Its all about Cheese Cake

Earlier this week, I came across a cheese cake recipe on this blog:

My normal cheese cake is a very dense, very rich, very heavy cheese cake that I learnt how to make when I lived in Nice. As scrumptious as it is, it is not something that anyone who wants to stay in their current clothes size can afford to make more than once a year. Think rich cream, marscapone, ricotta, eggs and probably a visit to a cardiologist!

Anyway going back to my new cheese cake I looked at the photo and thought “mmmm I NEED cheese cake!” Seriously now I really wanted to go to the shops and make my cheese cake which never fails to leave people wanting more. Then I thought about my new smaller trousers and just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. Instead I decided to look at the recipe for the new york cheese cake but even that had too much everything for me. I needed a cheese cake that would do everything that a good cheese cake does but it had to be light! I know, I know an oxymoron but this IS good and light. Everything from the base to slightly stiff sides to the oh-so-delicate inside of this cake is 100% cheese cake. The only difference is instead of feeling as if the cheese cake sticks to your sides on the way down you feel easy.

Light Cherry Cheese Cake

50g butter
100g of gf biscuits and gf muesli

Melt the butter and mix in the crushed biscuits and muesli. Gently press into a cake tin. There should be enough to thinly cover the base of the cake tin. Make sure to leave no holes in the base. Place in the fridge to firm up.

I’ve used gluten free flour as I am coeliac. Gluten free flour is considerably lighter than flours which contain gluten and I feel that they would be quite heavy in this instance.

50g doves farm gluten free flour
170g 0% fat strained greek yoghurt
300g light cream cheese
4 eggs separated
75g vanilla sugar

Set oven at 180 degrees
Mix egg yolks and sugar, followed by the yoghurt and cream cheese.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. Then gradually fold them in to the cheese mix with a metal spoon a bit at a time. Make sure not to knock all the air out of the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin (on top of the base). Place the cake tin into a larger baking tin and place a couple of cm of water into the larger tin, then place in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 mins.
After 30 mins the cheese cake will have souffled but will be wobbly in the middle. Turn the heat down to 100 degrees for 1 hour or until the middle has set. Top up the water if it evaporates.
Remove from the oven and from the tin.
If the base is wet then invert on to a flat sheet pan and place in the oven for 10mins and then flip again.

Using preserved fruit alone can be quite flat tasting. I used belle cerise ( a cross between a plum and a cherry) because I had them. Fresh cherries or plums would work well to add some tartness to the preserved cherries.

340g cooked cherries in light syrup
100g belle cerise
25g sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot

In a pan put the belle cerise and gently heat them up for a couple of minutes before adding in the preserved cherries with the sugar and syrup. Try and use a pan the same circumference as the cake tin. There should be enough fruit to cover the base of the pan, add in more if needed.
Take a tablespoon of the syrup and mix with the arrowroot in a bowl and then pour it into the pan. Cook until the sauce has thickened.
Arrange the fruit on top of the cheese cake and pour the syrup all over.

Unexpected but very welcome guests

The other morning I received a phone call from my husband (he was at work) after the usual pleasantries he said, “ oh I spoke to A,” he began, “ …yes they are going to come for iftari this evening” my immediate reaction was how fantastic! The last time we saw A and his wife was Ramadan last year when they came to offer their condolences to us neither of us were great company that day. My second reaction was what do I cook? Followed by a moment of blind panic! My husband being concerned about snacks (Why??? We’re fasting!), decided to take charge of what he felt was important, crisps. However my concern was to cook something which was tasty, and secondly that it was plentiful. There really is nothing worse than opening a fast with a meal which is either unappetising or a meal which is appetising but there is clearly not enough. Having used up some of my squirreled supplies earlier on in the week, it was clear that kaufteh were not going to be on the menu. I knew that risotto was not going to cut it.

Despite going shopping on Sunday and placing random items into my trolley, we hadn’t really been shopping this week so preparing for the equivalent of a dinner party with limited time, ingredients and ability to think would normally have been challenging. Armed with minced beef, 4 chicken drumsticks and rice I began to think of my options. Nothing OTT or labour intensive but it had to be good, really good. I played with a few ideas in my head and after momentarily thinking of some form of chicken in rice (seeing as neither my husband or I like chicken in rice) I quickly dropped the idea. Fortunately the easiest option presented itself; the minced beef became keema and with baby potatoes, the chicken was marinated with yoghurt and spices and then cooked in the marinade along with aubergines and courgettes. The rice was fried and then steamed. I found an almond cake in the freezer. Suddenly it became very easy.

A, his wife and adorable toddler came round we ate, we laughed, we prayed, we enjoyed the company of our guests and we waved them off into the night. Wandering back to the kitchen I began to wonder the prescribed role of the host, religiously, and here lies the answer:

It was narrated that Abu Shurayh al-‘Adawi said: I heard with my own two ears and I saw with my own two eyes when the Prophet (pbuh) spoke and said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his neighbour; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his guest as he is entitled.” It was said, ‘What is his entitlement, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “[The best treatment] for one day and one night; and hospitality is for three days, and anything after that is charity bestowed upon him. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him, speak good words or else remain silent.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5560; Muslim, 69. This version was narrated by al-Bukhaari.

Basin Bread

I frequently suffer from bouts of very low iron so am constantly thinking about high iron meals. One of my favourites is basin bread with sardines. It’s a meal which is quick and easy to make.

Chick peas are a whole grain (friendly for coeliacs and diabetics) which means that it releases energy slowly making it ideal for sehri (minus the salt and chilli). Iron wise they are very high in iron for a non heme (meat) source of iron 7mg per 100mg!

Basin Bread

8oz of basin / ground chick pea flour
Ground spices ½ a teaspoon of each: garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cumin, chilli, salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 sliced onion
Fresh sliced green chilli to taste ( I used 1)
Fresh coriander leaves (optional)
Water to mix

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix in the water to make a batter slightly thinner than a pancake batter.
Mix in the sliced onion, chilli and coriander if using it.
Leave in the fridge for 30 mins to rest.
Heat up a small frying pan
Spray ‘spray oil’ in to a frying pan and then pour in the batter. Cook on one side before turning over to cook the other.
You can either cook the entire batch in one go or you can leave the batter in the fridge for up to a week and cook as you need them. If you do this, remember the batter will get spicier as time goes on.

I served mine with tinned sardines with a little squeezed lemon juice (vitamin C helps non-heme iron absorb into the body) with a little sliced spring onion.

A morale boost

The first week of Ramadan has just passed. Perhaps now would be a good time to remind ourselves of some of the blessings we receive through fasting.

Abu Huraya narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“In relation to Ramadan my ummah has been given five things never granted to any previous nation:
1. The smell from the fasting person’s mouth is more beloved to Allah(swt) than the fragrance of Musk.
2. Until iftaar the fish in the sea keep seeking forgiveness for the person fasting
3. Allah(swt) decorate Jannah (heaven) every day.
4. The devils are chained up this month
5. The Ummah is forgiven in the last night”

Shopping while fasting is always a bad idea

On Sunday, my husband and I both decided be wanted very different things for iftari, my husband wanted pizza and fresh chip shop chips. I had other ideas. I wanted a thai fish curry. No problems there, being sensible I knew I had to buy three things: thai curry paste, coconut milk and fish. Quite simple I thought.

I headed off to the local supermarket and I don’t know how or when it happened but in the short time that I was in the shop I had amassed so many things in my trolley it was beyond belief! I think my first fault was that I decided to push a trolley rather than collect things in a basket. I think the second aspect of blame should go to the supermarket or rather the hordes of people who decided that shopping on a Sunday morning was the time to do a weekly shop…somehow this induced my shopping desire! Ok, ok I am definitely skating on very thin ice here, but this all affected my senses to the extent that I ended up purchasing double the amount of fish that I had intended to buy (monkfish AND prawns) one type would have been more than sufficient, double the coconut milk (I don’t really use it for anything else) AND all the other things I picked. Half of the things didn’t even go well together: a ready made frittata, marinated artichokes but actually I picked up the one with olives so a thirst inducing item, almond chocolate, goats cheese, gluten free bread rolls, corn flakes, avocados. Honestly I got them home and just had to ask myself one question: why?

An interesting thing happens when a person is fasting, despite constantly saying “its not about the food” it invariably does become about the food. You find that you are constantly thinking about food and what you would like to have. An example being that someone walks past you eating a bar of chocolate and suddenly you think “I must go and buy some chocolate because I will need to have some this evening”. There is no ‘need’ involved, it is all about want. You also realise how acutely sensitive your senses become, while previously smells around you blended into the atmosphere now each individual smell is as sharp as a knife. A person comes back from a coffee break and you ‘know’ that they have had a cappuccino with shot of hazelnut syrup! Suddenly all you crave is a cappuccino with a shot of hazelnut syrup. I can’t tell you the number of times in my fasting life I’ve gone off and bought something I have seen or smelt someone have during the day. I even go so far as buying a specific hot chocolate and taken it home on the tube and then reheated it for iftari!! Needless to say, going into a supermarket while fasting is not a brilliant idea however it is something that all of us will have to do!

Sehri Bento

Gluten free Sehri
Chick peas cooked into left over shorba
½ a muffin

Gluten Sehri
Bagel with cheese
½ muffin

This morning saw us slightly more organised in the sense that we actually knew what we would have before we went to bed. However I think it is more the holiday attitude of staying at my mums house for the weekend that some how neither of us feel it is imperative to have our bentos packed before sehri despite the fact that I brought them!

Although I have pictured a whole muffin each, when it came to eating it neither of us felt able to eat a whole one so instead we shared.

Whats at your Iftari?

Dates. No matter where you go in the world and it comes to the moment of iftari you can be sure that we (muslims) will open our fasts with dates. Most people know that the prophet (pbuh) would Anas bin Malik narrates that:

“ The Prophet (pbuh) performed Iftaar with fresh dates, if there weren’t any then with dried dates and if there weren’t any then with water” (Abu Dawud)

Dates are therefore nearly always present at any iftari. In fact, I am ashamed to say, that I have only ever heard, first hand, of one instance in my life where a person had no dates to open his fast with and only water. It makes me realise how fortunate I have been to never have experienced hunger and to never have fasted not knowing what I will have for my iftari. If anything Ramadan for those fortunate to have plenty (and I include myself in this) turns into a daily wish list – soon to be fulfilled- of what we would like to eat that evening.

For some people iftari is about dates and getting a sugar rush, for others it is all about the crunch of fried things, anything golden brown and for others like myself, the moments post iftari are spent in a state of self imposed restraint desperate not to put on weight that I have spent nearly a year losing!

After the first couple of days gobbling caramel super sweet dates after iftari I realised that I could not go on like this after all twenty six days remain. I cannot possibly eat as if I am attending my last feast on earth every day for a month. When each date contains approximately between 112 and 250 calories each depending on which counter you use the calories soon stack up! I have tried to benefit from the fact that it is summer and that there is an abundance of fruit in the shops. Now I try and limit my date in take to two. I plate up small fruits along with the dates so that they are there in front of me once the fast is opened and I have something low calorific to eat and fill me. Only then will I eat my meal. Fruit is really important to a person fasting as it helps to rehydrate the body. Similarly raw vegetables are also really helpful. Cucumbers and celery contain a high water content and mineral balance which means that they hydrate the body while providing low calorie food. All of which assist the weight conscious faster.

I try and shy away from food elements which are laden with things that I just wouldn’t eat on a daily basis. I recently read on a message board about a dish which involved buying date puree with added sugar, frying it in ghee and spread that on toast for sehri. If that recipe had been in my family we would most certainly have added cream after it was fried! I have no doubt in my mind that it would taste delicious but if I eat like that for a month I will have undone my 8 month’s worth of hard work. So for the moment less is more, I tell myself. I try and restrain myself every day which is hard as invariably once the hunger hits in, like everyone all I can think about is food. However the fasting day is about restraint. Yes we don’t eat, but it is for our eyes, our ears and mouths to fast too. Jaabir bin Abdullah used to say:

“When you fast your hearing, sight and tongue should also fast from lies and sins” (Gaaya tul Ihsaan)

If we are able to restrain ourselves through out the day fasting in all senses then shouldn’t it be easy to show restraint at iftari and eat conscious that our bodies do not need excessive amounts of rich food. We should eat conscious that so many of our muslim brothers and sisters through out the world have nothing on their plates and will unfortunately have nothing more than water to drink this iftari. Inshallah Allah(swt) will make Ramadan easy for those who have nothing, inshallah Allah(swt) will fill their plates with and inshallah Allah(swt) will answer our prayers ameen.

Sehri Bento

The bento was empty! After iftari last night I was absolutely shattered. I ended up falling asleep so much earlier than I thought I would. So sadly no bento, and it was sorely missed. As it was we woke up later than normal. Sehri saw us rush around trying to think of things for breakfast while all the while feeling very cold and half asleep. Fortunately the breakfast muffins were close at hand we were both able to have one of those. For the husband it was easy for him to make a cheese sandwich. However, being coeliac things are sometimes are harder, and I really couldn’t think of what to have so ended up with a small portion of white rice and kaufteh left over from a couple of days ago. Needless to say today I will try and make our sehri bentos slightly earlier so that if nothing else there is something to share!

Sehri Bento

Details of this mornings Bento are:

Pink Bento – gluten free
Chick peas and whole meal rice – the portion was far too big so I only ate 1/3
Pear and berry crumble
1 gf mini bread roll with butter (not pictured)
1 date

Clear Bento – gluten bento
Cheese bagel (later toasted)
Yoghurt with pear and berry crumble
1 bowl of cornflakes (not pictured)