Vanilla and Amaretti Cheesecakes with Balsamic-Infused Strawberries (Revisited)

Right then, for reasons unknown, there are some people (Ben) who don’t like Christmas Pudding so I feel that this year, an alternative little delectable pud needs to be offered. These little darlings are the perfect solution. Firstly, they can be made one month in advance and frozen, with just the finishing touches required at the festive feast. And secondly, they are completely wow!

The rich, smooth creaminess of the cheesecakes are perfectly contrasted by the warm, sweet, lusciousness of the strawberries: their flavour emphasised by sweetened balsamic vinegar (most unexpected). They look fabulous, are so easy to make and taste out of this world! Only problem is, I might have to have one of these AND Christmas pudding…

Serves 4

What you need…

8 x chefs’ rings (like tall cookie cutters), 5.5cm diametre x 6cm deep (easily available online)

10 Amaretti biscuits

250g full fat cream cheese

125g caster sugar

125g crème fraiche

240ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

for the strawberries

200g strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

What to do…

In a large bowl, tip in your cream cheese, caster sugar, crème fraiche, double cream and vanilla seeds. Whisk until smooth and thickened up so that the whisks leave a distinct trail.

Place the chefs’ rings on a flat plate, lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into each ring, pushing the mixture down to make sure there are no gaps and filling the rings to about half way up (this recipe makes for quite little cheesecakes but in my view, they are perfectly proportioned).

Pop them in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set.

If you are having friends around for dinner, you can do this bit in the morning and leave the rest until you are about ready to serve.

If you are preparing them for waaaaay in advance, cover them with cling film and pop in the freezer until the day you want to indulge and then place them in the fridge to defrost slowly.

Just before you are ready to serve, pop your Amaretti biscuits into a plastic zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin, crush them inside the bag to create a dusting.

Remove the cheesecakes from the fridge and set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Place the Amaretti crumbs on a plate and then dip each of the cheesecakes in their chefs’ rings into the crumbs, 2 – 3 times if necessary – to make sure that the bottom is thoroughly covered. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of each one as well.

Then, hold your breath (!) and lightly shake each cheesecake from the chefs’ ring onto its serving plate. Despite your total disbelief, it will gently drop down the ring and then plop out beautifully onto your serving plate – looking gorgeous!

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over a high heat. Tip in the strawberries and sugar and cook, stirring continually for about 1 minute. Pour over the balsamic and cook for a further 1 minute. Yup, that’s it!!!!

Spoon some of the strawberries onto the plate alongside the cheesecake. Absolutely delicious – the strawberries contrast the cheesecake perfectly, both elements enhancing the flavour of the other. Serve your vanilla and Amaretti cheesecake with balsamic-infused strawberries together with a wee glass of Disaronno Italian liqueur or a lovely little dessert wine to complete the indulgence! An absolute treat to be enjoyed any time of the year, not just at Christmas!!!

Inspired by…

Stuart Gillies, with James Martin on Saturday Kitchen

How easy…

Really easy, the only nervy bit is when you’re watching the cheesecake slowly drop through the chefs’ rings but be patient and it will be fine!

 

Christmas Pud Revisited

Following on from the Christmassy theme started properly yesterday, it’s not too late to rustle up a rather lovely Christmas Pudding to grace your festive table in just over one month. Rich, boozy and another great recipe inspired by Delia Smith (have yet to take a good picture with the flaming brandy – will try again this year!)

For the full recipe, type ‘Christmas’ into the search button in the top right hand corner of my home page.

Spicy Garlic Prawns, Water Chestnuts and Bamboo Shoots with Ginger Pak Choi

A lovely, zinglingly spicy, flavoursome and fragrant Chinese stir fry that’s perfect for a family supper and super fast to throw together. Fabulous!

Serves: 4

What you need…

Splash of rapeseed oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

Large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

½ teaspoon dried crushed chilli

450g raw king prawns, shelled

2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine

1 x 225g can of water chestnuts, drained

1 x 225g can of bamboo shoots, drained

½ teaspoon sriracha chilli sauce (extra hot)

2 tablespoons runny honey

2 tablespoons low-sodium light soy sauce

6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

for the pak choi

Splash of rapeseed oil

1 pinch of flaky sea salt

A few slices of peeled ginger (your preference)

300g pak choi, leaves separated and roughly torn

A tiny splash of Chinese cooking wine

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

What to do…

Heat a wok over a high heat until smokin’ and add the rapeseed oil.

Chuck in the garlic, ginger and chilli and stirfry for a few seconds to release their aroma.

Tip in the tiger prawns and leave to sear and brown for a few seconds, then flip them over and cook for 1 minute. Add the Chinese cooking wine followed by the water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and spring onions. Toss to mix together, then add the sriracha, honey and light soy sauce and toss for a few seconds to incorporate everything together.

Meanwhile, heat a second wok or frying pan over high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Give the oil a swirl.

Add the salt and ginger and stir for 3 seconds before adding the pak choi. Toss for 30 seconds.

Add a drop of Chinese cooking wine to create some steam to help steam-cook the vegetables.

Drizzle in light soy and toasted sesame oil and toss one last time, not overcooking the pak choi.

Tip…

Have someone else cook the pak choi – it all happens so fast and I certainly couldn’t stir and toss both dishes at the same time…might just be me though!!!!

Serving Suggestion…

A little steamed rice completes the dish perfectly

Inspired by…

Ching He Huang

How easy…

Very easy and super fast!

 

Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

This soup was described as a ‘hug in a bowl’ and I totally agree. Absolutely delicious with the delicate cauliflower flavour being beautifully complemented by the earthiness of the chestnuts and rich decadence of the cream. Simply delightful, comforting and the perfect antedote to a dreary old Autumn day!

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash of olive oil

1 large red onion, chunked

1 large cauliflower, chunked into florets

250ml milk

850ml vegetable/chicken stock

150ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

200g vacuum-packed chestnuts

25g Parmesan, shaved

Drizzle of truffle or olive oil, to serve

What to do…

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and chuck in the onion, cooking over a low heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Tip in the cauliflower, milk and stock and bring to a simmer, cooking for a further 15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Pour in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Chuck in the chestnuts and pour the lot into a blender, whizzing until smooth.

Serve your hug in a bowl topped with Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of truffle or olive oil. Simple and gorgeous!

Inspired by…

bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

Delightfully!

Bonfire Parkin (revisited)

Firstly, oh so yummy – salivating as I think about it. Ahem, so, according to James Martin, his family used to eat this on Bonfire night. We’ve made it an indecent number of times, mainly because 1) it’s dead easy 2) it’s gorgeous the minute it comes out of the oven 3) it’s even better the next day and 4) it gathers and gets better and better over 2- 3 days…if there’s any left!!!! Dark, rich, moist and sinful….xx

 

For the full recipe, type ‘parkin’ into the search box in the top right hand corner of my home page.

Chocolate Brownies with Caramel

So, my brownies (or Jamie’s I should say) have a growing fan base and are knocked up on a ridiculously frequent basis. They are dark, slightly gooey, indulgent little squares of naughtiness and I thought there would never be another brownie recipe to better them. However….drum roll….replacing 100g dark chocolate with dulce de leche (milk caramel spread) has made this version even moister and fabulously gooier but still incredibly chocolatey and practically molten inside – wow! To die for – give ‘em a go – best brownies I’ve ever tasted!!!

Makes 20 or so

What you need…

250g unsalted butter

100g 70% dark chocolate

225g (half a jar) of Dulce de Leche (milk caramel spread)

80g cocoa powder, sifted

65g plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

360g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Lightly butter and line a 24cm square baking tin with parchment paper. Roughly break up your chocolate and pop it into an heatproof bowl together with the butter. Put the bowl over a steamer, sitting in a saucepan of simmering water (bain marie). Melt the butter and chocolate, adding the dulce de leche when the chocolate is nearly all melted and mixing until smooth.

In another large bowl, thoroughly mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar.

Take the melted butter and chocolate mixture off the heat and tip into the dry ingredients, using a hand held electric whisk to mix them together thoroughly.

Whisk the eggs and then tip them into the rest of the mixture, whisking them in until you have a lovely silky, glossy smooth mixture.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tin and place in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the outside is slightly springy. Insert a wooden skewer to see if it’s cooked – it should be fabulously gooey rather than raw!

Allow to cool in the tin, then carefully invert the bake onto a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. Purely for quality control reasons, now is a good time to try one – just to make sure that they are OK – and ooooooooh, yummy, reach for another…

Inspired by…

Well now, this is odd. Steve, our lovely window cleaner (and ex chef) came back from his holiday full of tales of afternoon teas and the most wonderful chocolate and caramel brownies, throwing down the gauntlet for me to try to recreate them: job done!!!!

How easy…

Dead easy and oh so worth the effort!

 

Cumberland Rum Nicky

Having seen this on last week’s Great British Bake Off, I had to give it a go and….and it’s absolutely delicious! It reminds me of mince pies but has a richer, boozier and sweeter flavour and is thoroughly moreish. And then there’s the rum butter – I didn’t have the full 75ml that Mr. Hollywood recommends and thank God – with just 50ml, it was still incredibly boozy and incredibly good – an excellent accompaniment to this fab pud! Definitely give this one a go!

Serves 8 – 10

What you need…

1 x 20cm pie dish, about 3cm deep, liberally buttered

for the filling

225g dates, coarsely chopped

100g dried apricots, coarsely chopped

50g stem ginger syrup, drained and finely chopped

50ml dark rum

50g soft dark brown sugar

50g unsalted butter, cut into 1–2cm cubes

for the sweet shortcrust pastry

200g plain flour

2 tablespoons icing sugar

100g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes

1 large, happy egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon lemon juice

for the rum butter

100g unsalted butter, softened

225g soft light brown sugar

50ml dark rum

What to do…

Mix all the filling ingredients, except the butter, together in a bowl. Set aside

while you make the pastry.

Now, turn to making the pastry: tip the flour and icing sugar into your food processor and whizz together. Add in the cubed butter and whizz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Tip the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Mix the egg with the lemon juice and two tablespoons of cold water. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Using a table knife, work the liquid into the flour to bring the pastry together. If it seems too dry, add a splash more water. When the dough begins to stick together, use your hands to gently knead it into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Once the dough has rested, cut it into two pieces, roughly one-third and two-thirds. Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured work surface. Line your pie dish with the pastry, leaving any excess pastry hanging over the edge. Tip the filling into the pastry case, spreading it evenly and dot with the butter.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cut it into eight long strips, roughly 1cm wide. On a sheet of baking parchment, use the pastry strips to create a lattice with four strips going each way, passing them under and over each other.

Dampen the edge of the pastry in the tin with water, then invert the lattice from the paper onto the tart. Press the ends of the strips to the pastry base to secure.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160˚c / 325˚f / gas 3 and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the rum butter, use an electric handheld whisk to beat together the butter and sugar, then gradually beat in the rum. Pop into the fridge until needed.

Serve the tart hot, with a spoonful of rum butter. Absolutely, fabulously delicious!

Inspired by…

Paul Hollywood and The Great British Bake Off

How easy…

Really easy and an absolute joy to make.