Monday, February 18, 2019

Mozzarella making class at Murray's Cheese, Bleecker St

When we go on vacation we like to do local cooking classes and there seemed to be no reason to keep this just to travel time! NYC is filled with cooking classes, especially one shot items designed for couples and friends to have a fun  night out. 

Murray's Cheese is a legendary cheese monger in Manhattan's Greenwich Village that seemse to stock just about every cheese I could think of to order and every accoutrement one could see fit to add to a cheeese board. They also offer high end food products like small batch meat and dairy, imported pastas and charcuterie and a lot more. 

We were here for the class though! Now we expected a cheese making adventure but what I wasn't expecting was a tasting and drinks before hand. This turned out to be a really excellent deal with bottomless Prosecco and Red Wine and a table full of nuts, pickles, dried fruit and bread. 

Here you can see my tasting board with a variety of mozzarella products - plain curds, fresh mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, burrata and smoked mozarrella. 

The teacher walked us through tasting notes of each item provided while everyone sipped wine. Then there was as small break while the cheese making portion of the event came up. 

Here you can see the cheese curds and hot water that form the basis of the Mozzarella; the process is surprisingly simple and easy to do at home. It mostly involves pulling hot salted cheese curds and then forming into a ball of cheese. If you want to try it at home then Epicurious has a great guide to the process. 

Here's my completed Mozzarella balls, to be honest I wish I'd ignored the instructor and made one large ball of cheese instead of two but the results were still delicious.

This class was the gift that kept on giving! First of all we had 4 balls of fressh Mozarrella to use up so we made home made pizza and caprese salad later in the week. Hmmm!

They also sent us home with an extra box of cheese curds, now... we were meant to use these to practice making more cheese but husband requested poutine instead. Honestly New York is filled with high quality fresh mozzarella and no poutine so I felt like this was a great choice!

The class was fun and an easy event to fit in after work since it only added up to a couple of hours and included both nibbles and drinks. They offered a discount voucher for the cheese shop that we abused thoroughly. All in all an excellent night out and a memorable date night; the store offers a large range of classes for tasting and making and we'll definitely be back.

Murray's Cheese Making Classes

Foodie mecca offering an array of fine cheeses plus breads, cured meats, olives & other deli items.

254 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 243-3289

Monday, January 7, 2019

Recipe: Edmond's Rich Christmas Cake (with added decoration instructions)

Growing up in a Commonwealth country means that Christmas is filled with warm, rich, stodgy desserts that make no sense in the Summer time but are delicious anyway. Upon moving to the US I discovered to my horror that my beloved Christmas fruitcakes were despised by many. This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe from the Edmond's Cookbook a New Zealand kitchen staple. Hopefully it will change your mind about this rich and impressive dessert!

Rich Christmas Cake

1¾ cups orange juice
¾ cup dark rum or brandy
2 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
500g raisins
2 cups sultanas
2 cups chopped dates
150g crystallised ginger, chopped
150g mixed peel
150g glacé cherries, halved
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp almond essence
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 cup blanched almonds
500g currants
2½ cups cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
250g butter
1½ cups brown sugar
2 Tbsp treacle or golden syrup
5 eggs, beaten

To decorate:

1 yield of my marzipan recipe (or 500g storebought)
500g fondant icing
2 tbspns apricot jam


(Original copy)

Place the orange juice, rum and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the dried fruit. Cover and leave the fruit to soak overnight.

The next day stir the essences, lemon rind and almonds into the fruit mixture. Sift the flour, soda and spices into a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Line a deep 23cm square tin with baking paper and tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin.

Cream the butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy and add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the sifted ingredients alternately with the fruit mixture.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin then wet your hand under the cold tap and smooth the surface.
Bake for 4 hours or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin on a wire rack, covered with a clean cloth

Wrap in tinfoil and a cloth and store in a cool place.

If you want a more flavoursome cake pour 2–3 tablespoons of brandy or sherry over the cake after it has cooled and before storing it. If the top is crusty, make little holes with a skewer or toothpick to help the alcohol soak in. 

(Goth Gourmande's additions)
  • I like to bake 1-2 single serve cakes as a test of the mixture, using single serve bundt tins these should take ~45 mins to cook
  • This cake is huge and it is hard to find Christmas cake tins this large in the US, consider halving the mix and using a 9 inch spring form pan or splitting into two cakes. In the above picture this recipe has yielded a 9 inch cake, a 7 inch cake and 3 single serve bundt cakes
  • Leave the cake to cool in its entirety before attempting to remove from the tin, preferably overnight
  • I recommend cooking the cake at least a month before serving and pouring brandy or whiskey on to the cake each week to make it moist and let the flavours develop

To ice and decorate

You can choose to use more glazed dried fruit to top the cake but I prefer traditional marzipan and fondant icing and it lets you create a really festive look! 

Start by making (or buying) marzipan, I've provided a recipe for you that I use regularly. Need into a smooth consistency and then cut into portions that match the division of the cake batter. 

We want to glaze the cake with the jam to get the marzipan to adhere to the cake. If you don't like apricot then grape or peach is also suitable but avoid berry jams which clash with the dried fruit. Heat 2tbspns of jam with 1 tbspn of water in the microwave or stove, enough to be malleable.

Set your cake on a cake circle for easy transport, this allows you to carry the cake using the support instead of having to touch the cake itself and makes for easy transfer to a decoratoring wheel or cake tin. Then using a pastry brush glaze the cake all over with the warm jam mixture. 

For a smooth finish you may want to fill any air pockets and round edges on the cake with small pieces of marzipan after glazing. This allows the final fondant coat to appear smoother like a crumbcoat when using butter cream. 

Roll out the marzipan to 2mm thickness, you want lots of overflow for an easy placement. I use the bottom of the cake pan to measure if I have rolled out the marzipan enough. 

Place the marzipan squarely over the cake and begin to smooth down the sides with your hands, then cut off the excess around the bottom of the cake with a pizza cutter.

If you are making a cake of more than half the batter then you may wish to create the top and sides separately. Use the cake tin as a template and then pinch the marzipan to join the edges.

Leave the marzipan to dry over night before icing with the fondant. 

The marzipan should have settled into any pockets and adhered to the cake. We need to get the marzipan to adhere to the fondant, instead of jam we only need to brush the marzipan with hot water.

I find fondant a nightmare to make so I buy Wilton Decorator Preferred fondant which can be bought in most large supermarkets in the US. Knead the fondant until it is malleable and then roll out with a pastry roller dusted with confectioner's sugar. 

Flip over the cake, smooth and trim just as we did with the marzipan. Sadly my fondant smoother went missing during our last move so this isn't my tidiest work but it's easy enough to cover the lumps with decoration!

I am very fond of using these Christmas Embossing rollers which imprint a festive design into the fondant, be careful though it makes it harder to smooth the edges without disrupting the design.

For the final decorations I like to colour some of the fondant by kneading in egg colouring dyes and using cookie and pastry cutters for festive designs. 

Cut out the coloured pieces and then brush lightly with water to stick to the cake. If you've messed up the fondant this is a nice easy way to cover your mistakes!

Try a variety of cookie cutter designs and use cinnamon candy to make your holly berries.

It's fun to do a different design for every cake and they make a special table centerpiece or fancy home made gift. 

And if all of that seems like too much bother then skip the marzipan and fondant and make a good stiff lemon icing; it works great topped with halved glace cherries! 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Recipe: Low carb bacon quiche

When eating low carb there's one thing I miss terribly and that's pastry. I had heard of people using the infamous fathead pizza dough as a low carb pastry alternative and boy howdy is it good. 

It's very versatile and handles like any wheat based pastry would. This opens a whole world of low carb cooking options that I didn't have before!

Pie Crust:

2 cups pre shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
2 tbspn cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 tspn dried rosemary
1/2 tspn garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste


  • Mix the shredded/grated cheese and almond flour/meal in a microwaveable bowl. Add the cream cheese. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.
  • Stir then microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds
  • Add the egg, salt and any herbs or seasonings then mix gently
  • Place in between 2 pieces of baking parchment/paper and roll into a circular pizza shape 
  • Remove the top baking paper/parchment. 
  • If the mixture hardens and becomes difficult to work with, pop it back in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften again but not too long or you will cook the egg.
  • Make fork holes all over the base to ensure it cooks evenly.
  • Slide the baking paper/parchment with the pie crust, into the pie tin
  • Back on 425 for 6-10 minutes or until the top has browned. 
  • The base Doesn’t need to cook through but seal the top so the base doesn’t become soggy when the mixture is added. Put aside and let cool.

Quiche Filling:

5 eggs
2 medium brown onions or leeks
6 rashers bacon
2 tbspn butter
1 cup half and half
1 cup grated cheese - ½ cup mozzarella, ½ cup sharp cheddar


  • Preheat oven to 400F and warm while you prepare the filling
  • You can use onions or leeks depending on your carb needs, leeks are lower in carb and give a milder flavour
  • Slice the onions and put in a pan with the butter on a very low heat to sweat
  • Cut the bacon while the vegetables cook
  • Once translucent add the bacon and fry until the bacon is chewy but not crisp
  • Set asside the vegetable bacon mix while you prepare the egg batter
  • In a bowl mix half and half, eggs, salt and pepper until well combined; add the onion, bacon and cheese and fold carefully
  • Pour the mixture into the pastry shell, making sure to move the solid ingredients around to be even in the pan
  • Cover the dish with foil to avoid over burning the mixture
  • Cook with the foil on for 35 minutes then remove the foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the top is a golden brown. 
  • Take out of oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the egg to set properly.
  • Once cooled cut into slices and server with vegetables or a salad.
  • Due to the high fat content in the base and mixture be careful with serving size, this dish should serve 6 - 8 comfortably or 4 heartily

Monday, February 19, 2018

Recipe: Low carb (sugar / gluten free) baked cheesecake

This is a recipe inspired by the classic Junior's Cheesecake recipe but tooled slightly to add a low carb base and remove the sugar. The result is a creamy and delicious cake with a lot less guilt. Remember to be sensible though this is not a low calorie recipe - don't fool yourself that you can have a bigger slice even if you want to!

Low Carb Baked Cheesecake 


1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 tspn pumpkin pie spice
20g butter


4 packages of cream cheese (8 oz or 225g each)
1.5 cups Splenda granulated sweetener (or equivalent low carb sweetener)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbspn pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  • To prepare the base place the nuts, butter and spice in a food processor 

  • Pulse until the nuts have crumbled and the butter is distributed evenly, you should be left with a moist dough like consistency

  • Line a 7 or 9 inch spring form pan with baking paper, making sure to leave enough slack to fill the bottom of the pan
  • Even out the base using the back of a spoon to leave an even thin layer of the nut mixture

  • Preheat the oven to 165C (325F) and set the pan asside while you prepare the batter
  • Room temperature cream cheese works best for this recipe - cold cheese will be harder to beat
  • Where possible use a paddle attachment rather than a whisk, this helps with the creamy texture 
  • You can use other sweeteners if you prefer (like Stevia or Erythritol) but the baking Splenda holds the best taste after baking. 
  • Make sure to use the "spoon for spoon" granulated Splenda powder that measures like sugar and not coffee packets of Splenda which is highly concentrated
  • Add 1 pack of the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of Splenda and the corn flour to the mixer and beat until well combined

  • Scrape down the sides and then add 1 more pack of cream cheese and 1/2 cup Splenda, then repeat with the remaining cheese and sweetener
  • Add the vanilla essence and one egg, beat on slow until well combined then add the remaining egg
  • Turn off the machine and add the cream, again beating on slow to avoid liquid splashes

  • Once all ingredients are in the bowl turn the mixer to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture takes on a billowy texture
  • Pour the batter into your tin with the nut base then jiggle the tin slightly to flatten the top, be careful not to tap the tin too hard or you will lose air from the cake
  • This cake requires a water bath - place the tin into a roasting tray or casserole dish and fill with water to about halfway up the spring form tin

  • Bake until the top is golden and no longer wobbles, about 1 hour. For best results turn the cake half way through
  • Once baked remove the roasting tray from the oven and then remove the tin from the water. Set asside to cool leaving it in the tin for 2 hours
  • After 2 hours cover the cake and refrigerate until cold or preferably the next day. Release and remove the springform pan after cooling, if possible just before serving
  • Serves 8 people - on its own or topped with cream or nuts for a low carb option or any other cheesecake topping if you prefer

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Recipe: Sugar free vegan peanut butter fudge

This recipe is one of those happy accidents, I was making sugar free white chocolate and used the wrong sweetener which split the cocoa. I decided to salvage the mess and this is the delicious result full of healthy fats. Cocoa butter is a new ingredient for me in my kitchen arsenal - it keeps high fat low carb desserts stable at room temperature and adds a creaminess without the use of dairy.

Your mileage may vary on low carb sweeteners and glycemic index. If you are keeping low carb be sensible about what works for you and switch out the erythritol for stevia or sucralose. Erythritol is the perfect sugar replacement for me when making confectionary, it has 0 impact on my blood sugar and has a pleasant cool mouth feel, you can even powder it to work like icing sugar.  Remember if you're not keeping low carb you can always use icing sugar or castor (baker's) sugar.


Sugar free vegan peanut butter fudge 

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa butter
1 cup powdered erythritol (Swerve)
1 tspn vanilla essence


  • You can use either the stove or a microwave to make
  • If using a stove add the fats to a pan and turn on low heat or use a double boiler to melt fats gently together

  • If using a microwave place all fats in a glass bowl and microwave on medium for 90 seconds
  • Add the erythritol and stir, heat for another 1-2 mins or until a spoon comes out of the mixture smooth with no visible grains 
  • If using the stove remove the pan from the heat - then add the vanilla. Otherwise you risk the alcohol causing the mixture to boil rapidly.  Stir until the vanilla is evenly distributed

  • Pour into a small tray or fudge tin and then refrigerate for 3 hours
  • Cut with a hot knife, makes approximately 40 pieces
  • 54 Calories, 6g fat, 4g carbs (net < 1g) per piece

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Recipe: Pork belly tteok

I love Korean food like wow and love to share the obsession with my friends. This homely comfort food dish is warm and delicious, you can use just about any protein and vegetable combination but this is one of my favourites.

You can buy Korean rice cakes (tteok 떡) at most Asian supermarkets, they store in the freezer for months so you can buy up and use them whenever you like.

Pork Belly Tteok

200g sliced pork belly
500g (or 1 packet) tube style rice cakes
4 eggs (or 1 per serving)
2 tbspns gochujangg
2 tbspns tomato puree
2 tbspns white sugar
2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 sticks of celery
1 capsicum
4 spring onions (scallions)
1 tbspn minced ginger
2 tbspns sesame oil


  • Before starting the main dish boil the eggs to your preferred doneness
  • Dice the celery and capsicum then heat the sesame oil in a wok or large saucepan
  • Add the celery and sweat until transparent, then add the capsicum and continue to stir fry
  • Once the capsicum is soft add the pork belly and fry all items until the pork is slightly brown
  • Add the ginger and stir to coat all the vegetables then add the rice cakes
  • Combine the wet ingredients (stock, tomato, gochujangg) in a jug until a consistent texture and colour
  • Add the liquid and the eggs to the saucepan and simmer to reduce
  • Add the sugar and scallions once reduced, leave some scallions for garnish
  • Serve with cold Asian beer

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: Junior's Restaurant and Bakery, Brooklyn

Do you have a "go to" place that you take your partner *all* the time? Junior's very quickly established itself as our regular date night haunt when we moved to NYC. Junior's is everything I want in an iconic East Coast diner; good quality comfort food served just right. There's even quirky sitcom-esque regulars like the jovial middle aged preachers that meet there every Friday night dressed in brightly coloured 3 piece suits. Conveniently it is also right next door to the local Alamo Drafthouse, the only cinema chain worth going to in the US. 

Junior's is famous for having (deservedly) the best cheesecake in New York. If you're looking for that iconic, creamy but light classic dessert this is the place for you to go. This is a cheesecake so good you can buy it mail order from the home shopping network. Be warned though the servings are huge, if you're in it for the cheesecake consider skipping the main meal. 

One has to assume that the Cheesecake Factory stole their format from Junior's. Huge platters of food, amazing cheesecake, friendly family atmosphere. It doesn't seem to be hurting them though, with two bustling restaurants one on Times Square and the original in Downtown Brooklyn.

Free pickles and bread are served with every main meal

Potato pancakes with sour cream $5.95USD

The large Jewish population in New York provides an endless array of pickles, deli food and delicious latkes. These potato pancakes are made with mashed rather than grated potato which is a shame but they are very generous and delicous. 

Cheeseburger with Fries and Onion Rings $11.50USD

A classic thick handmade chuck burger cooked to your liking with American cheese and salad. Served with your choice of fries or onion rings. Pickles and sauces on the side so you can mix to your pleasure. An American classic done just right.

Brisket Melt With Fries $18.95USD

They offer a range of hot sandwiches like a brisket melt, cheesesteak and multiple kids of reubens that are all excellent with chewy bread and melt in your mouth meats. Deli sandwiches like pastrami, corned beef, ham and salami are also available with  your choice of cheese and sides. 

Chopped Steak with Double Coleslaw $20.95USD

When you're limited to gluten free or low carb food diners can seem like they offer only egg dishes. Not Junior's though! This chopped steak dish is a large formed meat patty with gravy and peppers and onions; in Japan they call this dish Salisbury Steak and I've always been a huge fan. This one is moist and the gravy is delicious. By default it comes with mashed potatoes and more gravy.

Goulash and Buttered Noodles $22.95USD

Perfect for the brutal New York winter this goulash is warm and hearty. A little spice but not too much on buttered noodles with sour cream and peas. 

Roast Turkey Platter $23.95USD

Roast turkey has always been one of my favourite dishes and I've always bucked against the idea that it should be just a holiday food. The roast turkey platter at Junior's fulfills all of my desires. Rich moist roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, gravy, mash, vegetables and cranberry sauce. Like a holiday in your mouth. They also offer the roast turkey and gravy on an open faced sandwich if you can't face an entire roast dinner with all the sides.

Classic New York Cheesecake $7.50USD

In New York you see a lot of people claim they're the "best" of this or the "highest rated" of that but the Junior's New York Cheesecake is the best cheesecake in NYC. It's repeatedly rated this way and for a reason. Creamy, tangy, not too heavy, not too sweet, the classic recipe that others try to emulate. Worth every calorie.

Sugar Free Cheesecake  $7.50USD

For those of us who watch our carbs or the diabetics the sugar free cheesecake is every bit as good as the original. The cake is baked with sucralose (Splenda) and so lacks the browned top of the sugar filled version  but has the same creamy texture and taste but with less calories, carbs and no biscuit base. This makes it a good gluten free option as well.

Lemon Meringue Pie $6.95USD

They also offer a range of delicious pies including classic American apple, cherry and Lemon Meringue. All are excellent with thick gelatinous fruit fillings that aren't too sweet. Layered cakes like chocolate fudge, coconut, red velvet and carrot cake are also available. The portions are big here too though so think about skipping a main meal if you want a sweet treat. 

Junior's is one of those classic NYC establishments that has been doing thriving business for decades for a reason. Good food, good prices, friendly staff. After a long day of site seeing the continuous refills and giant plates of food are very welcome. Every dish we've had here has been good, you really can't go wrong. If you have fussy kids or a craving for something simple this is the place to go.

Junior's Restaurant and Bakery

386 Flatbush Ave Ext
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Family friendly comfort food classics
Come for the cheesecake, stay for everything