December 30, 2008

Sticky Birthday, Gingerbread Houses, and Rainbow Cake


I thought it would be nice to have lunch out at the orchard to celebrate Ben's 6th birthday on 29th of December, but again, weather permitted. And yet, we're tucked in inside while rain was pouring gently outside.

We started with grilled capsicum stuffed with basil pesto (handfuls of basil, toasted pinenuts, garlic, olive oil, feta cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper), accompanied by cheese and crackers. Then, we moved on to the main dishes, just a usual home-kill mutton roast with spices (make a paste of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves of garlic, turmeric, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), salt and pepper, sauteed with a little olive oil, brown the mutton leg to seal the goodness inside, and pop into the oven bag, roast slowly--took me from dawn to the serving time to roast this mutton. Mind you, I use the oven to bake some macarons in between the use). I think everyone love the flavour in the meat and the tenderness of it with crusty skin (I unwrapped the oven bag just 1 hour before the serving and popped it into the oven at 160C together with the par-boiled vegies to roast together). John also home-smoked our home-kill chicken as well, so that was double delish, I suppose.

Ben said to me the other day "Thank you for making my boat cake, Mum. It is nice." And now it is the time for him to blow the candles out. The fave task he always is looking forward since two-three months of reminders.

Rainbow Cake Slice copyright Arfi Binsted 2008

Along with his boat cake, the adults enjoyed Rainbow Cake, which is adapted from Donna Hay's magazine. She used 8 eggs for three layers cakes, but I used 9 in total. I am not really good at making layered cakes in one batter for different colours when they are supposed to be divided into triple tins. It's okay to make them all together when they are all plain, but when they are added with colouring or even added with cocoa powder, I am not so sure if I can do it. So, okay. I made a little bit of adjustments, with mixing 3 eggs for each layer and converted it with the other ingredients. I also use raspberry paste I made myself the other day to be added to the pink one, and reduce about 2 tablespoons of the measure flour for cocoa powder. I'll give you Donna's recipe in the end of the post.

duo ice cream2 duo ice cream

I also made homemade ice creams for desserts. Duo ice cream I call it. I made raspberry ice cream, freshly picked from our garden, and the other one is the old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. The children fancied the ice creams, so that was their desserts alongside the berries.

Snowy Village

The biggest hit of the get together was the time when the aunties joint a helping hand to stick their fingers building the gingerbread houses. I baked 2 medium houses and the other 2 smaller ones to construct. I also made the rabbits and butterflies with Sarah just a day before the celebration day. Keeping them in the tin makes them stay fresh.

sticky time Final Touch

Gingerbread Houses

I think there's sort of creative minds and imaginations involved to make it come true. Not a dream, really but just creations. And, communication. I believe you can see one's characteristic from such task. Everyone will come up with a different idea, styles, and creativity. Mind you, there's always a child within you, isn't there?

Believe me, making gingerbread house is fun to involve yourself with the whole family or with friends. Have a look at the larger version of our gingerbread house last year we constructed with my American friend Ellen Granger and her little children. You may find the recipe for the gingerbread house as well if you follow the link. I like using that recipe for it is easier (just like when you make playdough) and makes strong biscuits for the houses.

Rainbow Cake copyright Arfi Binsted 2008

Donna's Rainbow Cake

Source: Donna Hay Magazine. Issue 41. October/November 2008.

8 eggs
220g caster sugar
200g self-rising flour, sifted
100g butter, melted
2 Tbs cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp pink food colouring
strawberries, to serve

Cream Cheese frosting
100g butter, softened
500g cream cheese
320g icing sugar mixture (I just use icing sugar, and I add lemon juice)

My adjustments

Vanilla layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour
about 30g-32g melted butter
vanilla essence

Raspberry layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour
about 30g-32g melted butter
homemade raspberry paste (about 2 tsp) (made from pureed raspberry cooked with cornflour until thick)

Chocolate layer
3 eggs
about less than 1/4 cup caster sugar (not fancy too sugary cakes)
about 60g self-rising flour (replace 2 Tbs of flour with cocoa powder)
about 30g-32g melted butter
vanilla essence


Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare the triplet cake tins, lined with baking paper. Beat the eggs and sugar until pale, thick and tripled in volume. Fold in the flour and butter (and the essence, or paste) gently. Pour into the tins, level. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until springy to the touch.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until pale and creamy, about 6-8 minutes (mine is about 5 minutes). Beat in the icing sugar until light and fluffy, about 6-8 minutes more. (At this stage, I squeezed in fresh lemon juice, just to taste).

When the cake is cooled, put the chocolate layer on the serving plate. Spread with 1/4 of the frosting, topped with the raspberry layer, spread again with the same amount of frosting, topped with the vanilla layer. Spread with the remaining frosting and cover all the sides of the cake with it. I arranged the homegrown strawberries and raspberries on top. The slightly tartness of raspberries make a good combination of the richness of cream cheese frosting. Serves 10 (actually, it is depending on the thickness of the slices, really. This cake is quite rich, so thin slices with sliced berries will be just right for us).

December 17, 2008

Happy, Your Gifts are Here!

When I was a student of a Catholic school in South Sumatra, December would usually mean lending a hand for my teacher decorating her Christmas tree. She did not have any children, did not have any family, and she was a nun. Her room was fairly small and her Christmas tree was just tiny, placed on the table in the corner. She did not have flashy lights or other ornaments to make her tree decorative, but she had cotton balls. I was puzzled when I saw them. I remember when I asked her what they were for, she looked at me and hummed 'I dream of White Christmas'... Then, I knew what she meant. We arranged the cotton balls on the tree to resemble snow. Then, she put a big star on top which she made from cut cardboard lined with tin foil.

And yes, I was a Muslim girl and I am still a Muslim woman. I just never think that diversity and religions will stop me helping others, and I never understand why people would be fighting under the religious flags. Aren't we all praying for the same direction: peace? Peace for your soul and peace for the earth and universe?

Today, I remember my teacher and I am sending these parcels for our friendship in peaceful diversity through Happy's Christmas Gifts event. Happy Christmas to all of you!

Lemon Fudge

lemon fudge

Source: (Lemon Fudge) and adopted from The Well-Seasoned Cook by Susan. You can see the recipe by following the links.

And, here's another one:

Caramel Fleur de Sel Macarons-2

Fleur de Sel Macarons. Look at the recipe at Desserts Magazine Issue 5, here's the direct recipe link, written by Gemmi Rizzi of Bake with Heart.

Caramel Fleur de sel Macarons

My first time to taste fleur de sel, pretty salty from the most caramel I've ever eaten.

Updated from our orchard:


Cherries. Not yet deep red, most of them are enjoyed by birds. To prevent birds get these dainty fruits, we hang plastic fan and old CDs. Sometimes works, other time we often find the fruits are pecked and left hanging with a little flesh still intact with the pip. Naughty birds!

The round up for this event can be seen here.

December 11, 2008

Magical Biscuits in A Festive Summer

Reading Susan's review of Magic in the Middles makes me go nuts. How can I not? Chocolate and peanut butter, how can you resist? How can I resist? I love peanut butter and I love chocolate. What a great combination for an indulgence!

There's nothing tricky about making this magic biscuit, but rolling it with peanut butter balls inside is another work! I kept asking myself, did Susan just do the same I am doing? Viewing her different types of outcomes of this biscuits, I was quite confident. I just reduce the amount of sugar in the biscuits because these biscuits are going to be topped or rolled in caster sugar. I don't really like biscuits which are too sweet, like gingernuts which are available in the groceries stores. To me, biscuits should be entertaining, sexy, and luscious. Yes, you can say a luscious biscuit too, you know.

magic in the middles

When to choose the thick or thin, sturdy or soft, in this type of biscuit case, I prefer thick and soft, thanks. Hey, try this out, you'll know what I mean!

I was going to send these biscuits for the other Susan, of Food Blogga, who's currently collecting jars of biscuits from all over the world, for her Second Session of Eat Christmas Cookies Event, but then I realize Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook has already brought hers the same produce, so I am sending you this almond dark chocolate biscuits instead.

There's probably a similar surprise when eating this dark biscuit, especially when you eat it slightly warm. You have to be ready for oozy dark chocolate melt smeared your fingers or mouth. The goodness of 70% or more cocoa solid helps this biscuit arrive to another level of more than just being a biscuit. There's the sensational tingle after wards, especially when you're in the state of being melancholic. Trust me.

yummy bikkies

My entry for Eat Christmas Cookies 2 is a part of the indulgence I've had last month. I made the freshest version of course, without ground almond. My kids love them! Just look at their faces.

almond dark chocolate biscuits

Almond Dark Chocolate Biscuits

150g 70% or more dark chocolate, chopped melted with 150g unsalted butter in a double boiler or in a saucepan fitted in another saucepan with simmering water in it. Leave it until they all melted. Remove from the oven and stir to combine.

When it's slightly cooled, throw in 1 large egg, mix with a wooden spoon until well-combined and the mixture is thicken. You can add sugar if you like, about 2 Tbs-1/4 cup, according to your preferences, although I stick with the dark chocolate's sugar content itself.

Now, if you do not use ground almond, just add in 1 1/2 cup self-rising flour which is sifted beforehand, stir well. If you use ground almond, just replace 1/2 cup of flour with ground almond. Then, to make it more chocolaty, I throw in 100g chopped 70% or more dark chocolate. Mix well and when the mixture is a bit 'wet' I will leave it in the fridge for a good 15-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170C, roll or just scoop out the mixture with a spoon, arrange on two lined baking trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or 15 minutes when you want them crispier.

An update from the orchard:

Summer Delight in Store by arfi binsted copyright 2008

This is Dans Early, a variety of plums. We usually enjoy them during Christmas time. They are small, red skinned and flesh, juicy and sweet! Good entree for the whole Summer feasts! A healthy nibble while waiting for more DMBLGIT entries from you all to be in.

December 08, 2008

DMBLGIT December 2008 Announcement

I am so excited to receive this month's baton from Suganya of Tasty Palette to host food photography blog event famously known as Does My Blog Look Good In It (DMBLGIT). I am also so thrilled and honoured to receive the good news that my pink brest made it to the top for November 2008 edition (and this photo also was covered by tabloid Wanita Indonesia (Indonesian Women tabloid) back home (Indonesia)). Thank you and congratulations to all the other winners.

I am also thanking Andrew of the Spittoon and Spittoon Extra, the very Father of DMBLGIT, to allow me be exposing this photo event on the hosting side on my blog.

my pink brests for Pink October

Before we come up to the rules, I want to introduce you the judges on the judging panel first. I am sure, you are familiar with these foodie bloggers, as they are widely recognized by their talents and professionalism in food photography. I love their high-quality works as well as admire their passion on food and food photography. Guess what? They come from 5 different countries!

Here they are:

Alessandro Guerani from Bologna, Italy has been known as a professional photographer. Both of his portfolio website and food blog are stunning and inspiring with excellent quality of food photos that you might find yourself in awe. You may also find him and his works on his Flickr account.

Bron Marshall: my talented fellow Kiwi blogger from Christchurch, New Zealand who has won a lot of awards, such as Overall Winner category of DMBLGIT July 2006, and on DMBLGIT August 2006 for the Best Lighting is the food blogger whose food photos I have admired since my early years in blogging. Enjoy her photos on her blog, Bron Marshall: The Classic and Creative Cuisine or on her Flickr account.

Melody Chong MY from Singapore is a food blogger who happens to be a school of fashion student, vice verso. Her food photos are always inspiring as you can view on her blog, Small Talk. View her photostream on her Flickr account to find more of her recent works.

Peter G from Sydney, Australia, is a food blogger whose passion on food you can always feel and review from his posts. His food styling is wonderful and his lighting is perfect. You may view his reviews on his blog, Slouvaki for the Soul, and his photostream on his Flickr account.

Sabra Krock is from New York, United States. If you happen to view her portfolio and her food blog Cookbook Catchall, you will agree that Sabra is very professional. She has received many awards on food photography for her excellent works. If you are her regular visitor on her Flickr account, you will know that she loves exploring her ideas on either food photography as well as still life elements.


The rules

Each food blogger can submit one food or drink photography that was posted during November 2008, which will be viewed and scored by the selected judges.

The judges are looking for best of the best food and drink photos which will be scored under three categories:

  • Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.
  • Edibility: "does the photo makes us want to dive in and eat the food?"
  • Originality: does the photo catch our attention with the 'wow' factor, displaying something that we have not seen before?
From these categories, we will come up with:

Overall Winner: top overall scores in all three categories combined.

There are three overall winners for photographs with the highest point totals in all three categories combined, and one winner in each of the three individual categories. And I am sure as a host, I will be able to pick my faves. YAY!


Here's how to participate:

Only one entry per person (a single photograph, no diptychs).
The photograph must have been taken by you and it is your original work.
The photograph must have appeared on your blog during the month of November 2008.
Entries must be received by December 20, 2008 at any time (from wherever you are).


Sending the entries

By sending your entries, you agree that your photos are going to be re-displayed and altered to the convinience size on the host's blog and on DMBLGIT page.

Send your entry to arfi.binstedATgmailDOTcom with DMBLGIT as the subject with the following necessary details, please:

your name
your location
your blog’s name and URL
your photograph’s title
the URL of the post containing the photograph
type of camera used, lens if you wish
attachment of your photo with the JPEG or JPG format, of no more than 500pxls width (height does not matter)


The gallery can be viewed here (or look for the DMBLGIT gallery logo on my sidebar for your convenient). I will update the photo entries as soon as I receive them. So, what are you waiting for?


Additional News

If you are interested in hosting DMBLGIT event and ready to be a host (or a judge at the same time), you can as well view the instructions on DMBLGIT page Andrew has made for all of us to read. The hosting job is currently open for 2009.


Have a great fun!


December 05, 2008

Dear Barbara, We Love You!

Dear Barb,

In our learning room, I, Ben and Sarah are getting around the table, trying to make words out of the feelings we have been keeping for you. Ben keeps frowning, just a way how he's engaged in a deep thought, with his lower lip tucked in, and playing with a pen in between his little fingers. Sarah keeps chirping out some words while trying to make the best thought she ever feels, while she must be unaware that she's too noisy for her big brother.

We then decided to go outside, to the roses beds, to the paddock and orchard, to track back what we usually did when you, Bryan and The Binsteds gathered together for luncheon date here. We stopped at the greengage tree.

homegrown greengages

Ben said, 'Pity the plums are not ripen yet, Mum. Otherwise, Barbara would be enjoying them. I know Barbara likes greengages.' And Sarah nodded approvingly. So, we just took a snapshot of the green plums when they are still... green, just for you to remember the time you were enjoying them (the peach which you said you had to eat it over your kitchen sink because the juice is running down your chin is apparently not ripen as well, not just yet, but we'll keep you posted) when you visited us way back then.

homegrown strawberries

homegrown strawberries homegrown strawberries-2 by arfi binsted copyright 2008

And then, we came to the strawberry patch. Sarah jumped up and cried 'Mum! Mum! Strawberries are all ripen! We should make strawberry smoothies for Barbara! I am sure she'll like it!'. As we all have known that you love pink, we then agreed to make pink smoothies, we picked the strawberries and managed to bring home three handfuls red, juicy, and fragrant ones out of those we should have scoffed. Mind you, these little children love enjoying freshly picked fruits or vegetables and will eat them straight away (not to mention their mother).

pink for Barb

There they were, being busy bees in the kitchen themselves, washing, whizzing the strawberries, mixing them with honey, a banana, plain yogurt and a little drizzle of cranberry juice. They also decided what to use on the photo shoot. Sarah included her dance skirt on the backdrop. I just had a few moment to capture the smoothies when they allowed me, before the smoothies had really gone. Here's what they have scribbled:

we love you, barb!

Ben is going to be 6 years old the end of this year and he has developed his own scribble, although his handwriting is still large and disorganized. I'll be busy preparing his birthday party after Christmas for sure, which is reminded all the time. He is curious what presents he's going to receive for his birthday. On that card, he also wrote to you on behalf of his ginger cat, Bow Bow.

Sarah is now 4.5 years old and definitely is catching up with her brother. She is writing the words in the pink heart. I think she meant to write 'I love you', but she wrote 'I hope you' instead. Well, I guess she means something good.

John's sending you his smile and hope. We'd love to visit you some time when we're traveling to Australia. Hopefully, we will as well be able to go visit Indonesia again next year. Finger crossed, what will happen will happen. Good timing is all we need to work on today.

That's all the updates from the Binsteds household and farm since it's been a long time we haven't had luncheon date anymore. We are all thinking of you and will always send our best love your way. Stay strong, Barb. We love you!

Love from us all,
The Binsteds at the farm

P.S: You may be expecting to receive this similar big hug from other fellow bloggers who are involved in Secret Blog Event, a special blogging for our special friends, secretly hosted by Bron and Ilva.

December 03, 2008

In Between...

Just want to share with you what I discovered when we were last time at the Rotorua lake.

dunkin' session

I think you can guess what she's doing. It looks un-ladylike, but that's how she gets the food she needs.

I also want to say thank you for the judges to decide my Pink Brests to be the first overall winner of DMBLGIT November 2008 hosted by Suganya. I feel honoured! And thank you for fellow bloggers who congratulate me via emails and Gtalk. I appreciate you all! Thanks once again.


November 30, 2008

KBB #8: Bitter Peppermint Chocolate Biscuits

KBB #8: Bitter Peppermint Chocolate Biscuits, hosted by Ellen of Chicken's Kitchen.


I think the shortbread is rolled too thick, the filling is too runny. I am not sure what had got into me that day. Everything was gone wrong. I halved the shortbread when I saw that the biscuits turned out to be way too high and too big for my size. Turned out alright, but the chocolate coating was too thick. Perhaps I am too fussy.


I like the combination of the flavour though. I cut the sweetness of the shortbread by using 50g of caster sugar only (recipe can be found here). For the chocolate coating, I use dark chocolate 72%. I think the combination of not-too-sweet shortbread, peppermint filling and bitter dark chocolate is quite pleasant.


My Review:

I'd rather have two layers of biscuits rather than three as I don't think I can roll the shortbread thinner than that. The bitter chocolate coating is an excellent accent for this shortbread. It compliments the peppermint flavour. However, I am not sure if I will return to this biscuit again.

November 21, 2008

Rose, Rose Planting, and Rosewater Cheesecake

The weather is improving and we have spent so much time in the sun lately. Apart from the wind blowing from any directions, it seems that Summer is almost coming with the heat which brings in the mode of wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, lotion (and I'm getting much darker!), swimsuits, sandals, cold desserts, and ice cream!


Indulgence is just coming in sort of ways, depending on how it suits your style. My way is quite simple: relaxing in the garden on a rug accompanied by sweets and a cup of coffee with a good of book to read. Although I only have an hour to spend time for myself, it is just enough to feel 'me' again. You know, when you're a mother, your time is not 'your real' time, but theirs (babies, toddlers, husband?). Aren't we all like that mother elephant (if you ever read this book) whose time for herself is just 3 minutes and 2 seconds before she finally is joined by her three kids. So, whenever you have time, please, indulge yourself, make you yourself happy.

It makes me happy to see my roses, annual and perennial flowers are blooming. All the hard work during Autumn and Winter now is rewarding. Roses are madly in blooms which I hope they'll still store some energy to give more in Summer. I suppose it is quite early for them to blossoming that much, but I guess they're quite happy with themselves.

Are you familiar with how to plant roses? I am not a gardening expert, but I do a lot of gardening from year to year. I experience it, so I hope it's alright to give you some thoughts on what I usually do on planting roses. My way of gardening is based on organic and I don't use commercial fertilizer, but mature sheep, cow, and fowl manure from our farm.

When to Grow

I usually plant roses in Autumn or Winter, when it's usually the time for them to 'hibernate'. They should be cut back to allow fresh growth in Spring onwards.

Where to Grow

I choose to grow them in the position where they can get full sun. Roses love plenty of sun. Try not to grow them where they will get wind too much. I have mine on the windy location and they are not growing as much as those which are in the open site. Moreover, wind sometimes carries disease for roses.

What Type of Soil

I have found out that roses best grown in rich heavy soil which is also well-drained. The soil at my place is already fertile, however, I still fork in some rich organic matter (compost or manure) to keep the nutrients and food balance in the soil, in helping the roses growing better and not starving. Perhaps, this can also be applied to whatever soil condition you have, either sandy or clay. I believe, organic matter (compost or manure) is a way to improve the poorer soil condition naturally.

Which Plant

When we bought the roses, they were all bare-rooted. However, you can always buy those in pots available in your nurseries. Perhaps, there is a certain degree of possibilities your store-bought-potted roses will thrive more than those bare-rooted will. I am certain that the good preparation of soil will give good results on successful planting because of the adequate food and nutrients your roses will accept while they're moved in their new 'home'. One thing to remember though when buying roses, that you should look at the onward facing buds. These buds should be there and healthy because they are the ones which are going to be the new shoots.

How to Plant

Now, when planting roses, I always get a help from my husband to dig out the holes for me. The holes should be wider and deeper than your root base of plant. I usually dilute the juice (vermicast) from the worm farm (vermicomposting--are you familiar with it?) with 10 litre of water for about 1 litre of the juice. I pour this mixture into the holes and plant the rose immediately. This way while the soil is dampened, it also will help to provide roses food in its early months in the new place. You can also use mature manure to be mixed in with the soil to act like a slow fertilizer, organic way.


- is essential when there are aphids around. I usually use organic base spray which is available in New Zealand. It is using herbal plants to get rid of the nuisance aphids. I also like to mix garlic and baking soda to prevent black spot developed on the leaves of the roses, in early Spring onwards.

Fertilizing-is important to keep providing food and nutrients to roses. In Spring, when the roses are growing their buds, it is the time I am applying mature manure and top the beds with grass cutting or rotten leaf compost. In early Summer, I usually keep providing them liquid manure we catch from the worm farm. I also use grass cutting (the ones from the catcher of your lawn mower) or leaf compost from Autumn falls to be applied on the roses beds. They like to be kept moist all year round. These grass cuttings and leaves will give them more food too.

Watering-is what roses need in Summer. We usually pump the water from the creek to water the garden in dry Summer. Roses need a lot of watering to survive as they are producing mass of blooms. I usually carry 10 litre of water for each rose from the hose (and I have more than 30 bushes of roses), good for exercise, you know.

Pruning-in Winter is necessary as well as is important. I always like to see my roses grow more shoots which are not tangled one another. It is important to prune your roses to get new look (you like to have your haircut or have it trimmed too, don't you?) of growth next year. It is also to let the air circulating in between the bush).

I just like to stay organic, so that I can use rose petals to make rosewater or other delicacies which are rarely to be found in ordinary cafes. More to come, sweet child o' mine! Here's another method of making rosewater.

Rose Petals in Distilled Water

Rosewater (2)

I put the rose petals in a jar, pour distilled water in it, and then cover it. Put this jar in a place where your rose petals can be heated through in the sun, naturally. I put mine on the deck in the morning and on the window sill in the kitchen in the afternoon where I can get hot afternoon sun. When they are heated, they tend to condense which this is your rosewater-going-to-be. Keep this going on for a week or so until you get the scent you want. Store in the bottle and keep it in the fridge.

I have found out, from the two methods I've been using, the latest one produces more scent than the first. Don't ask me why, because what I really experience that the latest one is quite an easy method. You just need to purchase distilled water available from your pharmacy or health store. This water is also called deionized water or purified water. It's already distilled for ready to use. One thing to remember though, use those roses which are no pesticide sprayed on them.

rose and rosewater cheesecake

The other day I made an experiment on using rosewater on cheesecake. It's a simple cheesecake, not too sweet, not too heavy with crumbly ginger nut biscuit base. I like to have a good result on mild rose flavour, so I use the rosewater which I first made from extracting the essence in hot water. To divide the flavour, I then decided to make two layers of the cheesecake. Well, not really layers, because I sort of mixing the two mixture to give rosy swirls. The first layer is the one which is flavoured with pure vanilla extract, sprinkled with chopped mini mars bars just to give accent of caramel sweetness, and then topped with rosewater flavour mixture. The fresh rose petals were the latest to mix in when I thought how it will taste when they are mixed in. So I did.

guest 1 guest 2

Well. That was kept in the fridge overnight. The next morning was a nice surprise when our good friends, The Dwens, dropped by. Chatting around the paddock and vegetable garden, we then enjoyed morning tea with this rose and rosewater cheesecake. I put a jar of pomegranate sauce that I made the same day I did the cheesecake. See how it happens when they're mingled.

Sliced away. The result was rather good really. However, I am not sure about the flavour. My guests thought they could really taste the rosewater in the mixture which is mildly scented. Moreover, the rose petals give burst of flavour in it as well. When my mum-in-law came by for a cup of tea, she said she could taste the roses and rosewater in it as well. My brother-in-law, however, points out that the flavour is just right for his palate because he does not really fancy rosewater. Given to taste the mildly scented cheesecake in his mouth, he said it was just right.

So, there's a mixture of feeling here. Here's what I think, the addition of rose petals in the rosewater cheesecake is a good move. This is just like putting diced apples in cupcakes mixture which is bursting into nice flavour and sweetness when popped up into your mouth. I can taste the flavour of the rose petals in it although the rosewater is very mild. Perhaps, it can be much stronger, but I have to be clever which level is the safest way in order to get the right flavour as well as the scent. I also will not use ginger nut biscuit crusts because I think they are too strong for the delicate flavour of rosewater. Nice biscuits will do. Perhaps chopping away some Turkish Delight, sweeties which have rosewater flavour? Anyway, if you happen to try out my recipe below, please let me know what you think. The pomegranate sauce is an optional.


Rose and Rosewater Cheesecake

Biscuits base: 180g ginger nut biscuits, coarsely crushed, and mixed with about 2 Tbs melted butter. Pressed on the base of the cake tin. Leave it in the fridge for around 30 minutes.



Beat 350ml cream cheese with sugar (I just throw in 2-3 Tbs caster sugar-have more if you like it sweeter) until smooth. Beat in the sour cream. In a separate bowl, beat the thicken cream until just fluffy. Mix this into the cream cheese mixture. Have ready 1/4 cup hot water, sprinkle about 2 tsp gelatine powder, leave it to swell. Stir well and pour by straining (should there be any tiny lumps from the gelatine) into the cheese cake mixture. Mix well. Divide the mixture into two portions. One portion is flavoured with a drop of pure vanilla extract. Spread this on to the biscuit base. Chop coarsely 6 mini mars bars, sprinkle on top of the vanilla mixture. Tint the other mixture with a drop of red food colouring, mix well. Flavour it with 2 Tbs rosewater and mix in a cup of fresh rose petals. Combine well, and spoon on top of the white mixture. Deep a skewer and make a swirl to mix the white and pink mixture. Fridge overnight.

Here is one of my roses collection:

City of Timaru. It is said to be one of many roses the Father of roses, David Austin has developed. It was one of the heart centre of garden exhibition in New Zealand some time ago.

City of Timaru

November 14, 2008

Make the Most of Roses: Rosewater

Centennial, Electron, Compassion

We're approaching the end of Spring in this southern hemisphere and the weather is quite temperamental. After almost a week without rain, the soil has become dry and we have to attend the garden for watering, more than we should have done in this season, as we're still germinating some seeds for the next crops. While the days have been so windy, it is difficult for us to do some spraying whilst aphids have yet been attacking our cherry trees. We use pyrethrum to spray aphids and bronze beetles in order to be parallel with organic gardening and the safer environment, but this can't be done in windy days. But for my roses, I usually mix garlic and baking soda for more organic 'pesticide'. Sometimes, it works, other time it fails. It just is depending on how much rain we have and how much time I have the opportunity to do the regular spraying. When it's raining or windy, it is impossible to be in the timetable.

I plant my own roses. Most of them are bush varieties, ranged from Floribunda, and Hybrid Teas, besides climbing and patio varieties. Most of my roses are those developed by the Father of rose, a famous rosarian, David Austin.

First time planting back in 2003, we only had 15 bushes, now it's about 30-something bushes including those I grow (fortunately) from cuttings. I refuse to except the term 'green thumbs or green fingers' because I believe everyone can do gardening whenever she/he wants and is able to spend time for looking after plants. Fail or not, it is depending on how someone cares or looks after the plants or not. You can't really plant a bunch of parsley and ignore it for days while you're going socializing somewhere and expect your parsley will thrive without watering or such.

before and after pruning

Perhaps, some of you may think that roses are fussy plants, but you know what, they will give you as much rewards as you give them care for. Yes, they need good soil enrichen with manure (they love horse manure, although some gardeners prefer sheep pellets!), plenty of sun, and water in Summer. They have to be pruned in Winter to remove the hard and dead stalks to ensure young growths next year. The dead buds should be picked to give prolong live till Autumn. They also need to be watched out from aphids and other diseases such as mildew and so forth, but this is a part of the maintenance itself.

roses bed in summer

I don't really think this is a heavy task because I just love being in the garden. I love to watch my flowers growing from seeds or stems into plants which give me flowers or fruits. I love to be able to pick my own flowers in my own garden and arrange them in pots for tables or chests at home. I love to breath the rose-scented air in our bedroom (romantic?). Roses make me happy. Don't they say that rose is the symbol of wisdom, purity, love, beauty and grace which have been mankind's companion for thousand years? Why not try plant a pot or two in your garden, then you'll know exactly how I feel. After all, the rewards are yours.

As much as positive properties a roses has, I just love to make rosewater myself. Sometimes, if I need to, I would bathe in rosewater and lavender essential oil. The recipe is simple: pick rose petals and lavenders. Have ready boiling water and then pour these flowers in a saucepan, pour the boiling water in, cover with the lid, and leave it rest for at least 30 minutes (that if you can't really wait). Pour the water into your bath water, soak in. Relax.

When making rosewater for culinary purpose, I use David Austin's old English rose, which the name I forgot. The petals are small (unlike those of floribunda or hybrid tea cousins) and the scent it pleasantly sweet, the scent which you won't forget forever, and its colour is purplish. It is a kind of climbing rose, almost similar to Gertrude Jekyll. When they have finished flowering, they tend to develop hips which are deep orange colour.

English Rose

Homemade Rosewater (1)

In making rosewater, there are two ways I usually use. The quicker one is this one. I'll post the other one next.

Old English rose petals

A HomeMade Rosewater

Just use less water, as you can always add it later. The less the water, the more fragrant your rosewater will be. Boil the water, and then add in the petals. Cover the lid. Leave it cool, and then keep it in the fridge overnight. Strain and sqeeze out the remaining water from the petals. Put in a bottle or bottles. Lidded. Keep in the fridge. I usually use this within a week because it does not contain of preservative, or put them in a ice-cube trays. Freeze them, remove from the trays. Put them in the freezer-safe bags. Use them for later use, especially when it is not Summer anymore.

November 13, 2008

Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcake

There's a mixture of feeling when I found my old classmates from the primary school at a community I join in. You can't really imagine how they look like now for all you know from the old memory was a pair of shorts, mischief, and the heat of the sun. Yes, there were lots of activities in the sun, boy-girl scouts, marching band, not to mention hiking or journeying into forests, barefooted. Mind you, I was always a jungle girl, felt earth on my feet and rain on my head. I love cycling and I love being with my friends.

I am just so glad that I've found them. It's a cliche feeling perhaps to remember what we did at school times. Not much to tell I suppose. How big was your memory when you were only 8 or 10 years old?

There are shadows, laughter, and yes... childhood food. And there's also friendship, tolerance, and solidarity. That's what I feel when I find my old classmates: solidarity. I still can feel it in the air, even when we're just sending emails of throwing jokes through chatterbox.

Pendopo92 is a website which unites all of us who has connection with this very village. It is the place where I was born, where I spent my primary years with lots of friends, where I was introduced to traditional food which I miss so much since I am really far away to the access. A hometown you might call it.

Pendopo is a very rural area in South Sumatra and had had its golden time back then. In the old days, it was well-known rich with 'black gold'. It has its own history, back in 1912 when it was found in a shallow depth of the earth's layer which then produced 800 barrel of oil a day, until later in 1922, the produce was up to 10,000-20,000 barrels per day. My father worked at that oil company which was named PT Stanvac Indonesia in the old times until these days it is called PT Medco Energi International.

And today, I suppose the oil is gone and people change the directions or plans although many of them have still been involved in oil matters. I am probably one of many who does not follow the next-generation of oil-mining workers and associates because I chose to be different.

Anyway, I am here to submit an entry to contribute Aparna's Sweet Celebration on her 1st blog anniversary. Blogging changes your life? Maybe so. Maybe we're just growing older with a growing group of friends. Maybe we're getting wiser from one oldest post to the latest. Maybe so.

Well, Happy Blogging Annivesary for Aparna At My Diverse Kitchen. Keep blogging, my friend and keep up your good works!

Almond and Orange Blossom Cakes

Source: Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 41, October/November 2008.

Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcakes

125g butter, softened

¾ cup (165g) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup (250ml) plain flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder, sifted

¼ cup (30g) almond meal

½ cup (125ml) milk

2 tsps orange blossom water

sugar flowers, to decorate

Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Beat butter, sugar and extract until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beat well. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, and then almond meal, milk and orange blossom water (the recipe tells us to beat it, but I just fold it gently). Combine well. Spoon the mixture into 18 x ½ cup-capacity (125ml) muffin tins lined with paper cases (I ran out of paper cases and I used bigger size muffin tins, greased and floured, so I only get 6 cupcakes). Bake for 15 minutes or until springy to the touch. Remove from the tins and cool on the wire racks. When cooled, spoon the lemon icing on top of each cupcake and decorate with sugar flowers.

Lemon Icing

Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcakes

2 cups (320g) icing sugar mixture, sifted

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 Tbs boiling water

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. (You should sift the icing sugar to avoid lumps formed, although they may be 'melted' when all mixed with the boiling water and other liquid). Makes 18.

November 08, 2008

Sparky Night, A Wedding, and An Experiment

Guy Fawkes nights should mean to be bright and sparky and that what we get each year. Although showers were still stubborn in between the sparks and the heat of the bonfire, they gave up in the end, leaving us chilled but excited.



We went out to visit our good friend, The Dwens, down at Te Kohanga, about 25 minutes driving from our place. Their place, which is hundred of hectares wide that you can even see the Waikato river stretches from East to West from their place, is the most spacious place we can find to brighten the 5th of November with possible assorted fireworks.


Started with dinner and finished with desserts, we began to split up into the night, try to combat the chill and the rain. It was just so much excitement I can tell from the only man who lit the fireworks from the noises he made; 'a bit worrying', Sue said. Imagine that fireworks can even bring joy to whoever lights and sees them.

Today, it is an election day. New Zealanders are voting for their prospect future. Watch the news, then you'll know. Not on my side to talk about politics. At midday, there was quite a hectic movement in the house. While we were attending the garden, applying fertilizer and such, we were reminded that today is Krystal's wedding day. Throwing away the gardening boots and gloves, rushing ourselves to get ready and be as representative as we could. It could be a bit of help if you keep an agenda for a thing like this, you know.


It's just so amazing to witness someone weds. The colour and expressions of their faces promise the future of forever love that they're ready to weave together. I've never seen Krystal so happy and so bright like today. She was so beautiful in her wedding gown. Good luck, Krystal. We're so happy for you. Well done and we wish you all be happy together forever.

I was not on the happy side yesterday as I found out that my name was used by somebody on a shoutbox of a website. I was really furious and sent an email to the administrator immediately to ban the person who did it. I don't know why someone would do that to me while as far as I know I never hurt anyone. I hope it does not happen to you.

Back to the kitchen, I've done a little bit of experiment while ideas are playing around in my head. I develop a gluten-free recipe which I think I have to improve it somehow in the future. I call it Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake.

I have been using the gluten-free package from Healtheries Simple baking mix and I thought why I don't mix some myself. There I did. I found out that sticky rice flour can also be used to make a cake as well as potato starch. I am using a large number of free-range eggs because I believe the natural emulsifier in the yolks can lift up the volume of the cake and also moisten it.

I am sending this experiment cake for World Food Day-Time to be Thankful, hosted by Ivy of Kopiaste. I am thankful to be in such happy condition to be able to feel gratitude in a healthy life and green environment where I still can breath the fresh air. I wish the world would always be green, so our children in the future will always be thankful they live in such a prosperity earth.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake

12 free-range eggs
180g caster sugar
50g rice flour, sifted
160g sticky (glutinous) rice flour, sifted
50g almond meal, sifted
150g cocoa powder, sifted
400ml coconut cream (cook until thicken and reduce to 325ml, then cooled)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted with flours
1/8 tsp ground star anise, sifted with flours
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, sifted with flours
1/4 tsp ground cardamom, sifted with flours
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I use Queen product)

experiment cake gluten free chocolate spice cake2

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a round cake tin measured 26cm x 7cm. This cake will rise high (that if you do not overmix it). Beat the egg yolks until foamy, add in the sugar a little at a time. Keep beating until thick and forms ribbons with pale colour. Remove the beaters and fold in the sifted flours, cocoa and spices, gently. Take care not to knock off the bubbles in the batter volume. Pour in the cooked and cooled coconut cream in a thin stream until all used. Do this very gently, otherwise your batter will gone flat. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until springy to the touch. The finished colour will be golden brown.


Now, I was thinking to pour in the coffee and spice syrup while it was hot but then I was afraid it would be too much spice thing mixed up in one whole cake. Then, I decided to just sprinkle some icing sugar. Perhaps, you may like the sound of coffee spice syrup? Here's a hint: 2 cups double-srength espresso simmer with caster sugar and whole star anises and cinnamon quills. Cook until the syrup is thicken and reduced. The amount of sugar can be adjusted to your liking, but then you have to remember that when the syrup is thicken, the sugar will then make its way to sweeten the syrup. If you add too much sugar, it might well be empowering the whole flavour in it.

the petals

I also want to thank you for your concern of my mother's condition and my own last time I posted. Your warmth approach is greatly appreciated. Thank you for being my readers, friends, and sympathizers. I am nothing without you.