Baking| Vanilla Quark Cheesecake {Vanilla Quarktorte} with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with white carpet is one of them.”
Erma Bombeck

Vanilla Quark Cake with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries Sorry I’ve been missing yet again and feel like I fell off blogland with life testing me at every level. A mothers life is tough, and know I am not alone. For times like this, this gorgeous moorish Vanilla Quark Cheesecake {Vanilla Quarktorte} with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries offers a perfect boost to the senses!Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries A celebration of surviving motherhood, being alive and knowing that food brings ultimate comfort! I love a good cheesecake. Who doesn’t?Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries Living in India, a cheesecake was quite an alien concept about 10 years ago. The internet brought with it delicious food blogs with myriad cuisines and delightful desserts, one of which was a cheesecake. Ingredients like Philly cream cheese were difficult to come by and very expensive locally, so began the quest for an easier option.Quark curd cheeseThat brought me to discover a most wonderful curd cheese, quark, which is far easier an option IMHO. I have repeatedly made it at home successfully, with varying degrees of fat, and love experimenting with it. The good thing is that you can plan ahead and make it 2-3 days before you intend to use it and its an inexpensive option, and possibly lower in calories too.Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted StrawberriesVanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted StrawberriesStrawberries have all but disappeared but I had a jar of roasted balsamic strawberries in the fridge. Fruit in desserts still is one of my favourite experiments, whether baked like here, or then in frozen desserts like in this Strawberry Fro Yo. As the mercury rises, the very fragile strawberry is hardly visible at the fruit vendor, but delightfully enough, cherries ave begun to make an appearance!Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted StrawberriesYou can make this with a balsamic cherry topping, like the topping I used in this Bittersweet Chocolate Marquise with Crème Chantilly & Balsamic Cherry Sauce about a year ago, last Mothers Day! Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries The quark in this  Vanilla Quarktorte lent beautiful texture and flavour to the cheesecake, as Mr PAB commented … quite like the cheesecake we had in Toronto in 1996! Some tastes linger on and it is always rewarding to hear a positive recollect!Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted StrawberriesThe colours and flavours all come alive in this remarkably easy preparation. The base is simple, and made a little more yummy {and healthier} with some almonds thrown in. The batter too is very simple and made in a jiffy. Its a great make ahead dessert that rests overnight. If you have time, do top it with roasted sweet strawberries or cherries. I would love to do a chocolate variation one day, hopefully soon!Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Balsamic Roasted StrawberriesUntil then, enjoy this beautiful dessert. A Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful women … it’s just round the corner! Vanilla Quark Cheesecake with Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

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{Cooking} RICOTTA & CREAM CHEESE CHILI POPPERS with KIWI SALSA

“Fresh fruits are so untainted. We don’t process them, cook them or package them. There are some fruits out there that are packed with natural energy that kids like, like kiwi fruit, … Kiwis are part of the super fruit category. One kiwi has all the vitamin C you need for the day.”
Robert Stanley
I’ve had a busy few days, and then to add to the mid summer madness, the folk from Perfect Relations were wonderful enough to invite me to a couple of foodie events this past month. There were 2 invites to EAT {European Art of Taste}, a program supported by the European Union and the Italian Government that aims to present the best of Food and Wine from Europe. I made it to one, and wasn’t able to attend the other. Did however manage to make it to the Zespri Kiwi Fruit Launch hosted by  HE Mr Rupert Holborow, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India, at his residence. The largest sole exporter of Kiwifruit in the world, ZESPRI International, entered the Indian market on that day, May26th, 2010, and the launch was held amidst much green kiwifruit glory in the presence of  Mr. Cliff Fuller, New Zealand Trade Commissioner & Mr. Daniel Matheison, Zespri Regional Market Manager, Southeast/South Asia.
Considered to be the best in the world, ZESPRI® Kiwifruit can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, anytime as it is naturally fresh, full of flavour, safe and good for your health. ZESPRI offers an innovative range of premium quality kiwifruit products: ZESPRI® GREEN, ZESPRI® GOLD and ZESPRI® ORGANIC Kiwifruit. The fruit pack a natural protection punch, with a combination of beneficial nutrients which is more concentrated than many other fruits. ZESPRI® GREEN and GOLD Kiwifruit are great sources of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids and other antioxidants. They also have a low glycaemic index (GI) and are low in fat – so they’re perfect to eat every day to assist with natural protection.
At the High Commissioners residence, there was a mind boggling array of kiwi  fruit delectables  doing the rounds. Since it was an evening launch party, on offer were finger foods like ‘herb chicken and kiwi vol au vents‘,  ‘tomato and kiwi bruschetta‘, ‘cheese and jalapeño poppers with kiwi salsa to name a few. The bar also offered a wide variety of mocktails and cocktails kiwi fruit based and otherwise! It was an eye opener to see the kiwi creativity on display, and that’s how I came up with inspiration for these poppers today.
Left over mania! It was time to clear the fridge as we are off on a small vacation to Gangtok, a town nestled within higher peaks of the Himalayas at a height of 4715ft. These poppers are a tribute to the ever versatile and the nutrient packed kiwi, a fruit that contains so many vitamins and minerals, it’s truly bursting with goodness. Zespri is the brand of choice available at most outlets around where we live, so I bought a couple the other day. The last remaining one went into this salsa, and was kept good company by 2 apricots that were left over as well.
The poppers were darned delicious little bites. They got created in an attempt to use up some left over home made ricotta that I had made for roasted bell peppers and ricotta bruschetta 2 days ago. I eye balled the ingredients, and have to say these little poppers were wonderful. {For those who don’t like the eggy smell in food, the egg in here didn’t add any eggy flavours}. Be cautious while dealing with hot oil, and keep the poppers small / teaspoon sized batter drops, else they tend to spread and flatten. To check if the batter consistency is alright, I drop a little bit into a small bowl of water. If it rises immediately and floats, I am good to go. If it sinks or disintegrates, I add a little more flour, to bind it and test again!
The poppers made for fun snacks, and are pretty nice at room temperature too, only not as crisp as when hot. For more recipes, you can check out the Zespri site, which I just discovered. There’s plenty of fun kiwi based recipes there!

Ricotta and Cream Cheese Chili Poppers with Kiwi Salsa
250gms ricotta, well drained {home made recipe here}
3-4 tbsps cream cheese {I used Brittania cheese spread}
1 egg
4 tbsps plain flour
1-2 fresh green chillies, {or jalapeños}
1/2 tsp salt {cream cheese has salt of its own}
1/4 tsp baking soda
Method:

Whiz the ricotta, cream cheese and egg in a processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process for a minute till uniformly mixed.
Heat about 4 inches of oil in a heavy bottom pan. Drop tea spoonfuls of batter into hot oil, and cook until both sides evenly browned. {Make sure the oil isn’t too hot, or they will over-brown and might remain uncooked within. Also don’t overcrowd the pan, else they might stick to each other}
Drain from oil onto paper napkins to absorb extra oil. Serve hot / warm with kiwi salsa! POP… they’re YUM!!
Kiwi Salsa
1 ripe, firm kiwi fruit, peeled
2 ripe apricots, halved and pitted
1/2-1 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt
Method:
Whir all ingredients in processor until blended. Taste and season. Chill for 30 minutes to allow flavours to blend. {You can add a dash of lime if it isn’t tangy. My kiwi fruit was very sweet yet tangy}
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DARK CHOCOLATE, RICOTTA & GINGER TARTLETS with Poached Pears…& the Paper Chef #44 winner

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure…”
William Feather

What spells Fall? Longer nights and shorter days. Leaves just about beginning to change colour. More serious food choices coming forth.

Hola… September’s here, and with it Fall / Autumn in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Adios to the lightness that spelt summer. Stone fruits have been pipped by pip fruits, and the seasons first apples and pears are beginning to creep in. We’ve sadly said goodbye to the last of the stone fruits, plums were the last to go. There was a time that my heart sank when the mango season ended. That was 2 years ago…

Now, thankfully, with fruit having established a rather significant and central role in my baking, I actually look forward to a change in season. New boundaries to be crossed, new fruit to be experimented with… so much to look forward to. In addition, being on Twitter throws up endless banter, involved discussions, much more creativity & a new meeting ground.

When Ilva of Lucullian Delights asked if I was OK to be a judge on Paper Chef as a one off, I said YES! Didn’t know what it was all about, but heck, you don’t get called to be a judge everyday. LOL! If you are trying to figure out what I’m talking about, check my post here, and also check out the Paper Chef blog here. It’s a great creative culinary contest and is meant to be fun. Once I chose my ingredients, I felt very inspired to try something my self, so what if I can’t judge myself he he!

As judge, I got to choose 3 regular ingredients and a 4th one, which could be exotic, outlandish or theme based, whatever. I would have loved to go with outlandish, but with fall just stepping in, I chose to go with a theme. I thought FALL! Think fall, think deep serious cooking again. Warm and richer flavours, spicy aromas, hearty food, filled plates. Cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin, pie spices, roasts, steamy coffee, soups…

Before I take you to my recipe, I first need to pick a WINNER from the delicious entries our Paper Chef #44 got in this month. Judging is never an easy task, & this was no exception. I am always amazed at the creativity that a handful of ingredients can draw out of food bloggers. My ingredients of choice were Ricotta, Ginger, Dark Chocolate…& any other fourth item that spelt Fall! The entries for this episode of Paper Chef are inventive, creative and exciting. You can see in the round-up here. Makes one think out of the box… immense creativity and endless possibilities… Was tough to choose between so many favourites that were calling my name, each one of them very very special. I had to make the difficult choice, and eventually picked Ginger, Ricotta & Pumpkin Wontons from Ri @ Musings RI, a savoury entry to this round of PC. Creative, enticing & an early call to fall with roasted pumpkin making the 4th ingredient. Ri roasted the pumpkins herself, and even used the pumpkin seeds. Chocolate entered the dish by way of an intriguing chocolate-balsamic dipping sauce. As Ilva mentioned on her round-up, these are certainly ‘incredible‘. A creative & delicious result !! Congratulations Ri, I hand this round of Paper Chef to you. Well done indeed. Thank you Ilva, for giving me this rare opportunity to play judge. I enjoyed it immensely; it’s been a huge learning experience. Thank you also to all the wonderful bloggers who participated in Paper Chef #44, and played with my ingredients of choice. I am completely taken in by your creativity.
Even though I couldn’t be judged, I was truly inspired. I love the idea of Ready Steady Cook, Iron Chef etc, & the Paper Chef event was certainly fun. Went along this preparation without much prior thought, and thankfully the dessert worked out well. The kids lapped it up happily, & were ready for seconds (which they didn’t get!). The hub loved it too, though he felt it was tad heavy. I think hub has yet to make the transition from fresh & light summer, to earthy, deep autumn. One thing I might change the next time is reduce the ricotta slightly (bring it down to about 250gms), and whip the cream separately before I fold it in. Pumpkin puree with pie spice instead of chocolate might work some magic in here too, who knows?
Dark Chocolate, Ricotta & Ginger Tartlets with Poached Pears
My recipe with Paper Chef #44 ingredients
Biscuit Base
Ingredients:
150gm digestive biscuits
1/4 cup clarified butter (or softened butter)
1/8 cup crystallised ginger
Method:
Run the biscuits & ginger in the food processor till like fine meal. Add the clarified butter & whiz again till it starts clumping.
Line some dessert rings or/and squares with parchment paper, & place on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Put about 1/8 cup of biscuit crumb mix into each, divided equally among the 8 rings, & press down to flatten into a base. I used a pestle.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. take out & cool on tray .

Ricotta chocolate filling
350-300 gms ricotta (I made mine out of 1.5 litres of whole milk/recipe here); drain excess whey for 30minutes
100gms dark chocolate at room temperature
6-8 slices of crystallised ginger
200ml low fat cream
1-2 tbsps of vanilla sugar if required

Method:
Blend the warm ricotta, ginger & dark chocolate in the processor till thick & mousse like. The warmth from the ricotta should melt the chocolate.
Add the cream and whisk again. Taste and adjust sugar if required. I added 1 tbsp of sugar. Blend briefly. You should get a little more than 2 cups of mixture.
Pour over the cooled biscuit bases, with the rings/squares still in place. Chill for 4-5 hours. Serve with chilled poached pears, drizzled with syrup.

Poached Pears in Ginger/Vanilla syrup
Ingredients:
3 small firm, ripe pears, cored cut into 6 slices each
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean
1″ piece crushed ginger
Method:
Put all the ingredients in a heavy bottom pan & simmer for 15-20 minutes till pears are tender. Cool a bit. Remove pears to platter lined with kitchen towels to drain & cool completely. Chill until needed.
Reduce the syrup on medium heat until it is a thick & syrupy liquid. Reserve to spoon over tartlets just before serving. Can be used as an ice-cream sauce etc.

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