Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake

This recipe came about because I had ricotta cheese that I wanted to use up. All of the ricotta cheesecake recipes I could find online were for baked cheesecake – and I wasn’t sure that I trusted my oven enough for that (yes, I know, a food blogger with a dodgy oven is not ideal). The solution I came up with was to use the biscuit base from my sister’s lemon cheesecake and a chocolate ricotta mousse from Delia. It was delicious and I will certainly be making it again. It was a bit rustic looking because my little boy didn’t really want me to be in the kitchen so I was in a bit of a hurry, maybe next time I can make it a little more pretty.

Ingredients

for the base…

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 level tablespoon caster sugar (optional, I think it is quite sweet enough without it)

for the filling…

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 250g tub of ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of Cointreau, which is an orange liquor (Delia’s recipe used rum, the alcohol is of course optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar
  • 200ml tub creme fraiche

Method

for the base…

The base needs making at least an hour before the filling so that it has time to set in the fridge.

First put the butter in a pan to melt (as slowly as your hob will allow). Next put the biscuits into a food bag and bash them until they resemble fine breadcrumbs – this is very therapeutic! Children love this part too! If you are adding sugar put it into the bag and shake it with the crumbs to mix, then stir the crumbs into melted butter. Press the mixture into the base of the dish you will be using for the cheesecake and put it into the fridge for at least an hour.

for the filling…

Melt 100g of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water – the bowl should rest on the pan without touching the water so that the chocolate won’t burn. Grate the rest of the chocolate or chop it in a food processor and put it to one side for later.

Mix together the ricotta, Cointreau, sugar and two tablespoons of the creme fraiche. Fold this mixture into the melted chocolate and then add most of the grated chocolate – save about a tablespoon of it for decoration.

Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the biscuit base and smooth it with a knife (mine wasn’t at all smooth because I was in a hurry – oh well, next time!) and then top it with the rest of the creme fraiche and the grated chocolate. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Enjoy!

p.s. for those of you wondering about the pretty drink I served it with, it was a martini served with frozen cherries. Delicious.

chocolate ricotta cheesecake
Chocolate

Czech Cherry Cake

Czech cherry cake
cherry cake
Czech cherry cake

One of my favourite things about living in Dubai is that it is such a diverse international community. I have been trying to decide what to do with the blog while I am here (British seasonal and frugal food doesn’t quite fit) and I think that collecting recipes from around the world may be the answer.

To start me off my Czech friend Tereza has taught me how to make her famously delicious cherry cake. She uses a special flour which she brings over from the Czech Republic, however I have tested the recipe with ‘normal’ plain flour and it still works very well.

Tereza tells me that there are three basic types of flour in the Czech Republic:

  • fine (hladka– which is ‘normal’ white flour),
  • semi-rough (polohruba– the one in the picture, used for the Cherry Cake), and
  • rough (hrubá– close to semolina).

Give the recipe a try and let me know how you get on!

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • a drop of vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g plain flour
  • the zest of one Lemon
  • a couple of handfuls of frozen cherries, defrosted

Method

Don’t forget to take the cherries out of the freezer! Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla essence, half of the sugar and the oil. Next whisk the egg whites, adding the rest of the sugar until you have ‘soft peaks’ (as though you were making meringue).

Mix together the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture and fold in, adding a splash of milk until it is the consistency of thick custard.

Fold in the egg whites along with the lemon zest. The lemon smells divine!

Pour the mixture into a ceramic oven dish. Coat half of the cherries in flour so that they don’t sink too much and put them on top of the mixture, followed by the un-coated cherries.

Bake in centre of oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into pieces.

This wonderfully light cake can be served as a dessert with cream or with a cup of coffee.

Bread and Butter Pudding with Dates

Date Bread and Butter Pudding

I often don’t get through a whole loaf of bread before it starts going dry. I hate to waste things so I have been putting dry-ish bread in the freezer for months, with the aim of eventually getting round to making bread and butter pudding.

Now that it is January I am in fridge and freezer emptying mode; I do this every year to try and use up Christmas leftovers and decrease spending for a while. A week into the new year we had a fantastic leftovers meal of vegetable pie, invented by my mum, followed by bread and butter pudding made by Steve. A cheap delicious meal, no food waste, and an evening off from cooking for me – winner! Steve based the bread and butter pudding on a good-old Delia Smith recipe from our old family recipe book. He adapted the recipe to use dates instead of currants and candied peel, and omitted most of the sugar other than some lovely crunchy demerara sugar on top.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of bread, buttered
  • a handful of chopped dates
  • 12 fl oz/ 350ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • A couple of tablespoons of demerara sugar
  • Grated rind of a small lemon
  • Ground nutmeg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Rub butter onto the base and sides of a deep oblong baking dish (Delia Smith says a 2 pint dish, I just choose one which looks about right).

Butter the bread and cut it into triangles. Place a layer butter side up into the dish and sprinkle on some chopped dates, add another layer of bread and repeat.

Measure out the milk (you can add cream if you are feeling decadent or have some to use up, as long as it adds up to the correct volume). Add the whisked eggs to the milk and then pour over the bread. Delia adds sugar, the lemon rind and nutmeg to the milk, but I prefer to add them at the end for a delicious crunchy topping.

Sprinkle the sugar, lemon zest and nutmeg onto the top and then bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. It should end up lovely and gooey in the middle with a crispy top. The crispy sugar and lemon is delicious.

Chocolate Creams

Raspberry Creams

It has become one of Steve’s Christmas traditions to make hampers for some lucky few friends. I made a small contribution (this year I made Delia’s Chicken Liver Pate) but it is mostly Steve’s hard work. He finishes his teaching for the semester and (mostly) finds it calming making delicious treats in the kitchen, of the type that I would find far too fiddly and time consuming.

One of the favourites are mint creams, but it seems that Peppermint Essence is hard to come by in Dubai which led to some good experimenting this year. We had raspberry creams for the hampers, followed by orange creams for my Christmas present. What could be more romantic than chocolate made by your husband?… that he uses his wedding ring as the perfect size cutter (well cleaned first of course).

The basic recipe is based on one from The Crafty Larder, chosen because it doesn’t use raw egg white. Here, in his own words, is Steve’s method for making chocolate creams.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp flavouring (peppermint, raspberry, orange, etc.)
  • 2 tsp liquid glucose
  • 4 tsp water
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 100g 75% dark chocolate

Note that the quantity of water/flavouring may vary slightly and it may take a couple of attempts to perfect. If the mixture comes out too wet then add more icing sugar, if it is too dry then add a very small amount of water at a time.

Method

1.      In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients (plus food colouring if desired).

2.      Add the icing sugar and then thoroughly mix together to form a smooth workable dough, if the dough crumbles add water, if it is too sticky add some icing sugar.

3.      On a glass board sprinkle some icing sugar and then roll out the dough to a thickness of roughly 5 mm. During rolling sprinkle icing sugar to the surface regularly. You can place a sheet of baking/greaseproof paper on top to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. I however found this unnecessary. If the dough cracks during rolling then sprinkle more icing sugar.

4.      Using a cutter (my wedding ring is just the right size, cleaned of course) cut the dough into small rounds and place them onto a surface which is sprinkled with icing sugar. Leave them to dry for half an hour.

5.      Place a piece of greaseproof paper onto a tray that you can place into the fridge, flip the creams onto the greaseproof paper, then place them into the fridge overnight to continue drying.

6.      The next day melt the chocolate and dip the mints. I use a fork for this which produces an even coat, with relatively thin chocolate. I slide the chocolates on the fork slowly on their side, and then flip them such that the side that touched the fork is upwards. Depending on the temperature and consistency of the chocolate this will produce a texture to the chocolate surface. Place the coated chocolates back onto the greaseproof paper. During this stage you may add food glitter or an identifier of some form to the surface if you are making multiple flavours of chocolate creams.

7.      Place the chocolates back into the fridge to set. Once set they are done.

Using my wedding ring I make approximately 100 chocolate creams from this recipe.

It is then Kitty’s job to package them for the hampers, usually in greaseproof paper parcels tied with ribbon and a pretty label.

chocolate orange creams

Kitty’s Cereal Bar Recipe

I am notoriously bad at eating breakfast, but one of these with a cup of tea in the morning gets me going. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, but at least there are slow-release sugars to keep me going for a while as well as the sugar and syrup. The proportions are based upon my favourite flapjack / oat slice recipe but with half the amount of sugar.

cereal bar

Ingredients

  • 4oz / 110g Dark Soft Brown Sugar
  • 8 oz / 220g Butter
  • 2 rounded dessertspoon Golden Syrup
  • 8 oz / 220g Oats
  • 2 oz / 55g Bran Flakes
  • 2 oz / 55g Rice Crispies
  • heaped teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • generous handful of Dates
  • generous handful of Chopped Nuts, I used brazil nuts. Pecans or walnuts would also be good.

Note, you can substitute in different types of cereal depending on what you have in the cupboard – as long as the total dry ingredients adds up to 12 oz / 350g. If you want to add flaked almonds I would advise including them as a proportion of the dry ingredients rather than substituting them for other nuts, otherwise they will dry out the mixture.

Method

Line a square tin (8 inches approx) with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 150oC.

In a large pan, gently melt the butter, syrup and sugar. When melted add the ginger, fruit and nuts followed by the dry ingredients. Mix well and then put in the prepared tin, flattening it with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool in the tin before turning it onto a board and chopping it into squares.

cereal bar

Mulled Wine Fruit Cake

Happy New Year!!

This recipe was a flash of inspiration the day after a Christmas Party when there was a little left over mulled wine.

I haven’t been given permission to share the family mulled wine recipe, but however you make it it will benefit from the addition of oranges which when soaked in mulled wine make this cake rather special.

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Ingredients

  • 300ml/ 1/2 Pint Mulled wine
  • 250g/ 8oz Sultanas
  • 250g/ 8oz Dried Apricots
  • 200g/ 7oz Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 250g/ 8oz Self-raising Flour
  • Orange Segments (mine were from 2 small Satsumas)

Method 

Soak the dried fruit and sugar in the mulled wine for at least four hours – overnight is best.

When you are ready to put the cake in the oven, preheat it to 180oC and line a round cake tin with baking parchment.

Arrange the orange segments in the base of the tin. Next,  add the egg to the dried fruit mixture and beat it in with a fork. Fold in the flour and then put the mixture on top of the oranges.

Bake for approximately an hour in the centre of the oven; it may take a little longer, you will know it is done when a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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Ginger and Coconut Flapjack

I have learned something new today – in America Flapjacks are called Oat Bars. Who knew? To make matters more confusing, an American Flapjack is a pancake.

This isn’t a pancake recipe. It is delicious. Enjoy!

Ginger and Coconut Flapjack

Ingredients

  • 3.5 oz margarine
  • 1.5 oz coconut oil
  • 8 oz soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 dessert spoons golden syrup
  • 1 oz desiccated coconut
  • 11 oz oats
  • Handful chopped crystallised ginger

Method

Preheat the oven to 150oC / 300oF.

Put the margarine, coconut oil, syrup, and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat; when melted and well combined stir in the dry ingredients.

Put the mixture into a lined square tin, flatten the top but don’t compress too much.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes.

Simples.

ginger and coconut flapjack

 

Apple Sponge Cake

Apple Cake

I must say that I am enjoying Simple September so far. Receiving lots of courgettes, runner beans and apples from my parent’s garden has helped; although it does take rather a lot of imagination not to quickly get bored of courgette!

Some of you will know that I use the same basic sponge recipe for many of the cakes I make – Delia’s ‘all-in-one-sponge’ recipe. I find it incredibly versatile; sometimes I add lemon zest and then add a lemon-drizzle topping, other times I add chocolate followed by coffee icing… the possibilities are endless. Yum.

Ingredients

  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 4oz golden caster sugar
  • 4oz margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • two eating apples
  • two tablespoons demerara sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Quarter the apples, remove the core and then cut into thin slices. Place the apple slices in the base of a round cake tin lined with greaseproof paper and sprinkle them with demerara sugar. You could also add a little sprinkle of mixed spice at this stage if you so wish.

Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and combine well with an electric whisk. Cover the apples with the mixture and bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 25 minutes. You will recognise when it is cooked because the mixture will have shrunk away from the edges of the cake tin.

Turn the cake onto a cooling rack. When cold put the cake upside down onto a plate, so that the apple is at the top.

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apple sponge cake

Norfolk Marrow Tart

You may have gathered from the previous couple of posts that I have quite a lot of courgette and marrow to get through! I rather like having a glut of a fruit or vegetable because it tends to lead to the invention or discovery of new and exciting recipes.

I found this recipe in one of my mother’s 1970’s cookery books. I was a little sceptical but thought I would give it a go – it’s delicious, my new favourite thing! The cooked marrow and egg makes a kind of egg custard, and the nutmeg gave it a wonderfully autumnal feel which reminded me a little of American pumpkin pie (although friends who tried it thought it was apple!). I have made it a couple of times now and intend to make it a few more times as I try to get to the bottom of the pile of courgettes and marrows.

Norfolk Marrow Tart
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I find that older recipes tend to assume that you know what you are doing, so I add the following clarifications:

  • You can buy shortcrust pastry but it is pretty easy to make. I tend to use a recipe from another of my mum’s old books, where the proportions are 8oz flour, 4oz fat (half lard half margarine is best) and 2 tablespoons of water. I am very lazy and bung it in a food processor; this time I was even more lazy because Steve made too much pastry the previous day (he is renowned for his pies).
  • It works best if the marrow is mashed while it is in a colander or sieve, so as to get as much liquid out of it as possible. The first time I made it it didn’t look like it would set; I took some beaten egg, added some more sugar and nutmeg and put this as a layer on top of the tart and cooked it for another five to ten minutes which rescued it nicely.
  • The recipe doesn’t say what to do with the sugar; I sprinkled demerara sugar on top of the pie which made it nice and caramelised.
  • I used quite a small, deep dish because I like thick flan filling; this is a matter of taste.
Norfolk Marrow Tart

Simple September

Following a very decadent summer (getting married is a good excuse!) it is time for a ‘Simple September‘.
My husband Steve and I are having a near-complete shopping-ban this month; we are combining two very well stocked kitchens into a much smaller space, plus we have been eating and drinking rather well recently and some simpler fare won’t go amiss.   The exceptions to the shopping ban will be some seasonal vegetables, onions, garlic, eggs, milk… and the occasional treat of nice cheese or meat from the reduced section of the supermarket.
As well as saving money and kitchen space, I’m hoping that Simple September will kick-start my recipe writing again after a five month hiatus (I’ve been a little distracted!).

As a reward for getting the kitchen in our new house tidy, I decided to start Simple September with a (reasonably) healthy treat; coconut and apricot flapjack. All of the flapjack I make is based around the same basic recipe which I have shared with you previously. This time, I decided to have a go at using coconut oil; I substituted it for half of the butter because I wasn’t sure how it was going to behave. I’m glad that I didn’t make the switch to coconut oil in one go because it made the mixture rather more liquid; I recovered the situation by taking it out of the oven part way through cooking and covering it with a layer of drinking chocolate followed by desiccated coconut.

A delicious mistake which I fully intend to make again!!

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