Saturday 29 April 2023

Chocolate cheesecake with Easter nest for my blogiversary

Today to mark my 16th blogiversary, I am sharing a celebration cheesecake full of chocolate and colour and just a little gratuitous caramel.  It was actually our Easter dessert at home on Easter Sunday as I saw my extended family on Easter Saturday.  Sylvia and I had great fun decorating it with a clutch of Easter eggs in a chokito nest.  The cheesecake is amazing without the added chocolate decorations but we enjoyed going the extra mile.

I mentioned to my mum that I was planning to make an unbaked cheesecake with cream cheese and condensed milk at Easter and she asked if it had lemon juice.  She has made many of these in my childhood.  No doubt a little nostalgia made the recipe jump out.  When I told my mum there was no lemon juice but it had whipped cream and 400g of chocolate she was a bit surprised but agreed it would help to hold its shape.  It was an intense filling but so creamy and chocolatey and good.  Being egg-free was even better.


We made the cheesecake the night before to give it plenty of time to set.  The Best Recipes website, where I found the recipe, had one person comment that they chop up mars bars to fold through the cheesecake mixture.  We loved the idea.  But we decided to fold through chopped chokito instead.  I loved the chewy caramel of the chokito, and would love the mars bars too.  There was a lot of mixture - you can see in the above collage that it just fitted in the 20cm loose based tin.

We planned to chop oreos to make the nest for the easter eggs but found that 2 oreo packets were equivalent to about one Arnotts biscuit packets, such as Marie biscuits, Arrowroot biscuits or Chocolate Ripple biscuits, that we often use for cheesecake bases in Australia.  Instead I chopped up one of my Chokito chocolate bars.  It worked!  

However my vision had been of a more raised nest,  I tried a bit of cream to help hold the crumbly mixture but it wasn't terribly effective.  I think to build it up you would need to bind the crumbs which would make the nests more smooth than I intended and/or a lot more work, such as these. For those who are curious, the cheesecake mixture does stick to the foil egg wrappers a bit.  The cheesecake is just as good at any time of year without a nest of Easter eggs but it is fun to jazz it up for a celebration.

As you can see in the above photo, the cheesecake holds its shape very well, even after it has been out of the fridge for an hour or so.  I liked the chewy caramel chunks that resulted from folding chopped chokito through the mixture.  But it is not necessary.  The cheesecake was rich and dense.  Sylvia described it as being like chocolate mousse. 

This cheesecake is an excellent combination of an old fashioned cheesecake and a modern ganache based dessert.  It feels like a fine way to mark 16 years of blogging.  The way I blog now is slower and quieter than when I started.  You might say this about my life today compared to 16 years ago but it goes in cycles and there is still much to be savoured.  Over that time I have shared lots of good food with wonderful people both In Real Life and on my blog.  Long may this continue!

And as it is my blogiversary, I will share some of my favourite links of late:

'Scientists create 'flu trap' that 'protects against virus' in The Independent on 21 March 2016.  I was fascinated after dreaming about a flu trap to look it up online and find that scientists had actually found a flu trap.  I wonder if anyone is working on the Covid trap!

'Unattractive people are MORE likely to keep wearing face masks in post-Covid era, study suggests. Attractive people are less likely to keep wearing face masks in the post-Covid era, a study suggests' in The Daily Mail on 3 February 2023.  This was one of the silliest articles I have seen lately (thought there was a was a challenge for silliest by the below UK Sun article.) Actually in the research, it was the participants who judged if they believed they were attractive.  The article suggests mask-wearing has shifted from being about self protection to self preservation.  A lot of interesting judgements here!

'Posh Yobs Vol-au-Vent Meet: Hummus Plot to Spoil Sport: FA Cup and Wimbo at risk' in the UK Sun on 23 April 2023.  Such a wonderfully ridiculous headline that I was disappointed I could find a link to the article but not the headline online.  You can still read about "infiltrating" eco zealot meetings and where they go on holidays and what advice they get from their lawyers.

'"We thought they were going to be massacred": 80 years since forced First Fleet enactment.' in ABC News on 25 January 2018.  This is a very disturbing and sad story of Aboriginal men being coerced to be part of a re-enactment of the First Fleet arriving.  The conniving of the colonising authorities and the terrible effect upon these men is hard to read but part of the truthtelling of Indigenous history of our nation.

'Men named Ken share how they feel about all those Barbie memes' in Huffington Post on 28 April 2023.  The movie is not out yet, but social media is already entranced and using Barbie to amuse us.  One of the people interviewed noted it was a good time to have an ex-named Ken.

'Why we swim: A brief history of swimming from the Neanderthals to slavery to your local pool' in ABC News on 17 February 2023.  Swimming reflects many of the issues of our world; it has been influenced by climate, wealth and race.

'What are the long term health risks of having your tonsils out' in the Pursuit, University of Melbourne on 28 June 2018.  "The research shows that both tonsillectomies and an adenoidectomies are associated with higher levels of allergic, respiratory and infectious diseases later in life."

Other chocolate cheesecake recipes online:

Easter Chocolate Cheesecake

Adapted from Best Recipes

250g Oreos (about 2 x 133g packets)
1/4 cup (50g) g butter melted - 1/4 cup
250g cream cheese, room temperature
395g tin of condensed milk
1 cup thickened cream
200g good milk chocolate, chopped
200g good 70% cocoa dark chocolate, chopped
2 chocolate bars, such as mars bar or chokito, chopped  (optional)
Easter Nest Topping (optional):
1 chocolate bar such as chokito, flake, twix or kit kat (or chocolate biscuits)
Easter eggs
Extra cream or melted chocolate

Use a food processor to make oreos into crumbs.  Pour in butter while motor running and and process until mixed thoroughly.

Press the oreo/biscuit mixture into the base of a 20cm diameter round loose bottomed cake tin.   (I did not grease or line and it was fine.)    Place in fridge to firm up - about 30 minutes.

Break up chocolate.  Melt dark chocolate in microwave for 30 seconds, add milk chocolate and microwave another 30-60 seconds, stirring after each 30 seconds to check if a good stir will melt the chocolate.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Using electric beaters, beat the cream cheese and condensed milk until mixed.  Add cream and, while beating on high, drizzle in melted chocolate.  Beat until well combined and stiff peaks form.  If using, very gently fold in chopped chocolate bars.

Scrap the cream cheese mixture into the cake tin on the base.  Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight. 

To decorate, finely chop chocolate bar or biscuits to crumbs and sprinkle around the edges, using a bit of cream or extra melted chocolate to help it stick.  Arrange easter eggs in the middle of the crumbs to look like they are sitting in a nest.


If you wish to use chocolate biscuits like Chocolate Ripple Biscuits instead of Oreos, use 100g butter rather than 50g butter.  I found the sweet vanilla cream in Oreos gave more sweetness to the crust than I am used to.  I was tempted to try Tim Tams and might do another time.

To help the cheesecake set, make sure to use full fat cream cheese in a block - no light cream cheese and no softened cream cheese in a tub.

The Best Recipes recipe had 1/4 cup of run added at the end.  I ignored this as I wanted it child friendly, and I am not a huge fan of rum.  I would prefer to add Baileys Irish Cream.  Or you could add other spirits or juice.  My cheesecake mixture was pretty thick so I am sure 1/4 cup of liquid would be fine and it would still hold its shape.

On the Stereo:
Fearless: Taylor Swift

Saturday 22 April 2023

Vegemite and three veg pizza

I grew up in a family where we ate a very traditional meat and three veg most nights of the week.  I wasn't very keen on vegetables as a kid.  The ones I liked were potato, pumpkin and peas.  One of my favourite things my mum made every now and again was a mixture of mashed potato, mashed pumpkin, peas and vegemite (as in this post).  I don't think it was a common thing to do.  It seemed quite normal to us and a great inspiration for today's pizza.

As an Australian I grew up eating vegemite regularly.  On toast and sandwiches mostly.  I love the stuff - in moderation of course.  I love trying new products with vegemite and using it in recipes.  I am always wary about using too much as it is such an intense flavour.  (We have all heard stories of foreigners who try it out and hate it because they spread it on too thick.)  I am also aware that it does not spread well and needs some watering down for such purposes.

I wanted a vegemite recipe because this year is the 100th anniversary since it was invented.  Vegemite pizza seemed a good idea and initially I thought the classic combination of vegemite and cheese but then I thought of mum's mashed potato, pumpkin, peas and vegemite.  So I spread pizza dough with vegemite, pea puree, roast potato, roast pumpkin and cheese.  It was so much of my childhood favourites in a pizza as I loved roast potato and pumpkin too. 

My tastes today are quite different to those of my childhood.  In fact I suspect I would not be that keen on the pizza or on the pea puree having tahini in it.  Although it combines a lot of the flavours of my childhood, it is done in a way I would not recognise at all.  But what a way to enjoy reminiscing on my childhood as an adult.  It was a wonderful pizza.  I just wish I had more time to make this sort of pizza more often.

More interesting pizza recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:

Vegemite and three veg pizza

An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Serves 2

1 pizza base - 1/2 fast track sourdough pizza base
1 tbsp vegemite
1/2 - 1 tsp water - (to make vegemite spreadable)
1 quantity of pea puree (see below)
1/2 - 1 cup of diced roast potatoes
1/2 - 1 cup of diced roast pumpkin
1-2 handfuls of grated cheese

Pea puree:
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
1-2 spring onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp onion granules
juice of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon

Make pea puree:

Defrost peas - I did this in the microwave.  Blend all ingredients to make a puree.  I used a hand held blender and the ingredients were in a tall cylindrical container.  Taste and season lightly according to taste. 

Assemble and bake pizza:

Line pizza tray and press base into fit it.  

Mix vegemite and water in a small bowl.  This makes it easier to spread.

Spread the vegemite on the pizza base.  Next spread the pea puree - it is quite thick but this seemed to work well.  Arrange the roasted (and lightly seasoned) potato and pumpkin dice over the pizza.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 15-25 minutes depending on your pizza base and how crispy you like your cheese.


  • This wasn't a quick pizza, even with using a pizza dough that didn't take long.  It required roasting potato and pumpkin, and making the pea puree.
  • The pea puree is quite sweet - to balance with the very intense salty taste of the vegemite, hence it should only be seasoned lightly to give the sweetness a savoury edge rather than overwhelm the sweetness.
  • The pea puree seems like a lot but it worked to have so much. 
  • I have tried to spread vegemite on dough before and it is so difficult to spread that it tears the dough. I have found that adding a little water makes it easier to spread.  I add a little water at a time to see how much I need.
  • I used my fast track sourdough pizza dough for the base.  It doesn't have to be kneaded or rise long and makes quite a thick bready base.

On the stereo:

Silence is Empty: Starsailor

Saturday 15 April 2023

Brisbane: eating out and street art

I have only been to Brisbane a couple of time before for business and not seen much of the city.  I had another brief trip there for a work event in March.  There was no sightseeing but we stayed in the busy inner suburb of South Brisbane area so there were some fine cafes and street art. 

I stayed at Rydges South Bank Brisbane Hotel on the 11th floor but didn't have much time in my room.  I felt like I spent a lot of time in the elevator getting confused about which floor I was on because the display showing the floor number was broken.  The breakfasts were also very good with a (vegan) fry up from the buffet on each of the two mornings to keep me going during busy days.

On the first afternoon I had lunch with my manager.  We walked to the Cordelia Sourdough Bakery (47 Cordelia St, South Bank).  I had the Vegan Bagel (avocado, sundried tomatoes, tomato, balsamic reduction and rocket). which was just what I needed.

It was quite warm when we arrived in Brisbane.  The bakehouse was a pleasant shady place to sit and relax with a pleasant breeze and good food before setting up the meeting.

In the evening I met up with a college friend who lives in Brisbane.  We went to the Grey Street near my hotel where there are lots of nice restaurants the face onto Grey Street on one side and on the other face across Little Stanley Street to the South Bank Parklands by the Brisbane River.  I saw the Arbour arched walkway with its purple bougainvillia flowers, which I remember from a previous visit.  If I had had more time I would have loved to have wandered along during the day to check out the man-made Streets Beach, statues and galleries.  We just had time to check out a bit of street art (above) and a some twinkling tree lights (top photo).

I chose Ahmet's Turkish Restaurant because it was $9 pide Tuesday but I was just as happy to see they offered mocktails.  I loved the Turkish apple tea while travelling in Turkey so I had a "jar" of Turkish apple frappe; an icy drink of apple tea with apple, pineapple and lime juices.  It was very pleasant drink on a warm evening.  I loved all the colourful patterned table linen on the outside tables where we sat.

I had a pumpkin pide which was generously topped with roast pumpkin, red onion, feta and garlic.  It was lovely.  Nicki had a vegie pide with spinach, mushroom, onion, tomato, feta and mozzarella cheese.  I had some of this and it was also nice but as with some vegetarian pizzas was a little soggy.  It was lovely to catch up with Nicki who I don't see very often.

I really liked the caterers we used for our event (FigJam Indigenous Caterers).  We had some really nice food like Spanish-style potato & onion frittata with beetroot relish and anise myrtle, and Scones with bush plum and fresh cream, with riverapple dust.  I was too busy to take many food photos during our meeting but I have a photograph of the wonderful fruit platter which had lots of dragonfruit, figs, passionfruit, grapes, peach, strawberry, watermelon and orange.  I am not sure what the yellow fruit at the top is but I am guessing ebony fruit.

At the end of the first full day of meetings, I walked back to my hotel on the scenic route past lots of interesting cafes.  I was surprised at all the street art.

I really liked this banana painted fridge.  (Traditionally Queenslanders were called Banana Benders so it amused me.)  I noticed a few other painted fridges as I walked about and wondered why fridges were being used as a canvas for street art.  To make people feel cooler in the warmer climate of Brisbane?

As I walked past the South Brisbane train station, I photographed this lovely Indigenous street art (above and below).

I was also surprised to see street art referring to the 1988 World Expo in Brisbane (below).  I remember friends planning to go there.  Now all the talk about town is of the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.  Nicki said it would be crazy but I was sure she would find something to entertain her.  I remember the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne with all the fun cultural activities around the city which we enjoyed without seeing any sport.

I liked these mosaic (diamond?) sculptures along Grey Street near our hotel. (below)

We had a work dinner at Chu The Phat (111 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane) on the second night with participants from the meeting.  I had intended to take a photo of the feast but, at first, dishes came out one by one with just one piece for each person, and for the meat items I got nothing.  By the time we got past all the starters and reached the mains of pumpkin and peanut curry, sesame broccoli, greens and steamed rice, I was so discombobulated.  As the dishes were cleared away, I reflected on how nice it had been and that I should have taken a photo.

The food was actually very good in general and everyone was very impressed by it.  I also enjoyed a Virgin Passionfruit Mojito mocktail of passionfruit, lime, mint and soda.  Chu the Phat was quite spacious and modern but I particularly loved this outside area in "fish alley" with the street art.

After dinner I walked home because I was really full and needed some cool air.  As I walked past the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre I was quite taken by how the lights in the ground not only uplit the tree but also left tree-shadowed patterns on the underside of the roof.

The next day we had a morning of discussions and lunch before heading back to the airport to fly home to Melbourne.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

In my kitchen: April 2023

It is April and we are into Easter and school holidays!  Life continues to be busy.  Over the last few weeks I have had my flu jab and my 5th covid jab.  I have been to see Billy Bragg at the Forum (amazing), taken Sylvia to St Kilda and been to see Everything Everywhere All At Once (mind-blowingly crazy) at the cinema.  We have had a new couch delivered, finally got rid of 20 year old tins of house paint from our shed on my first visit to the tip, and replaced lost cat collar and name tag.  Sylvia has bought a chicken onesie among her online purchases.  Politics has been interesting in Australia with Labour winning the NSW state election and the Aston by-election in Melbourne from the Liberals.  In overseas news, Trump has being charged with 34 felonies in the US.

Easter has been fun with lots of cooking and catching up with family and friends.  Above is a batch of my fave recipe for overnight sourdough hot cross buns and the start of a pate but more about these further down the post.  But let's check out my kitchen, including a lot of foreign foods.

Not only have we been to USA foods in Moorabbin but there is a smaller USA Mart in Sydney Rd, Brunswick opposite the police station.  We love trying out different versions of familiar bars and bought the blueberry muffin Kit Kat and the salted caramel Milky Way.  Sylvia loved the kit kat but I preferred the milky way.

We also bought Cheetos Mac'n'Cheese at the USA Mart.  Sylvia loves the Lord of the Fries mac and cheese balls so we bought a packet of their mac and cheese mix.  Both were nice but not a patch on home made mac and cheese.

We still find interesting groceries at our local supermarket.  Sylvia loved the Subway pizza sub flavoured Smiths crisps.  I enjoyed the native flavours of the Kakadu Plum and Australia Aged Cheddar Kettle crisps. I also enjoyed the sweet potato and rosemary wafer crackers.  The baby roma tomatoes are in the photo because I was surprised to see them in a cardboard box rather than the usual supermarket plastic tubs.  And Sylvia got the Cola Slush Puppy but it is still in the freezer so I can't report back on it.

On our trip to St Kilda we had lunch at Rococo.  Sylvia declared her potato pizza the best pizza ever.  So we plan to be back.  I had a hearty salad and we shared some garlic bread.  I usually have garlic bread that is cooked in food and quite soft but this was fried or grilled and both crispy and buttery.  I had to take home leftover salad and garlic bread, especially after I helped out Sylvia with her pizza.

Acland Street in St Kilda is famous for the amazing cake shops that were opened by European post war migrants.  It is fun to walk between the tables and chairs and tempting window displays stopping to drool over the huge range of cake.  There are lots of light and creamy cakes but always something for everyone.  We bought a slice of apple crumble slice for Sylvia and a florentine for me to take home.

We stumbled across Premium Co Groceries (173 Acland St).  It has lots of Asian groceries but also some fascinating vegan groceries.  I have never seen vegan anchovies before but resisted.  When I saw these vegan corn dogs though I had to buy them.  I don't think I have ever had a corn dog before but they scream fairs, summer, celebrations, freedom and lots of fun and laughter.

Also at Premium Co Groceries we bought Hello Panda bikkies (gone in the blink of an eye), apple Fanta (one sip and abandoned in the fridge), and a Popin' Cookin' DIY candy kit.  I'd never heard of them but Sylvia had seen them somewhere and begged for it. It was really odd.

At home Sylvia made up her popin'cookin' kit.  It came with little mixing bowls, moulds, measuring spoons and stirrers and packets of powder to make it up, as well as instructions.  It looked very impressive when put together but the fizz on the coke didn't last long.  I found it fascinating and frighteningly futuristic at the same time.  It looked like fun making the burger and chips but was more about playing with food than enjoying it.  The resulting candies were so sweet and tasteless that after a few weeks they were thrown in the bin. 

Like a lot of the house, my lemon and lime trees have been neglected lately.  They had grown so bushy that it was hard to get in and keep an eye on them.  I've been worried about citrus leaf miner and started to prune a lot of foliage.  When more of the trees were exposed I was horrified at how much gall wasp had snuck in.  I lost some fruit this way but managed to keep quite a bit and hope this will make the trees healthier.

I was given a new phone cover that I wasn't so keen on.  While my phone was wearing it, Sylvia played with the favoured old one and managed to break it.  So I set out on a search for a green phone case that sparked joy.  I really liked this one by cRasee on Etsy.  I was a little sad that the quote "a well read woman is a dangerous thing" is not as visible on my case as on the online photo but the case makes me very happy.

A while back, I chopped up some vegetables to add to a noodle and tofu dish.  I took the leftover vegies for lunch with some cashews and rice vermicelli noodles.  I had foolishly thought if the noodles had been dunked in water and sat in some seasoning liquid they would soften by lunchtime.  They didn't!  I had to eat around them, add some boiling water and microwave until soft at the end of my lunch.  The next time I took rice vermicelli for lunch with leftovers (tempeh and corn soup), I let it sit a few minutes at home in boiling water before leaving for work.  Lesson learned!

I was in denial about stone fruit season finishing until I went to my local supermarket and found it had no more stone fruit.  Thank goodness there is still some stone fruit in other supermarkets.  I have stewed plums a few times and it does me the world of good to have some stone fruit.  But my fruit intake has markedly decreased with the availability of stone fruit. 

We had another visit to USA Foods in Moorabbin.  I loved these Pretzel crisps with buffalo wings.  I also bought the Egg Rolls.  Sylvia was surprised as she knows I don't like egg.  We don't have egg rolls in Australia and I was also surprised years back when I found out they don't contain egg.  I thought the wrappers were egg but it is a bit more like chiko rolls than egg!  And there are no buffalo wings in the pretzel chips either.  Sometimes there is a lot of reading of ingredients!

We also bought these snacks at USA Food.  Sylvia has discovered just how sweet a lot of American food is, compared to what we are used to in Australia.  But she is smitten with toaster strudels.  The eggo flavoured pop tarts weren't to her liking nor were the caramel apple pops.  She liked the ding dongs more than I did.  I chose the strawberry and dark chocolate kit kat which I sort of liked but found the flavours a bit chemically fake.

It is the 100th anniversary of vegemite this year so there are a few vegemite products about.  We tried the McCains Cheesy vegemite mini pizzas and were disappointed.  The pizzas were slightly sweet and the cheese and vegemite topping was a bit soggy.  However I have tried a far superior home made pizza with vegemite which I will share some time.

When I bake hot cross buns, I insist on making them with dried fruit, much to Sylvia's displeasure.  So I have made her some shapes with the flour and water "crosses" mixture and brush them with sweet glaze.  She was very pleased with them.  Can you see the one shaped like a horse with no legs? 

Easter this year was a bit different to usual.  I had Easter lunch with my parents and siblings in Geelong on Saturday, a friend come over for hot cross buns on Sunday morning, and I made a roast dinner for Sylvia and me for tea.  I was too involved in catching up with family to photograph my meal in Geelong but it was fairly similar to this roast dinner that we had at home: voracious vegan pate with tomato relish, roast potato, roast pumpkin, cauliflower cheese with macaroni, and peas.  The pate went really well with the roast dinner.  I made two pates so I could take one down to Geelong.

We were pretty relaxed about lunch on Easter Sunday.  I heated one of the hot cross buns and filled it with a slice of leftover pate, a slice of cheese and some quandong jam.  I really liked having a bit of savoury in the hot cross buns, which weren't especially sweet anyway.   I find I much prefer hot cross buns to other bread at Easter so this worked well as a substitute for bread in the sandwich.  Highly recommend it to anyone with leftover hot cross buns this year or to keep as an idea for next Easter.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event. If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens and her gorgeous hand drawn header.