Sunday, July 22, 2012

A tale about travel and a cheesecake

This post was suppose to be about using up lemons, but when I decided to make a classic baked cheesecake, it got me thinking about when I went traveling overland through the Middle East and I set about trying to order a birthday cake in Pakistan.

A bit random, I know, but bear with me. My trip took me from Egypt through Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and through into India. I was traveling with two girlfriends and one poor Aussie bloke, pre Sept 11. Six weeks in and after a 24 hour journey in a minivan with 24 people stuffed in every cavity, we arrived in the town of Peshawar, the city that borders the Khyber Pass route into Afghanistan. We were all in need of some rest, vitamins and decent food.

This Aussie bloke just happened to be in the worst shape, sick from all sorts of travel bugs, but mostly sick from lack of nutrition. He was pretty fussy, he only ate plain, simple food. His favorite dish being pasta with sliced tomatoes and grated cheese, followed by cheesecake. Now I can't imagine getting to adulthood and with all the options for food in Australia and picking this meal as my all time fav - however this was the case and it went against him when traveling in such countries as we did.

As it turned out, it was his birthday the week we were there, so us girls thought, lets cheer him up and make him his favorite meal. Easy, if your at home, easy if we were in Europe, probably easyish in Asia, but not so in Pakistan. But we weren't deterred, hey, we had mince and cheese pies at the Australian embassy in Pakistan, we must be able to get pasta, tomatoes, cheese and a cheesecake. So we set about our mission and by the end of the day we had procured our ingredients and found a local bakery that were willing to bake a cheesecake for us.

The next day, we surprised the Aussie bloke with his bowl of plain and simple pasta, sliced tomatoes and grated cheese. He just smiled. But wait, we said, there's more. We produced a cake box, he lifted up the top, and in sat a cake, a birthday cake, with grated cheese melted on top. He smiled.

fyi: Grated lemon rind not grated cheese on this one!

Donna Hay's classic baked cheesecake

330g cream cheese, softened
500g ricotta
4 eggs
1⅓ cups (295g) caster (superfine) sugar
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1½ tablespoons water
⅓ cup (40g) almond meal (ground almonds)
¾ cup (105g) plain (all-purpose) flour
¼ cup (55g) caster (superfine) sugar
90g butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 150°C (350°F). To make the base, place the almond meal, flour, sugar and butter in a bowl. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until a rough dough forms. Line the base of a lightly greased 20cm-round springform tin with non-stick baking paper. Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base. Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden. Set aside. To make the filling, place the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Combine the cornflour and water until smooth and add to the cheese mixture. Process the mixture until smooth. Lightly grease the sides of the tin and pour the filling over the base. Tap the tin lightly to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and stand the cake for 1 hour, leaving the door closed. Refrigerate until cold and serve with fresh berries, or sprinkle with icing sugar and lemon rind (Ingrid's suggestion) Serves 10.

Extracted from Donna Hay

TIP: The only problem I had with this recipe, was trying to remove the baking paper from the bottom of the cake, so I would just grease the bottom of the cake tin, unless you don't mind the baking paper being there at serving.

More recipes using lemons

New York style lemon curd cheesecake 


  1. OMG that trip was 13 years ago!! Makes me feel old. Fantastic memories... why do I remember the cheese on top of the cake as processed squares though? Think I prefer this Donna Hay cake... yum. xx

    1. Maybe you were right ...melted processed squares...even worse!

  2. It can be hard to travel for fussy eaters (or people with some dietary requirements and allergy). Fortunately for me I found that I like to try local food as much as I can, still, I am a vegetarian so often I had to refuse the national dishes! :-). On the bright side being a veggies means that there are very few chances of getting a bad belly in some countries. You friend could have easily been a fussy Italian too, craving for pasta like that! :-).

    The cheesecake looks great, lemon is my favourite flavor for it.


    1. Thanks Alessandra.
      The best part of traveling is trying the local food, however I was also a vegetarian at the time and I remember we were taken out for a meal at a local restaurant in Pakistan and I was asked if I wanted soup, I told them I didn't get meat, "No Problem...No problem..." So when everyones soup came out with a big bone floating in the middle, I thought..."Thank god, they have a vegetarian option" , then mine came out , and it was the same soup with the bone removed! Fair enough!!!
      PS: You look beautiful in the latest issue of Taste by the way!

  3. It looks amazing Ingrid and your anecdote is priceless! Did you use the lemons from your tree? I want to try this now in my new kitchen!

    1. Yip, the lemons were from my tree - its dripping in them - so help yourself. A big bowl of lemons will look great in your new kitchen. x

  4. That's so funny, what good friend's you were! I bet that's a birthday he'll never forget. Yummy looking cheesecake, will have to try that. x

    1. Hi Vic,
      I don't think he has left Australia ever again! The recipe is a goodie, nice and light. Ingrid

  5. Inspiring anecdote and recipe. I remember choosing to go to Morrocco instead of your middle east trip because I thought you were mad to go through those countries then. On retrospect you snuck in in the nick of time!

    1. I look back now, and I think we were definitely a little mad, quite brave too - it amazing how invincible you feel in your early 20's. So glad we went though, it was an amazing trip

  6. tee hee, love that story. Your cheesecake looks amazing! Great colour!

  7. What a wonderful gesture and not an easy task I'm sure. The cheesecake looks perfect, I always prefer the baked variety.