My recipe for lemon cheesecake

There are probably as many different recipes for cheesecake as there are days of the year.

The first cheesecake I ever tasted was Polish. It had a pastry base, contained curd cheese and also included sultanas and vanilla. Delicious but rather heavy, I thought.

A base using crushed biscuits rather than pastry seems to be the most popular. A straw poll among friends reveals that some prefer to use crushed ginger biscuits, others prefer digestives.

I also chanced upon a recipe which stipulated crushed shortbread biscuits and thought I would try it. It proved much too sweet for our tastes.

As for the main part of the cheesecake, the permutations seem endless. Some are cooked, some are raw. One recipe might contain ricotta cheese or curds, ready-sweetened condensed milk and gelatine, but I have seen sieved cottage cheese and lashings of double cream in others. Nutmeg and vanilla feature as popular flavourings.

I have been working on my own recipe for some time, using the minimum of ingredients and trying to reduce the fat content. I have also experimented by adding the juice and zest of a lemon, and using a topping of fresh fruit.

Lemon cheesecake

(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients

For the base

200g digestive biscuits, finely crushed

50g butter or coconut oil, melted

For the filling

350ml low-fat crème frâiche

300g low-fat cream cheese

85g unrefined caster sugar

25g plain white flour

3 large eggs, beaten

3 tbsps of lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

Topping

Approx 250g summer fruits or thawed frozen fruit

Method

Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor, tip into bowl and carefully mix with the melted butter or coconut oil.

Press mixture smoothly into a lined 20cm deep sandwich tin. Or if using a shallow tin line the sides as well so that the sides are at least 4cm deep.

Mix together cream cheese, sugar and flour in a bowl before adding crème fraîche, beaten eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Pour over biscuit base and bake for up to 50 minutes in lower part of oven at 180°.

It will probably still be slightly wobbly-looking when taken from the oven, and may have one or two cracks on the top. These do not matter.

Leave to cool and then put in fridge for several hours to become firm.

Before serving

Top with fresh fruit such as raspberries, sliced strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrrants. Or at other times of the year, thaw some frozen berries. Then dust a little icing sugar on the top.

Note:  If you have any left-over slices of cheesecake they freeze well, but it is best to remove the fruit first. When thawed, add new fruit on the top, ensuring that you cover any juice marks from when it was first served, and remember to add a little icing sugar on the top.

 

 

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Little flooding despite the rain

One way of spending yet another soaking wet Sunday: a keen angler takes part in a fishing match on the River Avon in Salisbury.

MOONRAKERS are not in the habit these days of having to cope with much snow. Overnight frosts from time to time, occasional black ice in predictable places, and that’s about it as far as winter goes.

So far we have had few cold challenges, just rain and high wind.

It surprises me how little flooding there has been in the south of the county. Experts say it is because there is now so much abstraction from the rivers higher upstream to fill reservoirs, and because last winter was a relatively dry one.

Not many years ago, flood plains and water-meadows would have been completely under water by now after such constant rainfall.

Day after day of solid rain would always cause visible flooding in fields, surface water on roads, as well as replenishing hidden aquifers.

When we have a dry day, it is an absolute delight to be able to walk in the woods, spotting signs of spring, to watch snowdrops and hellebores taking over the garden, and accompany Tilly the terrier as she goes squirrelling.

A rare clear January day at the Old Mill, Harnham, showing the ancient roof against a bright blue sky.

Tilly out in the woods a few weeks ago.

Twelfth Night is a movable feast

Our Christmas decorations were put away on Twelfth Night, 6th January. Christmas cards were taken down, messages re-read and then all put into a couple of bags to be taken to Sainsbury’s recycling box.

Removing everything from the Christmas tree took longer. After so many Christmases, every item has meaning, from the little glass bell bought in Germany decades ago, to the crocheted red hearts from a Swedish friend long ago.

Friends in Australia sent the Christmassy little kangaroo and koala that are hung on the tree each year. There are also shiny, ultra-thin glass ornaments that date from my childhood, as well as a simple paper decoration made by an old neighbour.

Everything has its own story, and it lives for 11 months in special boxes which are then carefully placed in a large bag before being stowed in a cupboard until the next December.

The whole process is rather sad: Christmas is over and done for another year.

It was a surprise, therefore, to see the Christmas trees, nativity scene and papier mâché angels still in their places on 13th January in Salisbury Cathedral when a friend and I visited.

Afterwards I did a little research and discovered that, if you follow the church calendar, you can display your decorations until the Feast of Epiphany which is a week later than Twelfth Night.

Perhaps I should do that in future and stay surrounded by our pretty things for a little longer.

There are no sentimental stories attached to the Brussels sprouts on this tree.

Salisbury Cathedral’s nativity scene the evening before epiphany.

Leftover turkey ideas

THIS is the time of year when there is leftover turkey in the fridge. What’s to be done with it? If you’ve had enough of cold slices with cold stuffing and cold bread sauce, it can be sliced and put in the freezer and used within a few weeks, or you can make a savoury white sauce and serve it as blanquette of turkey.

Alternatively, you could mince or finely chop brown and white turkey meat together and make turkey meatballs. This recipe was inspired by seeing one for beef meatballs which were cooked in tomato sauce.

Turkey balls in tomato sauce.

Turkey meatballs in tomato sauce   

Serves 4

Ingredients

500g minced turkey meat (cooked or raw)

2 tbsps of fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

1 finely chopped sage leaf, or 1 tsp dried sage

Salt & black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

For tomato sauce

1 onion, chopped (approx. 200g)

1 clove of garlic, crushed

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp maple syrup

Method

Mix turkey and seasoning together in a bowl, add breadcrumbs and beaten egg, then, on a floured surface, shape the mixture into 20 balls.

Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil, lower the heat and carefully add the turkey meatballs in the sauce.

Cover and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once cooked, place meatballs in warmed serving dish and cover with the tomato sauce.

If you prefer, you can use the same ingredients to make turkey burgers. Just use a tablespoon to make eight burger shapes and gently fry them, 10 minutes on each side, in a lightly oiled frying pan. See photo below.

Turkey burgers

Date, banana and walnut cookies

So you can’t stand mince pies either?

Your alternative could be these date, banana and walnut cookies. They also happen to be sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free.

There is no hard pastry and no mincemeat or bitter orange peel anywhere near them.

You can eat them all year round too, and not just at Christmas.

 Date, banana & walnut cookies

Makes approx. 18-20

Ingredients

85g dried dates, finely chopped

85g walnuts, finely chopped

3 medium bananas (skin-off weight approx. 225g)

2 cups of oats (buy gluten-free oats if you wish to)

3 tbsps veg oil, such as extra-virgin olive oil mixed with linseed oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix everything together really well and put tablespoons of the mixture onto an oiled or lined baking sheet.

Flatten them down a bit (they won’t spread while cooking because there is no egg/S-R flour/bicarb) and bake for about 20 mins max.

Leave to cool before storing in box in fridge.

They soften rather nicely after a day in their box.

I particularly like this recipe because, not only do the cookies taste good, but you only need to wash up one bowl and one spoon.

When Mary Berry came to town

Mary Berry pictured with her assistant, Lucy Young, in Salisbury.

WHEN this photo appeared on my computer slideshow I realised that I had taken it exactly 12 years ago.

Mary Berry and her long-serving assistant, Lucy Young, came to give a demonstration in the studio at Waitrose in Salisbury on 30 November 2005, and as far as I know that was the last time they visited this part of the county.

Since then, the legendary Mary has seen her career take off once more. Thanks to the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, her professional wisdom has been shown to a new generation of cooks and would-be cooks. A well-established television cook and writer of dozens of cook books over several decades, she had reached an age when she could have been forgiven if she’d declined the invitation to co-host the show.

So thank you, Mary, we salute you for proving that age need not be a barrier to success.