Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Passionfruit Cheesecake Tart with Black Pepper Crust

I made this tart with some fresh passionfruit that we bought at a local market in Auckland, using the limited cooking utensils available to me...I bought the tart shell, as I've always wanted a rectangular one, but I had to do all the mixing by hand, the old fashioned way! Hard work never killed anyone though, and it was well worth it.

I used a basic cheesecake recipe for the filling, adding the passionfruit instead of whipping cream, and made a shortbread crust that used melted butter just to save myself a little bit of effort.

The black pepper gave a nice bit of heat to the crust, and the creamy filling had poclets of crunch from the passionfruit seeds.

To make the crust, measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of ground black pepper


4 ounces melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir to combine, and finish blending it using your fingertips. You will have a soft, crumbly dough.

Use your fingertips to press the dough up the sides and onto the bottom of a rectangular tart shell with a removable bottom.

Bake the crust in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes, until it is set and just starting to colour on the edges and bottom. Remove and set aside while you make the filling.

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, cream:

375 g of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar


2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.

Stir in:

1/4 cup fresh passionfruit

Pour the filling into the cooled crust.

Bake at 325F until just set, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, before refrigerating until cold.

Carefully remove the tart shell, and serve the cheesecake with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.

  • This crust will also be enough for a 7" round tart shell; double the recipe for a 9" shell. It can also be used as the base for bars or cheesecake baked in an 8" square or round pan.
  • If you have ground nuts, or a food processor, you can add nuts to the crust by adding 1/4 cup of ground nuts or coconut to the dry ingredients.
  • Black pepper is optional; try adding cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus zest instead.
  • I used brick cream cheese, and allowed it to soften at room temperature. Spreadable cream cheese can also be used.
  • If you do not have fresh passionfruit, used canned passionfruit puree.
  • The cheesecake filling can be made using whipping cream instead of passionfruit, and flavoured with vanilla bean, citrus zest, finely ground Earl Grey tea or mango puree.
  • This is best made a day ahead, to allow time to chill thoroughly.
  • I served it with whipped cream and fresh raspberries; white or dark chocolate curls or shavings are also an option with the passionfruit.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Boysenberry Glazed Lamb Chops

We're in new Zealand at the moment, and I grabbed the opportunity to cook some rack of lamb; we don't often get fresh rack of lamb in Canada, and definitely not at these great prices!

We are staying at a place that has a kitchen, and have stocked some basic kitchen supplies, but I am very conscious of the fact that everything needs to be used before we leave, so I am trying not to buy too many new and different ingredients when planning a meal.

I used some of the boysenberry jam we have, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to marinade the lamb, which I cut into chops . I served this on top of  warm potato salad, fresh green beans and grape tomatoes.

The sweetness of the boysenberry jam was nicely offset by the tartness of the lemon juice and grainy mustard in the potato salad. The lamb chops were juicy, with a beautifully caramelized outside.

To make the marinade, combine:

2 tablespoons boysenberry jam
1/4 cup of Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper

Remove the fat cap if it still on the rack of lamb, and cut between the bones so that you have individual chops. I had 8 chops.

Place them into the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Make the dressing for the potato salad by combining:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Set aside.

Boil 2 white potatoes, cut into chunks, until just tender. Drain, and leave in the colander for 5 minutes to allow excess water to drain off completely.

Add to the dressing, and gently toss, allowing the hot potatoes to absorb the dressing.

Set aside.

Blanch and cool green beans, set aside.

Remove the lamb chops from the marinade, reserving the marinade.

Cook the chops in a very hot pan, over high heat, turning once. The lamb will cook very quickly, about 3 minutes per side, but this all depends on the size.

Remove the chops from the pan to rest.

Add the marinade to the pan, and bring to a boil, reducing until it becomes thick and syrupy.

Remove from the heat.

Add the blanched green beans and a handful of halved grape tomatoes to the potatoes and dressing.

Mix gently, taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, place some potato salad onto each plate, and then carefully place 4 lamb chops on top. Drizzle the reduced marinade over the lamb. Crumble blue cheese around the outside, for an added tang.

  • If you cannot find rack of lamb, use any type of lamb chop that is available. You could also use chicken breast or legs, or beef steaks suitable for grilling or pan frying.
  • Any type of jam or sweet chutney/relish can be used. It is this sweetness that gives the beautiful caramelization on the outside of the lamb chops. 
  • Serve the chops as a hot canape, on top of risotto or pasta, or with a green salad.
  • By adding the hot potatoes to the dressing, it allows them to absorb more of the flavour. This way you have the dressing inside of the potatoes instead of just coating the outside.
  • The blue cheese is optional, but it was really nice with both the potatoes and the lamb.
  • The lamb can be marinaded the day before if you like; it can also be frozen in the marinade. Defrost before cooking.
  • If you choose to grill the lamb, use the marinade to baste the chops as they cook. You can also reduce it in a pan to create a glaze for drizzling.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Green Olive and Pinenut Crusted Chicken

This was a meal that exceeded my expectations, especially since I am not much of an olive eater. When my daughter moved out she was given a gift basket as a housewarming gift, and it included a jar of olives, in oil and spices, both black and green olives. She gave it to me to use....and I am doing my best.

I used most of the black olives last week, when I made Braised Chicken Thighs with Capers, Raisins and Shallots.

This recipe made use of some of the green olives, as well as a lemon and pinenuts. I made a crust with the olives and pinenuts, and used the lemon in a marinade for the chicken. I baked the chicken breasts and they were juicy, tender, full of flavour, with the added crunch from the crust. A little bit of chopping in the beginning and then it was simply a case of waiting for the chicken to bake.

To make the marinade, combine:

Zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 heaped tablespoon of grainy mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the marinade over:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Turn to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Heat the oven to 375F while you make the crust.


1 heaped tablespoon pinenuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


8 green olives

Add the olives to the pinenuts and Parmesan, along with:

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, allowing any extra marinade to drip off. Discard the marinade.

Place the chicken breasts into an ovenproof dish, and divide the crust between them, pressing gently to help it stick.

Place into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through. this took between 35 - 40 minutes.

The chicken should remain moist, but the crust will become crisp and golden on the outside.

Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I served the chicken with a basic risotto (see the post Rice ) that had grated Parmesan and chopped fresh basil stirred into it just before serving. I also added the juices from the baked chicken. Some steamed green beans, and dinner was ready!

  • If, like me, you are not a fan of olives, chopping them up certainly makes it easier to eat them. Baking them also changes the texture, and alters the flavour slightly. Another way to use olives that changes the texture of them is to make tapenade, and add it to pizza or pasta.
  • Olives that are not pitted can be a challenge if you do not have an olive pitter. This is my approach:
Lie the olives on their sides, and using the flat side of a knife blade, crush them. The flesh will split open and the pit can be easily removed.

  • Any olives can be used....if they are stored in brine, rinse them off in cold water to remove some of the salt, and also take care with the amount of salt that you add to the crust and marinade. If you use sundried olives, taste to check how salty they are before adding them; that way you can adjust the salt in the recipe.
  • The pinenuts do not need to be toasted; they will toast in the oven. Other nuts can be used.
  • Feel free to use other cheese such as crumbled feta, grated fontina or asiago.
  • Originally I planned to used fresh rosemary, but opted to use basil instead, as it has a shorter shelf life when it has been picked. Use whatever you have, or omit the fresh herbs.
  • The lemon zest added a brightness to the chicken, and the mustard added a bit of heat in the background. I considered using the oil that the olives were marinated in, but chose to use plain olive oil instead. Sundried tomato oil, or other flavoured oils can be used if you wish.
  • The crust would work really nicely on chicken thighs that are bone-in and skin on, as the skin would crisp along with the crust. Try using it on halibut or salmon.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Chicken, Leek and Blue Cheese Pie

This pie was made using filo pastry for the crust, which gave a wonderful crispy, flaky and airy texture. I filled it with chicken tenders, leek, asparagus, roasted red pepper and blue cheese that were in the fridge from New Year's Eve...

I had some oil left from the finished jar of sundried tomatoes, and I used it to add flavour in two ways: I cooked the filling with it, and then I used it to brush onto the filo pastry, instead of just melted butter.

The breadcrumbs in the freezer were toasted until crispy, and sprinkled onto the sheets of filo. This gave some extra crunch, as well as adding more air into the pastry, increasing the flakiness.

Using sundried tomato oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook:

8 chicken tenders

Remove from the pan and allow to cool, before dicing.

In the same pan, using sundried tomato oil, cook until soft:

1 leek, thinly sliced

Season with salt and black pepper while cooking.


3/4 cup of diced asparagus spears

Cook for a couple of minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in:

1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper

Stir in the cooked, diced chicken.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

To prepare the breadcrumbs, place in a pan:

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Drizzle of olive oil

Cook over a medium heat, stirring often until the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden.

Remove from the heat.

Stir in a handful of grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the oven on 375F to heat while you assemble the pie. Lightly grease an 8" springform pan.

Place a sheet of filo pastry onto a clean counter.

Brush lightly with sundried tomato oil.

Sprinkle the filo with some of the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Repeat with another 5 sheets of filo, so that you have a stack of 6 sheets in total.

Carefully lift the stack of filo sheets into the 8" springform pan, gently tucking them into the pan, leaving the excess overhanging.

Place the filling into the pastry shell.

Crumble blue cheese over the top of the filling. I used about:

1/3 cup

Carefully fold the excess pastry over the filling, brushing it with sundried tomato oil as you go.

Brush the top with oil and sprinkle the last of the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over the top.

Place the springform pan onto a baking sheet and into the oven.

Bake until the top is golden and crisp, and the filling is hot. This should take about 40 - 45 minutes.

Remove the ring from the springform pan, and carefully slide the pie onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut wedges from the pie and serve.

  • This is an easy way to use up filo pastry, especially if some of the sheets are torn, as you are not worrying about rolling them up to contain the filling, as in the post Chicken, Leek and Asiago Strudel.
  • The filling can be baked with other pastry if you have no filo.
  • The breadcrumbs and Parmesan can be omitted...I liked the extra crunch it provided. Ground nuts could also be used if you like.
  • Filo pastry is usually brushed with melted butter to help crisp the sheets; this also helps to prevent the moisture from the filling making the pastry soggy. You can use olive oil if you prefer. I used up the oil from my jar of sundried tomatoes, as it is full of extra flavour.
  • I also used the sundried tomato oil to cook the chicken and vegetables for the filling, for the same reason. If you use plain olive oil, add in some chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary or basil, some chili flakes and / or garlic.
  • Other meat can be used...I had chicken tenders in the freezer. Try chicken breast, cooked sausage, fish, ground beef or pork.
  • Instead of leeks, onions or shallots can be used. Slice them thinly before cooking.
  • Other vegetables can be used...frozen peas or corn, diced sundried tomatoes, olives, zucchini or eggplant, mushrooms.
  • Cheeses such as feta, soft goat cheese, Asiago or fontina can be used instead of blue cheese.
  • The pie can be assembled up to a day ahead. It can also be assembled and frozen; bake from frozen, lowering the temperature to 350F and allowing extra time.