Signs of spring

SPRING seems a long way ahead when you look out of the window and see snow and ice, and can hear the wind roaring.

Up in the woods a couple of days ago, under a blue sky, it was heartening to see new bluebell leaves poking through the undergrowth, and there are brave daffodils to be seen in gardens, along with snowdrops and violets.

As usual Tilly the terrier runs about without a coat, no matter how many people stop me to say she needs one. She moves fast and nature gave her a really thick coat of her own.

Tilly the terrier still doesn’t wear a coat, in spite of the weather.

Bluebell leaves grow through some of last year’s chestnut leaves.

A mass of snowdrops that have thrived in the conditions.

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Minette to lead NFU

 

Minette Batters, new president of the NFU, pictured at River Bourne Community Farm with Salisbury MP John Glen.

THE Happy Moonraker is delighted to see that the National Farmers Union has elected its first female president in the organisation’s 100-year history.

Not only that, but Minette Batters is also a Moonraker who farms her livestock and arable land here in South Wiltshire.

Like most farmers, she is dedicated and hardworking, and has declared her determination to ensure that the best possible deal is agreed for her industry once this country leaves the EU.

Also like most farmers she has had to diversify to survive. One of her other enterprises has been to restore a 17th century barn on the farm as a wedding venue. I know, because I was once a guest there, and very lovely it is too.

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.