Saturday 9 August 2014

Cheesecake... possibly the best in the world.

Oh dear god
Seriously. It is. Sublimely smooth and creamy. I'm trying hard not to say unctuous (but it is). Flavoured only with vanilla. The base is a biscuit bake of salted almonds; a crisp contrast. But not only is the flavour superior, the texture really sets it apart. Some cheesecake veer towards chalky, especially after some fridge time. This is almost like a set custard; fantastically rich. I've not found anyone who doesn't love it. I realised that I've enthused about this on many occasions but have never included the recipe. My apologies.

I wish I could take the credit but that must go to Anthony Demetre, chef at Arbutus in Soho. All I do is follow the recipe, religiously. It's not difficult. Children could make this, perfectly, while you go for a ten mile run, in calorie anticipation. Or not.

There's much discussion of what makes a great cheesecake. The major divisions being baked or gelatine set, Philly or New York. The crust can be anything from Digestive biscuits to baked hazelnuts or Graham crackers. Some top with whipped cream. Unforgivable  Some add bananas, or worse... worst... chocolate. As if this wasn't rich enough.

For me, there should be nothing added to the dish. Serve it simply with something tart, Scottish raspberries, English strawberries or plump blackberries. Whatever you chose, whizz some up with some sugar, sieve out the pips and mix with the remaining fruit. Passionfruit would work too with a splash of sugar syrup maybe. Make sure they're wrinkled and gnarly for maximum flavour.

I insist you make this. As there's no gelatine even our veggie friends can enjoy it. Vegans, not so much.

First the base. Mix 70g ground almonds with 70g castor sugar, 70g plain flour, 70g melted butter and 7g of salt. Bring the mix together and press it into the base of a 23cm flan tin, ensuring a good seal at the sides. Fingers are fine. Bake at 160°C for 25 mins until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool completely. Turn the oven down to 110°C. 
While the base bakes, you can mix the topping. Beat together 700g cream cheese (Yes, I usually use Philadelphia) add 150g mascarpone, 200g castor sugar, the seeds of one vanilla pod or a teaspoon of paste, two eggs and eight egg yolks. 
Pour the mix onto the cooled base and bake for about 70 minutes at 110°C. There should still be a custardy wobble.

I did say it was rich. But if you're worrying about the calories then I have nothing to say to you. Eat this and die a day earlier. Honestly it's worth it.

Ideally, I let mine cool out of the fridge and serve at room temperature. I think the cold hurts this dessert. But it's no crime to make it the day before and refrigerate it. No one will complain.


Vanilla cheesecake with raspberries

Friday 8 August 2014

New River Restaurant - first steps

This is undoubtedly the first image of me with food. This is December 28th 1968. I am two. I think that's my mother behind me; it could be my aunt or my grandmother. I remember precisely nothing about this of course. Someone seems to have made an effort. I imagine my mother made the train cake and my nan did the trifle. Are they sponge fingers (still very popular with me) or are they cheese straws? There's a huge bowl of sugar by my hand but there's no fruit or veg, naturally. Quite like the red romper suit. 

So why the uncharacteristic bout of 'de temps perdu'? My sister sent me a black bin bag full of significant paper, salvaged from my parents' house. There were many photographs, mostly poor shots of my kids taken long before the benefits of a digital preview. My father was a real king of the obscuring thumb; usually catching an unnecessary flash that causes everything non-thumb to be underexposed to the point of pitch. I'm not sure if he took this. I hope so.

This is my dad, a year or so before he died, eating something - as usual. My father was a powerful omnivore. I have no idea what Fabian and Etien are doing. Again, no fruit or veg is visible, unless you count the Ribena.