Roquefort and Honey Cheesecake with Walnut and Pear

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My current favourite cookbook is Felicity Cloake’s A to z of Eating. I made the Aloo Tikki Scotch Eggs for the Borough Market Cookbook club which went down really well. One of the best things about the cookbook club is that you get to try recipes that the other members have made. The dish I was most impressed with was the Roquefort and honey cheesecake with walnut and pear; deliciously savoury and sweet at the same time. So, when my parents were here on a visit, I took the opportunity to try out the recipe. It was divine, everyone loved it and there was enough for lunch the next day too. I served it with a green salad and really that’s all it needs.  Make it ahead of time and serve cold to avoid hassle.

For the base:

  • 200g plain, finely milled oatcakes
  • 70g walnuts
  • 125g melted butter, plus extra to grease
  • 3 tbsp honey

 

For the topping:

  • 400g cream cheese
  • 200g Roquefort, crumbled
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 pear

 

 

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Method

 

To make the base, whizz the oatcakes and 50g of the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped, then drizzle in the melted butter and the honey and whizz to combine. Set to one side.

Grease a 23cm springform tin with butter, making sure the bottom half of the sides is particularly generously greased. Press the mixture down firmly into the base of the tin. Whizz the remaining walnuts until finely chopped, then add to the tin and rotate it on its side so it is coated with walnut crumbs to about halfway up. Chill for at least an hour

Heat the oven to 130°C/fan 110°C/gas a half. Beat together the cheeses until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by 1 tablespoon of the honey and some black pepper.

Pour into the tin and bake for 90 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin while you finish the topping

Turn the oven up to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Thinly slice the pear, removing the stalk, and put it on a greased baking tray. Brush with half the remaining honey and bake for 15 minutes

Heat the grill, brush the pear slices with the rest of the honey and grill for about five minutes, until beginning to brown. Arrange on top of the cheesecake and serve warm or cold, but not hot.

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Lemon, Thyme and Ricotta Bundt Cake

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For my final bake for my colleagues I wanted to bake something really special. Although I may not have a signature bake, I do have a signature tin; the heritage Bundt tin which I thought I would use this for my farewell bake. Lemon drizzle seems to be a crowd pleaser but I wanted to do something a little bit different and came across a recipe for Lemon, Thyme and Ricotta Cake at  https://www.supergoldenbakes.com/2016/03/lemon-thyme-ricotta-and-semolina-cake.html. I adapted the recipe slightly by increasing the amount of lemon and thyme and did not use the crushed candies on the top. I was so happy with how it turned out. First of all, there were no tin dramas; that’s when the top third of my cake gets stuck in the tin when I try to turn it out. I left the cake to cool completely before attempting to turn it out of the tin. The cake was light and fluffy. The lemon and thyme syrup made the sponge incredibly moist and zingy and the thyme gave a background note which added a layer of complexity to the flavour. After six years of baking for these guys, I think we ended on a high. It makes me extremely happy to bake for such appreciative people! 

Ingredients

·         250g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus a little more to grease the cake tin

·         250g caster sugar

·         250g ricotta

·         150g fine semolina

·         150g plain flour, plus a little more to dust the cake tin

·         80ml lemon juice

·         3 eggs

·         2 tbsp lemon thyme leaves, very finely chopped

·         1 tsp baking powder

·         ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

·         zest of 2 lemons

·         fresh flowers to decorate (optional)

 

For the herb syrup

·         100g granulated sugar

·         100ml water

·         2 tbsp lemon juice

·         2 sprigs lemon thyme

·         4 sage leaves

 

For the glaze

·         200g icing sugar

·         1-2 tbsp lemon juice or milk

 

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Method

·         Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F/ Gas 4. Grease a 20cm (8in) bundt cake tin with butter. Dust with a little flour and shake out any excess.

·         Beat the butter, sugar, thyme and lemon zest in a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) until pale and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides as needed.

·         Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine.

·         Stir in the ricotta and lemon juice.

·         Sift in the flour, semolina, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.

·         Transfer the batter into the prepared bundt tin and level. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack before carefully turning out.

·         Put the sugar, water, lemon juice and herbs in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the herbs and brush the syrup liberally over the cake.

·         Mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice or milk to create a thick but pourable glaze. Drizzle it over the cake. I tend to put the glaze in the grooves of the bundt and use it as a glue to stick the decorations in place. Decorate with flowers. The cake keeps really well for a few days.

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Beetroot, Chickpea and Walnut Falafels

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Beetroot is having its moment in the sun again with its glorious pinkness and deep earthy flavour. You just can’t move without bumping into a recipe using beetroot. This one from the August 2017 Waitrose magazine is perfect for a summer’s day; it’s light, healthy and pink! I did adapt the recipe slightly by adding very generously heaped teaspoons of the coriander and cumin. I also added 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses and a tablespoon of lemon juice, just to liven up the flavour of the beetroot. I used blue cheese when building up the flatbread which worked really well, but goat’s cheese or feta would also do the job!  You can find the original recipe below.

 

Ingredients

400g can chick peas, drained
220g beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated
100g walnut pieces
25g pack flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
25g pack mint, roughly chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin

 

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Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190˚C, gas mark 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Season and pulse until everything is finely chopped and beginning to clump together.

2. Take tablespoons of the mixture to shape into about 20-24 small patties. Space them out on the lined baking sheet, brush lightly with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before taking them off with a spatula. Serve on their own or with Greek yogurt or hummus, fresh coriander, shredded lettuce, cheese, sliced tomatoes and flatbreads or pitta, if liked.

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Raspberry Jewel Box Cake

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As soon as I saw the picture of this cake, I knew it would be perfect for C’s mum’s birthday. Simple but impressive. The original recipe comes from the Great British Bake Off Show Stoppers book. The only thing that worried me was the chocolate bow, but I was happy with my plan B to use a real ribbon, so I decided to five the chocolate one a go. I did quite a lot if research about how to work with modelling chocolate (chocolate to which you add syrup and then can mould like Play Doh) and found that every single source said to leave overnight of for at least 2 hours in the fridge. The recipe I used just said leave the chocolate until set and that it may have to refrigerated, but didn’t specify a time. I used Green and Black’s white chocolate and liquid glucose. I left the mixed chocolate in the fridge for about 2 hours, but I wish I hadn’t. When I was working with the chocolate, it was only flexible up to a certain point, then it would fragment and it didn’t have much of a shine. I managed to get enough for the bow, but next time I don’t think it needs to go in the fridge and I could have used it after 30 minutes. Another thing I did which was not in the recipe was to trim the edges of the cake to get straight sides. Finally, I would slice the cake horizontally to put in a jam or crème fraiche filling as basically the cake inside is a white chocolate sponge. Having said all that, the cake was delicious and C’s mum was delighted with her raspberry jewel box.

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Ingredients

For the sponge

150g white chocolate, broken up
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large free range eggs, at room temperature, beaten
250g self-raising flour
A pinch of salt

For the chocolate bow

150g white chocolate, broken up
3 tablespoons liquid glucose

To finish

4 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, for brushing
800g raspberries

Instructions

For the sponge

  1. Line a 20.5cm square cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Melt the chocolate. Leave to cool until needed.
  3. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and beat until the mixture is very light in colour and fluffy in texture, scraping down the bowl from time to time.
  4. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition and adding a tablespoon of the weighed flour with the last portion of egg (to prevent curdling).
  5. Sift the rest of the flour and the salt into the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon.
  6. Add the cooled white chocolate and fold in until all the ingredients are completely amalgamated.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Make a small hollow in the centre so that the cake will rise evenly.
  8. Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown and just firm to the touch and a wooden cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack. Once cold the cake can be wrapped well and stored in an airtight container for a day before finishing.

 

To finish

Set the cake on a serving board or platter. Make the chocolate ribbons and bow (see method below).

  1. Gently warm the raspberry jam until melted. Brush over the top and sides of the cake, then gently press the ribbons onto the cake – across the top and down the sides – to resemble a parcel. Starting with the top of the cake, press the raspberries (pointed end up) onto the sponge in the squares between the ribbons, so that the whole cake is covered, top and sides.
  2. Fix the chocolate bow in place with a dab of jam or chocolate. Serve the cake the same day.

To make chocolate ribbons and bow

  1. Melt the white chocolate and gently stir in liquid glucose. Leave to thicken at room temperature. Once the mixture is firm and almost set, mould it into a ball with your hands. (Some types and brands of chocolate need to be chilled to firm up.)
  2. Work and knead the mixture in your hands so it softens and becomes pliable and glossy (just like modelling clay or Play-Doh. As soon as it feels smooth, shape it into a sausage.
  3. Set the sausage between 2 long pieces of baking paper and roll out into a long, flat sheet. Peel off the top piece of paper. To make the crossed ribbons for the Jewel Box Cake, cut out 2 strips about 30 x 2.5cm, using a ruler and a long, sharp knife to get a straight, sharp edge. If the ribbons feel very soft, firm up in the fridge for a few minutes. Attach the strips to your cake.
  4. To make a bow, cut out 1 strip about 10 x 2.5cm, 2 strips 11 x 2.5cm and 2 strips about 14 x 2.5cm, cutting through the paper to leave the strips attached. Snip triangles out of one end of the 11cm strips using scissors, then rest the strips over a small paintbrush or similar implement to create a slight curve; these will be the bow ends.
  5. With the paper side out, bend each 14cm strip into a bow loop and press the ends together. Then peel off the paper and position the ends of the loops so they are slightly overlapping; press gently together. Peel the paper from the 10cm strip, then wrap it around the centre of the loops in a ring to hide the join; press the ends of the bow ring to seal. Put all the shaped pieces in the fridge so they can firm up a bit.
  6. Position the bow on top of the crossed ribbons on the cake, fixing in place with a dab of melted chocolate or jam if necessary. Reshape the loops and bow carefully until you are happy with the shape. Slot the bow ends under the loops and arrange over the cake.

 

Lemon and Turmeric Energy Balls

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I’m still going to the gym and so I make a new batch of energy balls every week. These ones are particularly good. I know turmeric is a ‘thing’ right now, but if it even has half the benefits it’s supposed to have, I’m in! I’ve adapted the original recipe (see link below) to make them much more ‘lemony’ by doubling the amount of zest and adding an extra tablespoon of lemon juice.  http://www.natalieshealth.com/2017/02/lemon-turmeric-energy-balls/

So now that I’ve perfected the recipe, I’ll just have to try not eat them all at once and still remember to go to the gym.

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Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

 90g Oats

 70g almonds

 1 tablespoon chia seeds

 5 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

50g shredded coconut for dusting

Instructions

  • Remove the pits from dates and soak them in hot water for several minutes. When the dates are softened, drain them and place in food processor. Save the water.
  • Add the other ingredients to a food processor and blend until mixture turns into a dough-like consistency. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved soaking water if the mixture seems too dry.
  • With a small spoon, scoop the mixture and roll into balls. Roll the balls in shredded coconut.
  • Store energy balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they will keep for at least a week.

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Fig and Almond Cake with Coconut-Honey Glaze

Fig birthday cake

The thing with birthday cakes is that they are always compared with the cake you made the previous year so there is a certain amount of pressure on you to create an even more fabulous cake.  This year for C’s birthday I wanted to make something that was both dramatic and exotic. I am a ‘more is more’ kind of girl, I don’t think you’ll find many pared back cake recipes on this site. I was lucky enough to find two different varieties of fresh fig. Unfortunately, the ones on my tree won’ t be ready till much later in the summer. I wanted to fit as many fresh figs as possible on to the top of the cake for that wow factor. C loved the cake; how could he not? The sponge has dried figs and marzipan, making it beautifully moist. The mascarpone filling adds just the right amount of sweetness, and the fresh figs on top of the cake are just to die for.  I found this recipe on the following site: http://hungryrabbit.com/2014/10/fig-almond-tea-cake-w-coconut-honey-glaze, but it was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen who incidentally do a great podcast which I listen to regularly.

Fig birthday cake with candle

 

Ingredients:

Fig-Almond Filling

  • 225g dried figs, stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, chopped
  • 125g marzipan

Sponge

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 130ml canned coconut milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Coconut-Honey Glaze & Assembly

  • 3 tablespoons canned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 60g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6-8 fresh figs for garnish (optional)
  • Toasted flaked almonds

Mascarpone Filling

  • 200g mascarpone
  • 100g icing sugar

 

Directions      

 Filling

  • Roll the marzipan into a 2cm diameter rope, cut rope into 2cm size pieces.
  • Bring the figs, sugar and water to simmer in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and figs are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in chopped almonds and marzipan pieces and cool until ready to use.

 

Cake

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Grease a 20cm round spring form tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Whisk coconut milk and both extracts.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of coconut milk mixture. Mix on low until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Remove mixing bowl, add the fig mixture in chunks of various sizes. Using rubber spatula, fold until mixture is evenly distribute throughout the batter.
  • Pour batter into prepared tin and smooth top. Place cake in cold oven. Adjust oven temperature to 190C/180C fan/gas 5 and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 65- 80 minutes.
  • Cool cake in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Cooled cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

Coconut-Honey Glaze & Assembly

  • Bring coconut milk, honey and salt to a simmer over in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Turn off heat and whisk in the white chocolate until fully combined. Add the cream cheese, one tablespoon at a time and whisk until glaze is smooth and creamy. Cool for 20-30 minutes until it thickens.

Mascarpone filling

  • Mix the mascarpone and the icing sugar
  • Cut the cake into two horizontal layers and spread a layer the mascarpone filling on the first half of the cake. Place the second half of the cake on top so that the flattest side is on top and ready to be decorated.
  • Drizzle the glaze over the top of cake and let it drip over the sides. Decorate with fresh figs (if using) and sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds to serve.

Fig birthday cake with candle

 

Matcha and Pistachio Energy Balls

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So, I haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been trying my best to lose weight. However, as part of my cutting the calories, one of the things I’ve enjoyed making are these energy balls. They are surprisingly filling and incredibly tasty and they only take 15 minutes to make. I usually have then as a pre or post gym snack. They are also sweet enough to satisfy cravings when you are out and about when usually only a coffee and a piece of cake will do. I have to say that these particular energy balls are in the ‘deluxe’ category with their premium ingredients. I do however, also love the peanut butter energy balls on the Deliciously Ella website. The original recipe for these energy balls comes from: http://www.cookrepublic.com/pistachio-matcha-energy-snack-bliss-balls-cacao/

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Ingredients

75g raw cashew nuts

75g raw pistachios

8 Medjool dates, pitted (140g)

2 teaspoons matcha powder

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

pinch of salt

raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder) to dust (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients (except cacao powder) in the small bowl of a food processor. 

Process to a coarse or fine consistency, based on preference.

Roll into balls. You can optionally roll the balls in cacao powder for a chocolate coating.

 Energy balls will keep in an air tight container in a cool part of your kitchen for up to 4 days.

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