Tag Archives: baking

Nature’s sweetest gift

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It’s always a delight to receive an unexpected gift and that’s exactly how I felt when a parcel arrived from Mother Earth. I was delighted to know they’ve launched their first ever UMF Manuka Honey, naturally made by New Zealand bees. UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) is a quality mark that assures purity and quality, which is wonderful news for us honey-lovers who really value true Manuka honey and its benefits. (For more information see www.motherearth.co.nz)

This lovely gift came all done up like a Christmas cracker. The wrapping made from NZ Honeywrap, a natural reusable food wrap, which is a brilliant thing in itself. Bees are certainly clever and magical beings. I read recently that worker bees are willing to travel thousands of kilometres and forage nectar from millions of flowers to make less than half a kilo of honey. Wow! I feel indebted to them for giving many of my favourite recipes sweetness and life.

As it’s now the festive season, I’ve got a gift for you too. I’m happy to share this divine recipe for my Honey Cheesecake studded with almonds and cranberries. This truly sensational cheesecake is naturally sweetened with Mother Earth Manuka Honey and does not contain any refined sugar at all. It is full of perfumed honey flavours and has a wonderful creamy texture punctuated by lovely toasted almonds and dried cranberries. It’s a healthy festive treat full of the extra goodness only found in UMF Manuka honey. Please make and enjoy with my best wishes to you and yours! Julie xx

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A delightful gift of Mother Earth UMF Manuka Honey, wrapped in NZ Honeywrap (a clever reusable food wrap).

FROZEN HONEY, CRANBERRY AND ALMOND CHEESECAKE

Serves 12

200g refined-sugar-free biscuits, crushed

75g butter, melted

500g cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup Manuka honey (I like to use NZ Mother Earth brand)

1 tsp vanilla essence

300ml thickened cream

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup roasted unsalted Almonds, roughly chopped

  1. Grease a 22cm round spring-form cake tin, and line sides with baking paper. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter and press mixture over the base of prepared tin. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup measured honey until smooth. Add cream and vanilla and beat to combine. Stir in cranberries and almonds. Spread mixture into prepared pan.
  3. Drizzle remaining honey over the top of the cheesecake. Use the blunt end of a bamboo skewer to swirl the honey through the creamy mixture to create a marbled effect.
  4. Cover cheesecake and freeze overnight until firm. Remove cheesecake from freezer. Stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: This cheesecake can be kept frozen for up to 2 months. Alternatively, if you prefer not to freeze it, this cheesecake will still set in the fridge and will last well for up to a week.

I’m nuts about nuts

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I confess, I am a bit if a nut nut. I am happy to explain why. First of all, nuts are a great long-term energy source and are rich in mono or polyunsaturated fats – the good guys – that reduce cholesterol and improve blood circulation. Secondly, they contain a nutrient called alpha-linolenic acid that is credited with protecting the heart (60g of nuts two to four times a week can rapidly reduce the risk of heart attacks); and they regulate heartbeat and circulate oxygen in the muscles. Thirdly, they taste fantastic and are said to increase vitality (cashews), assist with depression and sleeplessness (almonds) and improve metabolism (walnuts).

Nuts are not only chock-full of vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy unsaturated fats but they’re a super-satisfying snack; add flavor and crunch to any meal; and are brilliant in baking. That’s why I’m nuts about nuts.

Around the world nuts are enjoyed in many forms. In Europe, almonds and walnuts may appear in muesli or breakfast pastries and roasted chestnuts are sold on the street to nibble on cold days. Peanuts and cashews are ubiquitous in Asian stir-fries and curries either ground or left whole, or rich, buttery nut sauces such as this classic satay sauce are the perfect complement to chargrilled meats or vegetable dishes like gado-gado. In Spanish dishes nuts are sometimes  used to thicken and add texture to sauces.

Let’s not forget that nuts can star in any of the following dishes – stuffings for capsicums and tomatoes, salads, pies (think sweet and pecan) and, of course, pasta sauces such as pesto (made traditionally with pine nuts, but these can be substituted with cashews or walnuts for variety). Or just nibble them on their own as a snack with dried fruits and seeds.

Many people have a favourite nut (almonds are definitely mine) and I have discovered, by experimenting, that nuts are interchangeable in lots of recipes. For instance, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecan, Brazil nuts and even macadamias can be exchanged for the almonds in this cake. Whichever one you choose, people will go nutty over this naturally honey-sweetened cake.

As it is sweetened with honey only, (it does not contain any refined sugar), it tastes wonderfully fragrant. It’s also naturally dairy and gluten free, which is a bonus for those who need this option. But rest assured, it remains flavourful and light with a satisfying damp and nutty texture. It’s lovely for afternoon tea and can also work well for dessert with a dollop of yoghurt, softly whipped cream or ice cream on the side.

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Cook’s tip: Be careful not to overbeat the egg whites—they should be white and very foamy, but not at all stiff or able to hold peaks. If you beat them too much, the cake may sink in the middle as it cools.

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Drizzle finished cake generously with extra honey and sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds