Thursday, 6 November 2008

Brenda's Non-drip Sloppy Joes

Ever since Noel came back from his trips to the beautiful Telunas Beach with a school group for Service Learning at a Malay fishing village, he's been bugging me to make Sloppy Joes. So finally, I googled for Sloppy Joe recipes, and made some for him.

I surprised not only him, but myself as well. Sloppy Joes are so much easier to make than hamburgers and are just as tasty. Also, having modified the method to utilise my excellent fuel saving thermal pot, I can cook this meal with relative ease long before the meal begins. =)

Although I read that Sloppy Joes keep well in the freezer, the amount I made is just enough for my meat-loving family. Keep? Nothing is left for the next meal! But if you do want to prepare this long in advance, the general advise is to put the meat in muffin trays and freeze it. Then remove the frozen meat from the muffin tray and keep it in a ziploc bag in the freezer.


500g lean ground beef
50g chopped onion
40g chopped capsicum
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp yellow mustard
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oats, mixed with 1/4 cup hot water (if using thermal pot) OR
1 tbsp oats, mixed with 1/2 cup hot water (if NOT using thermal pot)
A dash of dried oregano (optional)
ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large frying pan (or wok) over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onion, and capsicum; drain off liquids. (The liquids can be saved and frozen as beef stock for stew etc.)

2. With Thermal Pot:
Transfer the beef mix to the thermal pot and add the garlic, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, oats mix, oregano and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles for about 2 minutes, then transfer to the thermal pot’s outer sleeve to cook for at least another 30min for the flavours to mingle. (You could make this hours in advance and have piping hot Sloppy Joes for a picnic! =))

2. Without A Thermal Pot:
Add into the frying pan, the garlic, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, oats mix, oregano and pepper to taste. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Serve the Sloppy Joe on a soft hamburger bun; it’s up to you how dressy you want the burger to be - a slice of cheese? Onion rings? Tomato slices? It’s all up to you. =) However, make sure that when cutting the burger in half, to cut it slightly concave so that the bun holds the meat better. As it is, this Sloppy Joe recipe holds itself quite well because of the oats, but a well-cut bun helps too.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

At last! The anti-baking/cooking spell is broken. The day after my one month confinement, I got a baking itch and baked a chocolate brownie; simple and satisfying. Then it was a lot of other bakes and food that followed. The only problem was that I didn't have the time to upload the pics/recipe, what with breastfeeding Ezra, homeschooling Ethan and being the all-round BFF to Edna. =) Busy, busy days... but like a brownie, rich and satisfying! *wink*

Inspired by a Cedele Lemon Meringue, I tried looking for a Lemon Meringue recipe, but was sidetracked by a most intriguing dessert I found on - a Lemon Meringue Cheesecake. Besides, looking at the recipe, I realised how simple this Meringue? Cheesecake? is to make.

Unlike a Meringue pie, I did not need to bother with a pie crust. Further, I didn't need to deal with cooking the lemon curd. For like a chilled cheesecake, this recipe only required a sweet biscuit base and using the electric mixer to mix the cheesecake ingredients to chill, and then on with the Meringue top. =)

Or so I thought...

True to form, the cheesecake part was a piece of pie. *wink*

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

120g Marie Biscuits (crushed in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin. I set Edna to this task and she pounded with gusto!)
115g Butter, melted
500g Cream Cheese (That's 2 block PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese), softened to room temperature
1 can Condensed Milk
1/2 cup Lemon juice

1. Mix the biscuit crumbs with the butter well, and then press the mixture into a 26 cm (or thereabouts) springform pan which is lined with baking paper. Use a flat bottom glass to press in the bottom of the pan, and the back of a spoon to press the crumbs to the sides of the pan. Chill in the fridge if you do not intend to use it yet, or freezer if you intend to use it soon.**
2. In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth, then add the condensed milk and lemon juice. Continue beating until the mixture is well mixed.
3. Pour the cream cheese mix into the prepared biscuit crust. Chill until the mix is firm, which takes about 3 hours, or overnight.

As for the Meringue top, I deviated from the recipe.

You see, I expected the Meringue top to be a bit flaky/crunchy like Cedele's, which is why my first attempt looked like this:
Certainly, I was a bit disappointed that the Meringue wasn't like Cedele's crispy one, but then I realised that Cedele's meringue is probably done in a Meringue cookie style, characterised by more sugar, low oven temperature and longer baking time - not what this recipe required.

To cut a long story short, what happened is that through doing research on why my Meringue was soft, I discovered The Perfect Meringue! Just imagine a lighter than marshmallow meringue that is so light it disappears on your tongue... mmm....

The Perfect Meringue Topping

1 tablespoon Cornstarch
1/4 cup Water
4 Egg Whites (it's much easier to separate eggs and whites when they just come out of the fridge. For making meringue, you'll need to allow the whites to get to room temperature. Cold egg whites don't fluff out as well.)
1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup Caster Sugar

1. In a small saucepan, whisk the cornstarch and water together. Keep whisking while cooking it over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Be careful because this will occur very quickly; in about a minute. Once thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and continue whisking until it's smooth. Then cool completely before use. Remove lumps if there are any.

2. Place room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl of a stand mixer. On high speed, whip until foamy/bubbly.

3. Reduce speed to medium and whip, while slowly sprinkling in the 1/2 cup of sugar. Return to high speed and whip until whites form a ribbon that folds back on itself when beater is raised, about 1-2 minutes (Pre-soft peaks).

4. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and beat on high speed until shiny, soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.

5. Then, spread on top of the chilled cheesecake. Save some to pipe around the edges of the pan, or use a table knife to form spikes. Finally, bake in an oven at 180 degree Celcius until the peaks brown and caramelise, about 15 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and cool before putting it back in the fridge to chill. Cut and serve.

A Close Up

**If you look at the pictures carefully, you'd notice that in the first attempt, I used a springform pan, but in the second attempt, I used an oven-proof glass pie dish. Looks-wise, using the pie dish is prettier, but it's certainly not easy to cut out a slice. In fact, each time I wanted a slice, I needed to microwave the dish for 10 sec to loosen the biscuit crust from the glass. The springform pan was a breeze to cut, but there'll be about an inch of white where the meringue cannot brown. Of course, to "disguise" this white band, you could always press the biscuit crumbs to the top of the springform pan.