Tuesday, 16 April 2019

White chocolate sour cherry cheesecake

White chocolate sour cherry cheesecake
We had a house guest staying last weekend. He's a friend of Paul's who comes over 3-4 times a year, but he lives a 3 hour train trip away. So if he comes to visit he stays the night so they can sit in the living room talking shit for hours. I assume - I usually go to bed. I limit my hostessing to washing the spare room sheets, cleaning the bathroom and making a salad.

Any excuse to make a pudding, however. The last time he came over I made Felicity Cloake's perfect pecan pie. Which was SO darn good. Really. Best pecan pie I have ever eaten. I've made it again subsequently and it's actually a bit tricky to think of other desserts to make when that exists in the world. It also makes other pies and tarts feel a bit shy. How can they live up to that?! Paul ended up solving the dilemma, when he asked for a cheesecake with a layer of a tart fruit jam on top.

It's quite a dense, baked cheesecake, and not too sweet (unusually for white chocolate). I used a very nice 70% fruit sour cherry preserve, which was just the thing.

White chocolate sour cherry cheesecake (serves 8-10)

120g ginger nut biscuits
50g butter
pinch salt
200g white chocolate
300g sour cherry jam, divided in half
300g cream cheese
300g sour cream
50g caster sugar
2tbs cornflour
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1tbs kirsch (or other booze)

Preheat oven to 180C, with a metal oven tray on the middle shelf.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter in a small pan. Using a rolling pin, crush the biscuits in a plastic bag until they are mostly fine crumbs, with the occasional bigger bit. Mix the crumbs into the melted butter, add a pinch of salt and stir well.

Line a deep 20cm round cake tin with a removable base (you don't really have to, especially if you are using a springform tin, but it helps avoid the cheesecake's tendency to crack as it cools because the lining moves with it) and firmly press the buttery crumbs into the base of the tin.

Bake the base on the preheated oven tray for 15 minutes.

Remove the tin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 110C.

Dollop half the jam over the hot biscuit base, and spread gently around as it melts.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, cornflour, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth. Fold in the cooled white chocolate and pour into the tin, over the base. It's quite runny, so it should self-level well.

Bake for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, until set but still slightly wobbly in the middle. If you didn't line your tin, when you pull the tin out of the oven, run a palette knife all the way around the cake to make sure it's loosened from the sides of the tin (again, helps avoid cracking). Allow to cool completely.

In a small pan, warm the remaining half of the sour cherry jam with the kirsch until it's a bit runnier. Spread over the cold cheesecake. Chill before serving.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A good start to the year: garlic thyme potatoes

Finger lime
Happy New Year! 2019 is currently feeling overwhelming and fairly terrifying, so my main hope for us all is that it won't be as bad as it looks.

Last night, as is our preference, we stayed home and ate a delicious dinner. I had planned our traditional fondue, but then when the groceries were delivered my cheese wasn't in it. I couldn't quite face the prospect of a trip to the shops, so I re-thought, and came up with a very good plan using the available ingredients.

Fortunately, our starter was not affected by the lack of cheese. When I did the seafood platter for last week's Christmas Eve meal, Paul was smitten with the finger limes. He decided that if it could be had, some caviar would be a perfect New Year's Eve nibble, garnished with the finger lime beads. Caviar was obtainable (at predictably terrible price, but hey, we didn't have to pay for taxis last night), and it was a perfect combination. The matching size and texture and contrasting flavour and colour was excellent. It would even have been worth brushing my hair and leaving the house for, but fortunately I didn't have to go to those lengths.

For our not-fondue main course, I pulled some flatiron steaks out of the freezer, which we grilled over charcoal, braised some chicory and made these fab, meltingly delicious potatoes. It's the same potato dish I made for Christmas, and I think making it 2 weeks running means it's worth writing up the recipe. It's still very buttery, so it's not a low-calorie option, but it's much lighter than a dauphinoise.
You can see how sticky and melting they are
Garlic thyme potatoes (serves 2)

3-4 medium Charlotte potatoes (or other waxy or all-purpose variety), peeled and thinly sliced
45-60g (3-4tbs) salted butter
1 big sprig fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C

Grease the base of a small casserole dish thickly with 1tbs butter. Arrange half the potatoes evenly in it. Scatter the garlic, thyme leaves, a good grinding of pepper and half the remaining butter on the potatoes, then add the remaining potatoes.

Pour over the wine and stock - it should come up about 2/3 of the way up the potatoes. Press down on the spuds so they are briefly submerged. Scatter with knobs of the remaining butter and another grinding of pepper.

Bake for half an hour or so, until the potatoes are golden on top, melting in the middle and most of the juices have evaporated. If your dish is deep rather than long it'll take longer. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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