No-bake Strawberry Cheesecake

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Rain, outside. Currently listening to Millie Vernon’s That Old Feeling, and feeling swingy. I haven’t given enough verbal weight to the importance of smooth jazz to my creations. Its silky notes have a way of churning the cogs up there. The rain is helping, too.

Cheesecake, cheesecake! Inspired by none other than my favourite Ben&Jerry’s ice cream flavour as a child. Am I the only one who thought it was better than every other flavour they had? Phish food was fine, Cherry Garcia was an atrocity only because I had no appetite for cherries in any form at that age, the banana thing was a no. It was a picky phase, I could only stick to solid chocolate and cheese sort of flavours, and anything nutty or fruity was sacrilege. Except for strawberry cheesecake.

I approach most vegan cheesecake recipes with caution. Cashews and coconut? The furthest things from that signature dairy taste? I think not. But this one proved me (and will hopefully do the same to you) wrong. A good soak of your cashews will yield a fine, smooth texture, similar to your typical New York cheesecake, I promise. I kept this one base-less to keep the focus on the pure filling, but you can use this crust if you wish. That crust is also featured in my recipe for a classic vegan cheesecake, if you wish to try a proper baked one instead. It’s good to remind oneself of why it’s important to use more plant-based foods and proteins in anything you cook and bake. Just look at the power of cashews, the main star of this event:

  • They are almost a quarter total protein
  • 62% of its fats are monounsaturated, and have less fat than most other nuts
  • They are brimming with a sort of flavonol that starves cancer tumours
  • They help manufacture enzymes involved in the formation of haemoglobin and collagen, and are therefore key in skin and hair health
  • I keep forgetting that full stops don’t belong in bullet points

So you see, I guess this whole cashews-not-milk-plus-save-cow-exploitation sort of headspace isn’t so bad. The better you blend all this up, the better your result. You really want it to be as smooth and creamy as possible. What’s great about this recipe is also that i’s no-bake, which means it satisfies all you lazy bakers (me included sometimes).

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Ingredients

250g raw cashews, soaked overnight or for a couple of hours in lukewarm water, and drained. You can leave the cashews in the fridge or on the counter. Alternatively, you can add boiling water to the cashews and let this sit for half an hour before using.

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp fine salt

120ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed from about 3-4 lemons

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

80ml maple syrup

60ml vegetable oil (sub: melted vegan butter/melted coconut oil)

3 heaped tbsp coconut yoghurt or any yoghurt you like (sub: applesauce or milk)

3 heaped tbsp strawberry jam

Directions

Blend all ingredients except for the jam in a high-speed, powerful blender. Continue to blend until you get a smooth, pale consistency. It should be thick and runny. Pour the filling into a bowl, add the strawberry jam and then use a spatula to fold the jam in, creating a ripple effect. Tip this into a 8 or 9-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom and place it into the freezer to set.

*To create the swirly effect as you can see above, take the cheesecake out of the freezer after 30 minutes, and run a small knife or spatula in the formation of a spiral from the outside to the inside. You may get this all messy the first time, especially as the cheesecake starts to thaw, but don’t worry, the fact that the cheesecake thaws easily means it’s also easy to scrap whatever pattern you’ve done and start again. You can also put the cheesecake back in the freezer and take it out 10 minutes later to re-mold whatever pattern you want. Enjoy with coconut yogurt and strawberry jam.

Chocolate-stuffed Pillow Pancakes for One

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And it’s back to the pancake grind. Does anyone else think pancakes are just beyond magical? I mean really, think back to when you had one really good pancake, and all the suffering it may have alleviated. I’m not saying one must be dependent on pancakes (or good food) alone to be relieved of anything depressing or sad, because that in itself isn’t a case for good health. Good health need not mean a good pancake, but good health certainly leaves room for a damn good pancake.

My signature pillow pancakes have been my (and your) long-standing favourite recipe since I started posting recipes on this blog. Though it seemed initially banal to re-write a recipe which I’ve done too many times to count, it behoves me to re-write it for your benefit, just this once, because chocolate-stuffed pancakes do take these to a whole new level, and because it’s ‘for one’, you need not share, or worry about tidying up and freezing leftovers. Further, it’s the perfect way to use up any leftover chocolate frosting you may have from a cake or tart experiment. This is no pabulum or stupidity (the latter you may witness, though, in the current issue surrounding the new American immigration policy; I am both heartbroken and angered by such hoo-ha).

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A firm warning from yours truly– these pancakes will make you productive the entire morning. I topped mine with a homemade pumpkin spread and some granola given to me by my dearest Charlie, although these toppings are optional (and honestly, gave the photography shoot bit a nice bit of pop and fun). You’re good with some maple and extra chopped dark chocolate, and I imagine some good, thick coconut yoghurt would work so well.

I’ll dial the excitement down a shade, and leave you to it. The past week has been rife with friendly gatherings and good food, and I hope this does not stop for a long, long while.

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Chocolate-Stuffed Pancakes for One

Ingredients

For the pancakes:

80g plain flour, or use half plain and half whole-wheat

1 tbsp ground flax (optional)

1 tbsp coconut/white/brown sugar

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

2 tsp melted butter (normal/vegan) or coconut oil

100ml milk or mylk (I like almond or soy)

For the chocolate middle:

10g cocoa powder

30g icing sugar

splash of milk or mylk almond/soy)

 

Directions

The night before you make the pancakes, whisk the cocoa powder and icing sugar together, Drizzle in the milk/mylk drop by drop until you get the consistency of a smooth and thick chocolate icing. Put the icing on a plate, spread it out and put it in the freezer to set. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour(s), flax (if using), sugar, salt and leavening agents). Pour the rest of the ingredients into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon or a normal dinner spoon. Continue to mix until everything is justt combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Preheat your pan on medium-high heat and ready some butter. You know the pan is hot enough when you flick a little water onto its surface and there’s a clear sizzle. At that point, add a little pat of butter, let it melt, and add a heaping tablespoon of pancake batter for your first pancake. Then take your frozen chocolate disc and place it in the centre of your first pancake. Add a little more batter to cover the disc. Wait for the pancake to cook through, or once you notice one or two bubbles forming on its surface. Flip the pancake and let it cook for at least 30 more seconds. Let this cool on a paper towel while you do the same for the next pancake.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever you want. They’re wonderful with banana and more chopped chocolate, its moist sweetness adjoining arms with the maple. What a Sunday.

 

Chocolate Chip Waffles

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Things to note this past week:

My class’s Friday book/film club is adorable and is the perfect excuse to bake every Thursday night if not being lazy.

The National Gallery is an underrated treasure here in London.

Another underrated food is caramelised banana.

Learning is the right balance of acceptance and curiosity.

The bright and vivid, dark ink of a new pen is almost orgasmic.

I picked at a mostly dry stack of buckwheat pancakes the other Saturday and am now afraid of ordering pancakes or waffles somewhere ever again. Today’s post is thus born out of a love for the neglected kitchen, a strong tribute to the homemakers of the century– who needs waffles outside when you can make amazing ones within the warm comfort of your home, to accompany a freshly brewed Nespresso cuppa, a book or probing documentary, and mountains of whatever toppings you would like?

Now that the first huge set of assignments are done, I’m relaxing with my waffles, already on my second cup of coffee. As I type, some doughnuts hibernate behind me. A free Wednesday is therapeutic and needed, sometimes. I think I spend all my money on flour and nothing else. Flour, frozen berries, bread and veggies. Those top the list. What else is required for a happy life; what else is needed to dedicate concentration to the hours that don’t make up breakfast, lunch and dinner?

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These waffles. They’re thick. They burst and bubble with specks of chocolate, all crisp round the edges and mildly chewy everywhere else. The rims and ridges are sharp and taut, ravines ready to catch your lashings of maple syrup (didn’t have any syrup this time sadly, so used blackstrap molasses which did the trick anyway). You probably can’t tell, but the first picture shows a plain version, the second is chocolate chip-stuffed. Depending on your mood, make either, but at your own caution, for chocolate, melting and caught between each crevice, really makes all the difference.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Waffles For One (scale up for more people as needed)

Ingredients

25g rolled oats

120g plain flour (or whole-wheat if you prefer)

35-40g chopped dark chocolate

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

120ml (1/2 cup) almond milk, or any other plant milk (soy/coconut/oat) you have

3 tbsp olive/coconut oil/vegan butter (doesn’t have to be melted, as long as it’s soft or at room temperature)

3 tbsp maple syrup/blackstrap molasses/rice syrup (use honey if you’re not vegan)

 

Directions

Tip all ingredients into a bowl and mix until all is well combined. The mixture should be like a thick cake batter; add more flour if it isn’t. You could do this the night before and pop the bowl into your fridge so you save a little time in the morning when you make it!

Preheat your waffle iron according to its instructions, grease with whatever fat you used in the batter itself (in this case I used coconut oil) and pour the batter in, making sure not to exceed the tips of the iron ridges. Cook until the surfaces are lightly browned. My waffle iron doesn’t require me to flip the waffles over, but if you feel the heating is uneven, go ahead and do just that after 3-4 minutes, depending on how fast and strong your iron is. This recipe makes about 2 thick waffles, a generous serving for one person, but sharing with someone else works too. Freeze any extras and toast in your toaster when you want to have them again. Soooo good with thick and creamy soy yoghurt, berries, caramelised banana (see above) and maple syrup.

Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes

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The weekend was high in spirit, holding hope, a promising virtue and nighttime sin. Last night was spent with some people I love most, reunited with the family, a boy I could have only dreamed of meeting (more than a year ago now), relatives, simple, delicious homemade food.

Having the chance to show someone around my own town is most rejuvenating. There is no better way to appreciate and undertake fresh perspective on your roots. Dig deep into why you may think and behave the way you do. There is something deeper to uncover about oneself, something untouched when smothered by the happenings of everyday life, necessary communication and work.

A few travel shots from a recent trip to Bangkok and more Singapore fun before I proceed any further with my recipe for these glorious pancakes, which are like a fudgy matcha brownie in pancake form.

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Another Hound café nestled in the busyness of Siam Paragon, Bangkok. Draping lights and my favourite colour scheme.
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And our favourite drink there– earl grey lime iced tea. There was a frigid ball of pure tea and syrup which melted to constantly produce a refreshing, distinct flavour.
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We visited a plane cemetery far away from the city on a highway. It was magical and unbelievable to see dangling oxygen masks and half open overhead compartments, ravaged by the natural course of time. 

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The apple speculoos affogato at The Affogato Bar. Soft, small chunks of cinnamony apple and a strong hit of espresso. An almost acidic strength is necessary for a good affogato, I believe. 
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Fun at The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough (shoutout to Charlie for introducing this gem of a nook to me). I especially appreciate how they have vegan specials (usually on the weekends) and freshly baked, delicious, well-risen sourdough loaves every single day. Well-crafted sin.

Pancakes. That’s where it’s at. Usually tops a Saturday or Sunday for me, with that little bit of extra time permitting for lavish topping upon topping, pillowy layer on pillowy layer, dense and juuuuust done in the middle. Height and splendor. Maple syrup, coconut yoghurt and tahini are my favourite final touches. Maybe tear them up into shreds and douse with milk in a bowl. That’s just the sort of thing I would do, but mind you there are no obligations, because you would be the more rational human being.

Each rye pancake is hearty without being heavy, and I decided to inject mine with a little protein powder, the sort of bodybuilding stuff I would never use in a million years, but the kind folks behind Jimmyjoy’s Plennyshake offered me some and I’m not turning back because this stuff is definitely worth it. Check them out, I implore ya. Neither too sweet, nor does it feel unnecessary. It adds a nice prick of protein without any weird artificial flavour. All vegan, all good. The earthy matcha complements the moist and earthy offering of rye. Rye can tend to be a little sour if used too much, but the flavours here are balanced and refined.

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Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes (makes 5 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

90g dark rye flour

A half tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

2 heaped tsp protein powder (optional)

2 tsp matcha powder

2 tsp coconut/ white sugar

14g melted vegan butter, plus some extra to grease the pan

half a banana, mashed

100ml plant milk of your choice (I used almond)

 

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto a pan heated on medium heat. Flip once the underside is done and cook the second side for another minute before removing and letting rest on a paper towel. Top with whatever you wish– I topped mine with vegan chocolate ice cream, crushed rice cakes I hauled from Bangkok (YUM), more matcha and strawberries.

No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars

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Treats. They right a lot of wrong in the world.

Exactly this time last week I had the privilege of eating alone during my lunch break in between working hours, and I wrote down a few realisations:

  • Eating alone is a thing to be celebrated
  • Korean is possibly favourite cuisine (this may change in a couple of weeks)
  • I need to travel more when its pretty parts and cultures still exist
  • Talks with old friends who still ride on the same wavelength, energy and compassion are incredibly underrated and never dull. These are the occasions which one should be happy to steal away time. The world needs more Real People Conversations. This world should thrive on that bravery,
  • At the lab where I’m undertaking an internship, it is invigorating to tend to the invisible. To pipette precisely, up and down, take exact volumes. This precision forces me to think about things in detail, making me aware of my surroundings and in awe of the big picture that is the Earth’s beauty and mysteries. Detail is a meditation.
  • Some people never go through an awkward tween phase
  • Some pairings like coconut and chocolate are meant to be, like the zip on my Laurice pencil case and removable cap of an ink pen.

To accompany solitude and writing is my iced black cuppa, the one thing that has stayed true to my lifelong affair with breakfast, foam from Nespresso dispensing interrupted by crushed ice.

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An old friend returned from studying overseas and, upon sampling one, two and three, could not believe they were vegan. The chocolate mousse layer is of the perfect consistency- a small finger press gives way to a tender indent, holding firm without being flimsy. These bars are sticky, sweet and devilishly good, but the opaque richness of the coconut cream provides a slight bitterness to offset and ripen the other flavours instantaneously on your tongue.

No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars (Adapted from this delightful raw tiramisu recipe)

Ingredients

For the base:

8 pitted dates (medjool dates are ideal; I typically freeze a stock and microwave the necessary amount when needed)

210g cashew nuts

pinch of salt

3 tbsp water

4 tbsp liquid/melted coconut oil

1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

For the chocolate mousse layer:

420g cashews, pre-soaked and strained (simply soak them the night before in enough water to cover them in a bowl)

8 pitted dates

120ml almond/cashew milk

100ml maple syrup

7 tbsp cacao powder

7 tbsp liquid /melted coconut oil

2 tbsp white tahini

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

pinch of salt

For the coconut cream:

2 cans coconut cream, left in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight

Directions

In a food processor, blend together the ingredients for the base. Line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper and press the mix down with your knuckles until you get an even layer. Place the pan in the fridge to stiffen while you make the chocolate mousse filling.

Make sure the food processor has all the remnants scraped out, but you don’t have to clean it. Put the ingredients for the chocolate mousse layer into the processor and blend until you get a smooth and even filling. Take out your pan from the fridge and smooth the mousse layer on top. Take your cans of coconut cream and open them– there should be thick, spoonable white cream on top. Take it and spread a thin layer on top of the coconut mousse layer. Save the liquid left behind for things like curries! Put the pan in the freezer to stiffen.

Put the pan in the fridge an hour before serving to soften the layers a little and to make it easier to cut.