole lot, as these cumquats are tiny and not very juicy, but what there was had a powerful zing and perfume.

Thursday morning I weighed the juice and did the pectin test. Plenty of pectin from the pith and pips in the fruit. Then I added an equal weight of white sugar (no need for jam sugar with extra pectin), put it in a pan and slowly brought it to the boil. I then simmered it slowly, skimming the froth that came to the surface, until the temperature reached 105°C/221°F. Then I tested for set, dropping a blob onto a saucer I’d had in the freezer. That went back into the fridge for a couple of minutes. Once it was cool, I pushed a finger through the blob. If it wrinkles and leaves a clear track, the jelly is ready. I had to give it another 5 minutes, but then it was done, and I decanted the jelly with a ladle and wide-neck preserving funnel into two hot, sterilised jars and quickly screwed on the lids. After about 15 minutes, the ‘button’ on the lids sucked down, and I knew I had a good vacuum.

And that was it. From 2kg/4½ pounds fruit and about 700g/25 ounces sugar I got 800g/28 ounces jelly, one full 500g jar and one three quarters full.

It’s not a large return on the investment of time, but the jelly is delicious, beautifully set, and the fruit was free, so I’ll probably do it again some time.

Many thanks to Elizabeth for her friend Elgar’s recipe, which was simple and very clear.

I only have about 300g fruit left – I had to pick out ones which were squishy or going mouldy. I’m tempted to get a bottle of vodka and steep the remaining fruit in it. It worked a treat with the limoncello I made a few months ago, and the flavour will be very different.

Cumquat jelly on hot toast this morning for breakfast. Yummmmmm!

Orange and black

No, I’m not planning a Halloween quilt. Bear with me.

First, the orange. I’ve been given a shopping bag full of beautiful cumquats (or kumquats, if you prefer). The neighbours have a tree full of these tiny orange jewels, and the smell of them is intoxicating. I’ve always loved cumquat marmalade, about the only marmalade I do love, and I’d like to make some. But oh, the labour of cutting up and de-pithing and -pipping these tiny things.

They really are very, very, very small. So my question is, does any-one have a recipe for cumquat marmalade that doesn’t involve picking all that stuff out? Can I just cut up the fruit, leave in the pips and skim them off at the end? I’ll do it ‘properly’ if I have to, but the idea of standing at the bench for what will probably be hours is not enticing.

And now for a bit of black. His Lordship the Mouse is settling in nicely. We have the routine established, and it involves me getting up sharpish at 6am to give him breakfast.

I’d sleep in if I could, but a cold wet nose in the ear is a marvellous alarm clock. After he’s engulfed his breakfast, I let him out to, um, commune with nature for a minute or two, after which he comes screeching back up the back yard at greyhound slow gallop, and then he goes back to bed (his bed) for another hour or so while I catch up with emails and the blog. At 7am, I shower, dress, make the Husband’s sandwich with ‘help’ from Mouse, and around 8am I get a call to say the Husband is 20 minutes away, so it’s time to clip on Mouse’s harness and lead, pocket some treats and the zapper for the garage door, and off we go. Mouse is now used to Big Girl the truck, so we hand over the sandwich when the Husband pulls up at the bottom of the hill, and then go for a walk so he can check out all the smells and disdainfully ignore all the dogs stuck in houses and yards who bark at him as we pass.

And then he spends most of the rest of the day sleeping. And yes, he does ‘roach’, or sleep with all his legs in the air…

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Figs, Fries and Sunny Skies

We’re heading homewards.

After a final delicious meal in Cairns at the Botanic Gardens – which are, by the way, magnificent – it was time to up sticks and wagons roll, turning our faces reluctantly southwards again.

We have the process of breaking camp by heart now, and once the alarm goes off at 7am, we slip into well-oiled routines, each with our own jobs to do. By lunchtime we were back in Cardwell. This time, I’d opted to forego a crab sandwich in favour of visiting the Pie Cart (anyone seeing a pattern here?).

We ate our steaming hot beefy lovelies at a picnic bench under the old candlenut trees in the park. The trees are beautiful, very old and bent, with deeply fissured bark, glossy oval leaves and hundreds of green candlenuts hanging on stalks. They’re amazing fruit, providing all sorts of uses, and the trees themselves are magnificent.

Onwards through the rain, though we came into Townsville dry, to find they’d allocated us the powered site with the best en suite shower in the entire park. Yeah, baby, power showers! Today we met fellow blogger Manic Mum for lunch at The Ville Resort-Casino at the Marina in Townsville to sample a delicacy whose fame has spread far and wide.

No. Not fries.

Doughnut Fries!!

That’s not potato, it’s cinnamon-spiced doughnut dough, cut into sticks and deep fried. It’s then laid on a bed of chocolate sauce (not tomato sauce as you might have thought), and sprinkled with white chocolate flakes (not shaved Parmesan) and a couple of slices of strawberry. Yup, that last item might have thrown you a bit.

I have to say, they were absolutely, gobsmackingly delicious.

And this is where they were being served.

And yes, that’s Magnetic Island in the background. Just out of idle curiosity, we asked how much it would cost to stay there for a night. Oh, only $260…? We’ll stick to the caravan park. Anyway, I’d call that a pretty good send-off on the last full day of our holiday. We tootled back to Miz Lizzie along The Strand, prime beachfront real estate lined with massive old Moreton Bay Figs. The one below had a multiple trunk about 7 metres across.

Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 7am again, and we’ll swing into action for the last leg, Townsville to home. Yes, lunch will be at Jochheim’s in Bowen again. I’ll be going on a pie and chocolate exclusion diet when I get home, so I need to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves!

Signing off till we’re back. It’s been a blast having y’all along 🙂