Keep calm and carry on…

August 29, 2010

Yesterday saw my first attempt at making a cake here in Istanbul. Although, as I have no oven, it was a no-bake cake – a no-bake pistachio and dried cherry cheesecake. In fact, it ended up being a no-bake, no-scales, no-cream cheese, no-mixing bowl, no-electric beater pistachio and dried cherry cheesecake.

Which was fun.

The adventure started when I tried to find cream cheese. The recipe I used, a favourite of mine by Nigel Slater, actually calls for mascarpone – but I knew that would be a fruitless search in Istanbul, so thought cream cheese would be an easier option. How wrong I was.

If there is such a thing as cream cheese in Turkey, I have yet to find it. It was suggested I use something called ‘krem peynir’, which, literally translated, does actually mean cream cheese. The guy in the shop promised me it was “without salt”, so I took my chances. Unfortunately, once I got it home and opened the pot, I discovered it had the taste and consistency of flavourless Dairy Lea.

Which was nice.

The next challenge was the dried cherries. The challenge wasn’t in finding the things, the challenge was in pitting them. Yes, the cherries were dried with their stones still in. However, as I utterly loathe sultanas – the recipe’s suggested alternative to the cherries – I decided that scraping off the shrivelled flesh was still preferable to those squishy little fruits of the devil. It was, but only just…

An hour later, with fingers the colour of Sweeney Todd’s, I started on the actual cheesecake. First step, cream the butter and sugar. Not as easy as it sounds when you have no mixing bowl, no electric beater and no scales to measure the quantities. What I did have was a large saucepan, a wooden slatted spatula and an extensive conversion chart to work out how many dessertspoons of sugar make up 75g.

After I quickly lost count of how many spoons of sugar I’d chucked into the saucepan, I gave up and got to work on the creaming. And worked, and worked, and worked. Do you know how difficult it is to cream butter and sugar in something that doesn’t have the smooth, rounded sides of a mixing bowl? Try it. It’s harder than you think. I managed to reasonably combine the two ingredients but didn’t get much further than that. Then it was time to add the krem peynir…

Which was a joy.

What I want to tell you is that it had the consistency of a handkerchief during a heavy cold. However, I’m a lady, so I won’t. (But it did…) Once again, an electric beater would have come in handy at this stage. But I tried my best, than gave up and chucked in the rest of the ingredients. Including the pistachios – which were supposed to be finely ground, but my knife skills weren’t quite up to that job, so roughly chopped had to do.

With all the ingredients (kind of) combined, it was clear that the consistency wasn’t quite right. It looked a little runny and more than a little grainy. But I poured it on top of the biscuit base, put it in the fridge and hoped for the best.

This morning, I cautiously opened the fridge, and was amazed to see a well-set pistachio and dried cherry cheesecake. It was still definitely too grainy for my liking, but a couple of slices later, and the general consensus was that it was good.

Which was nice.



7 Responses to “Keep calm and carry on…”

  1. Wendy Says:

    Fantastic! Just goes to show what you can do when you have to… when a girl needs cake, a girl will get cake! It looks delicious! (I take it you will be getting your pots, pans, spoons and utensils soon?)

  2. Hehe, my thinking entirely, Wendy!
    Although, as far as my utensils are concerned (and to quote another WW2-era saying), I think I’m going to have to make do and mend for the time being. Not sure if and when my kitchen stuff will arrive here – but for the moment I’m enjoying the challenge of primitive cooking!

  3. jasnieres Says:

    You have forgotten to mention the main ingredient you used that held it all together – ingenuity.

  4. Gabby Says:

    Yes, ingenuity and not giving up definitely helped! By the way, how did it set without any gelatine? I can’t make no-bake cheesecake to save my life; I tried once with a gelatine recipe and it went all lumpy 😦
    Have you tried much of the local baklava? That has to be one of my yummiest sweet things!

  5. Hi Gabby. You’re right about not giving up – but that’s more because I couldn’t bear wasting all the ingredients I’d paid for (my Scottish frugality coming out there, I reckon). As for the gelatine, I really don’t think it’s necessary, as long as you refrigerate the cake for long enough. And also, the recipe I used has a fair bit of butter in it, so that probably helped to hold it all together once chilled. You should give it another go – although, how easy is it getting mascarpone or cream cheese in Asahikawa?
    I’ve discovered a tiny wee place that sells homemade baklava just round the corner from our flat. And it really is the best I’ve ever tasted. I have to be careful not to go in there every day for a fresh supply!

  6. nickylady Says:

    ooh, this looks so tasty i could just do with a slice now!

  7. Hello and welcome Nickylady! I made another cheesecake at the weekend, and it was much much better! I’m getting the hang of cooking with no equipment. x

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