My mother’s filthy cheesecake

I never really appreciated this recipe as a child. What I now recognise as a wonderful firm, velvet texture was chalky and bland to me then (and part of a general dislike of anything ‘creamy’). The genius of the recipe is that it uses good old jelly in place of faffing about with gelatin – hence the ‘filthy’ epithet.

The recipe I wrote down on my last trip home was specifically for an orange version of this, complete with tinned mandarins on top. Yes, I am a child of the 70s. After fiddling around with it, it’s become lime instead.

Ingredients

  • 225g digestive biscuits
  • 170g melted butter
  • 1 packet lime jelly
  • juice and zest of 2 limes and 1 orange (to make up 150ml of liquid)
  • 225g philadelphia cheese
  • 55g caster sugar
  • small carton vanilla yoghurt
  • 300ml cream (a standard 284ml carton would be fine)
  • Dark chocolate for grating

Method

  1. Batter the digestives into submission inside a sturdy Ziploc bag, using a rolling pin. Empty into a bowl and pour over the melted butter, mix evenly. Press this into the bottom of a springform tin and put into the fridge to chill.
  2. Heat up the lemon and orange juice in a small saucepan, then add the block of jelly and melt over gentle heat.
  3. Using a food processor, whizz together the cheese, sugar, yoghurt and melted jelly.
  4. Whip the cream lightly and fold it into the mixture. Pour it into the prepped tin.
  5. Allow to set in the fridge. Before serving, remove it from the fridge for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen it before removing the springform collar. Grate dark chocolate over the top.

If you’d like a sharper taste, use only lime juice for the 1/4 pint of liquid needed to make up the jelly.

Also I notice in many cheese cake recipes a suggestion to use softened, rather than melted butter, and to pulverise it together with the crumbed biscuits in a food processor. I’ll be trying that next time. I’ve made a thicker base, you could easily reduce the amounts by a third which might be better balanced. But when it comes to cheesecake, it’s hardly about balance, right?

Advertisements

Homemade Christmas Gifts [Honeycomb]

I made this huge batch of nougat the other day. It tasted great. It also had its own personality. It was a bit of a free spirit – actually it was kind of sleazy. It wanted to throw itself all over the kitchen, over me, and just coudn’t take no for an answer.  The Blob of the candy world, it just wanted to keep oozing, and oozing… I will give it another go soon but in need of a quick-fix gift in the meantime, I opted for honeycomb instead. It’s safe and sure – well apart from when you throw in the bicarb and it threatens to flow over the side of the saucepan like molten lava…

Honeycomb

There are tons of recipes out there and I went with more or less the basic one that everyone seems to use.

Ingredients

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120g Golden Syrup
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • As many edible decorations as you can stomach (sorry)

Method 

  1. Mix the sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. I found it turned into a fudge-like mass. Once it’s on the heat, don’t stir again but swirl it around if necessary.
  2. When you put the pan on the heat, quickly prepare your baking sheet. Line it with parchment and dust liberally with edible decorations, such as edible Christmas trees, gold stars, and pearlescent glitter. Tasteful is not exactly what you’re going for here.
  3. Let the mixture melt then come to a bubbling boil, it will darken considerably.
  4. Don an oven glove if necessary, take the pan off the heat and then dump in the bicarb and whisk briskly. It will mushroom dramatically.
  5. Pour onto the baking sheet and again, go wild with the glittery stuff. Leave it to set then smash it into pieces. Bag up and give it to people with an attached disclaimer about their fillings.

 

 


Scrapiana’s Carrot Cake

Lovely Eirlys (aka Scrapiana) generously shared her Carrot Cake recipe with me, and said she didn’t mind if I gave it to you too. This is one of those great cut-and-come-again cakes that keeps well, can be made in advance, and can be tweaked to fit what you’ve got in the fridge.  I also like the fact that it has less oil that some recipes I’ve seen, but it’s still spongy, spicy and lovely. The cake in the photograph is a doubling of the recipe below – heartily recommended.

Ingredients

  • Carrots 6oz/150g
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz/100g brown sugar
  • 3 fl oz/75ml sunflower oil
  • 4 oz/100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 oz/50g desiccated coconut or ground almonds
  • 2 oz/50g dried fruit as preferred
  • Icing: 125g/4oz butter
  • 225g/8 oz cream cheese (full fat)
  • 250g/1 lb icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime, and half the juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/350F/Mark 5. Grease & line the base of a 7″ square cake tin, or a small (1 lb) loaf tin.
  2. Finely grate carrots.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy. Add oil gradually, whisking well after each addition. Then add remaining ingredients & mix to combine evenly.
  4. Spoon resulting sloppy mixture into prepared tin. Level surface and bake for 20-25 minutes (though the loaf version will take longer: various wayward ovens through the years have taken an hour) till firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool and spread with icing (optional) or just scoff warm from the tin (my preference).To make the icing: cream the butter and cheese together, then add the sugar, lime juice and zest. Spread over the top, then perhaps decorate with some chopped nuts.

Pumpkin and Ginger Swiss Roll

Pumpkin is a bit of a novelty in the UK. We’re just about getting used to carving Jack-O’-Lanterns at the end of October – or rather actually being able to readily find pumpkins at all. I grabbed a few tins of canned pumpkin this year when I saw them, they’re usually around because of American expats who are hankering after Thanksgiving concoctions and then thought – what the hell do I do with these?

A friend came for lunch yesterday, she wanted to bake while her boyfriend and the husband slunk off to play computer games. We were like regular 50s housewives. She specifically wanted to make Swiss Roll. This was supposed to be a posh ‘roulade’. I only had a small tin though so rather than it being an elegant cylinder, it was a rather more rustic concoction. It all disappeared though, which is the real test?

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • Filling: 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 30g stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Grease and line your baking tray – ours was 13×7 inches
  3. Cream the eggs and sugar together until thickened and lighter in colour and then add the pumpkin while mixing slowly.
  4. Sift the rest of the dry ingredients together and add to the bowl until just incorporated.
  5. Pour into the pan and spread out as evenly as possible.
  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the top springs back when you gently touch it. Let it cool in the tray for 2-3 minutes then move to a wire rack.
  7. Prepare the filling while it’s cooking.  Cream the butter and sugar, then add the chopped and ground ginger and the vanilla and just mix them through. Don’t overbeat.
  8. When the sponge is cooled, place cling film on top followed by a large chopping board, and flip the sponge over on to the other side. 
  9. Peel off the parchment paper and spread out the filling.
  10. Grab the cling film from underneath and roll the sponge widthways, evenly yet firmly from the shorter side of the sponge to the end.  “Fasten” it with the cling film and let it sit for a while.
  11. Unwrap the cling film to serve and it should stay in a neat sausage!

Let’s make Christmas [Chutney]

There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t fully embraced the notion of a homemade, handmade foodie Christmas before. Firstly, I’m rarely organised in time to do the sort of longer term, big batch gifts. You know, the sort of stuff you put in jars. And leave there for at least two months. Secondly, as someone who does all kind of crafty stuff, I’m a little cautious when it comes to making gifts.  I’ve never been as unlucky as a friend of mine (she knits beautiful, intricate sweaters for her family which they put away in cupboards because “They’re not quite me.” Um, well give them back? Give them to someone else?  I’ll stop now…) but suffice to say, I’m wary of putting hours and hours into a gift that might not be suitable or let’s face it, welcome. Or in this case, edible.

Leaving all that aside…this year I was ready early, we’d been to a jam and chutney class at the Make Lounge and I was making the most of a bigger kitchen. Although I no longer had my hoard of saved jars, as I had to recycle them when we moved, I found that the internet will send me a kabillion jars for not very much money …and they have red spotty lids. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a sucker for red polka dots. Once you have 72 jars, you feel under pressure to fill at least some of them. Ahem.

I went with a couple of Nigella recipes – by accident, as I was looking for a seasonal pumpkin recipe and then found her Christmas Chutney one and figured that if you’re going to make the entire house stink of boiling vinegar you might as well go for broke. The Christmas one is almost the same as here, though it specified fresh cranberries which I found (frozen) in Sainsbury’s and has dates as you can see here.

After quite a lot of chopping, the ‘cook down into a mush’ method couldn’t be simpler and it makes about a dozen (7oz) jars of red berry goodness. A quick lick of the spoon – after it was finished with, of course – was delicious, though of course it will have changed and mellowed to lose some of its vinegary tang when it’s come to its full maturity after, yes, you’ve guessed it, two months in the cupboard.

I’ll be delivering some of this to Vanessa’s “Let’s Make Christmas” blogger swap on Friday and will provide the actual recipe used, of course. I’d also hoped to have a couple of other things ready, as the deadline is also helpful for getting my own Christmas presents all done and ready, but we’ll have to see!  As well as some sweets and baked goodies nearer the time, I’m also going to be making a very big pot of lovely Tommi Miers‘ fabulous Chipotles en Adobo. This hearty salsa (she tells me it’ll last for years, at least two but it’s too addictive to hang around for long in your fridge) is a fantastic addition to both Mexican dishes and anything stew- or casserole-like that needs a little souping-up. It’s easy to make, just takes an afternoon of pot watching. And chopping.

There’s one other project that is due to mature in mid-December. Homemade vanilla essence is simple to make but again, it’s a question of time. It requires at least eight weeks to mature. To make it, get yourself a 1.5l bottle of vodka and approximately 20-30 best quality vanilla beans. Roll, flatten and split the beans and scrape out the tiny seeds with the tip of a very sharp knife and drop them into the bottle with each and every split pod. Leave for, you guessed it, two months. Sigh. Now to decorate them – Labeley is aimed at beer but I think we can repurpose?

It can work out to be relatively inexpensive to make big batch presents like this, although saving jars rather than buying them obviously helps, as I tend to go for as good quality ingredients as I can afford. It’s perhaps sensible compared to say, stocking up at one of the luxury food halls – and part of the attraction there lays in the beautiful packaging and the tradition of it all. This big-batch approach obviously makes sense if you’ve got a large group of friends and colleagues to buy for. But I don’t necessarily agree with people who say that homemade is a ‘cheap’ option and it certainly doesn’t mean less care or affection than something bought “in a real shop”. Suffice to say that if you see me proferring a jar or bottle of something your way this December, it’s because I think you’re someone with a discerning palate, and someone about whom I cared enough to make something for, from scratch.

Plus if the chutney is terrible, you’ll just chuck it in the bin and we’ll still be friends, right?