Valentine Cheesecake

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I’ve become a bit of a dab hand when it comes to cheesy Valentine’s bakes.  I recently made this loaf cake for work but couldn’t stop there so kept going with this Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine cheesecake.  The swirly heart pattern is achieved by dotting blobs of pomegranate coulis on top of the cake, then pulling a cocktail stick through them.  It’s a lot easier than it looks, but you will need a pipette or a syringe to get really exact dots.  You can, of course, omit the hearts and simply serve the coulis on the side- also delicious.  These gorgeous shots are courtesy of Faith Mason – photographer extraordinaire.  

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Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine Cheesecake

You will need:
200g digestive biscuits, blitzed to a fine crumb
100g unsalted butter, melted
75g shelled pistachios, finely chopped
2 pomegranates, juice only (try my stain-free method in step 2)
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water
100g icing sugar, plus extra to taste
4 gelatin leaves
300ml double cream
300g cream cheese, room temperature
zest and juice of 2 clementines

20cm loose bottomed cake tin
One plastic pipette

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Method:

 1. Mix the biscuits, butter and pistachios until well combined.  Pack firmly into a loose-bottomed cake tin, spreading out with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly distributed and coming slightly up the sides of the tin.  Chill until needed.

2. To extract the juice from the pomegranates, split one open then place in a large bowl of water.  Working under the water, separate the seeds from the hard skin.  Any bits of white pith should float to the top, making them easy for you to discard.  Drain the seeds and sort through to remove any extra bits of pith.  Repeat with the second pomegranate then place the seeds in the bowl of a mixer and blitz briefly.  Strain the juice  into a saucepan.  Add the cornflour in water and sift in a few tbsp of icing sugar, to taste.  Gently heat until you have a thick, but still drizzle-able coulis. Allow to cool completely.

3.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin leaves in a small bowl of water for 5 min.  Pour the cream into a pan and bring to a simmer then remove from the heat.  Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatin leaves and add to the warm cream, stirring until dissolved.  Allow to cool slightly.  Beat 100g of icing sugar into the cream cheese along with the clementine zest and juice.  Add the gelatin cream along with 3tbsp of the pomegranate coulis and beat until smooth.

4.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the biscuit base. You are now ready to decorate- hope you have a steady hand! Starting in the very centre of the cake, use the pipette to dot tiny circles in a spiral motion all the way around the cake.  I let my dots get bigger as I worked my way around.  Finally, starting in the middle again, use a toothpick to pull through the dots in continuous line- try not to lift your hand up if you can help it!  You should end up with a spiral of little hearts.

5.  Cover the tin with cling (be careful not to touch the top of the cake!) and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until set.

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Easter lunch

For Easter lunch with my family back in Sweden I served a roast leg of lamb,  sticky garlic roast potatoes, bean gratin and some of my grandmother’s home-made bread.  And plenty of red wine, of course.   The leg of lamb was a bit tricky to track down, but I managed to find one in Östermalms Hallen.  Pierced with garlic and rosemary and then slow-cooked, the meat goes really tender and releases plenty of juices for gravy. 

I haven’t made cheesecake in ages and had developed a bit of a craving.  There are very few things that go with a cup of coffee as well as a really decadent cheesecake.  And although there is a time and a place for the baked variety, I prefer the unbaked New York version.  It also works particularly well if you are entertaining for a large crowd as it doesn’t need to go in the oven, which may well be overloaded already.  

This one has a little bit of what you fancy for one and all- soft, sweet fruit, bitter chocolate and a great crunchy, buttery biscuit base (old news by now, but I couldn’t resist).  Because we are nowhere even remotely close to raspberry season in Sweden, I used the frozen variety.  This means that once they are added, the cream cheese mixture goes quite cold, so when you pour in the melted chocolate, it solidifies.  Keep stirring and you’ll get little flecks of chocolate.  I like this Stracciatella-effect and decided to make it a bit of a feature.  You could, of course, exercise a bit more patience and wait for your raspberries to defrost a bit (or, if making this in the summer, use the fresh kind- although, beware, this will make for a much pinker cake).  However, I think this version is a delight and would heartily recommend it.

Think about the kind of chocolate you want to use- the higher the cocoa content, the more intense, even slightly bitter, the flavour.  Adjust accordingly with the sugar content or, if you have a really sweet tooth, use milk chocolate (and about half the sugar content). 

Raspberry Stracciatella Cheesecake 

You will need:
180 g digestive biscuits
75 g melted butter
150 g chocolate (min. 60% cocoa solids)
300 g cream cheese
200 ml double cream
100 g sugar 
150 g frozen raspberries 
chocolate melted, to serve (optional)

Method:

1.  Start with the biscuit base.   Crumble the biscuits using your favourite method- either bashing in a bag with a rolling pin or using a food processor.  Add the melted butter and mix to distribute evenly, until all of the crumbs have absorbed the fat and changed colour slightly.

2.  Line a spring form tin with the crumbs and use your knuckles to push into place.  Put in the fridge while you carry on with the rest of the cake.  

3.  If you have a microwave, pop 100g of the chocolate into a bowl and blast it until melted.  Otherwise, melt in a glass bowl over simmering water.

4.  In a medium sized bowl, whip the cream cheese, cream and sugar together until combined and smooth. 

5.  Add the frozen raspberries and gently stir to evenly distribute.  Swirl the chocolate through the mixture, some of it will harden slightly when it comes into contact with the frozen raspberries, but this is what you want, keep mixing.

6.  Scoop the chocolate-raspberry-cream-cheese-mixture into the cake tin, over the biscuit base.  Use a knife to evenly distribute and then put back into the fridge for at least 4 hours.

7.  To serve, melt the remainder of the chocolate and smooth over the cake and leave to set for a few minutes to set.  Alternatively, grate chocolate over the cake and decorate with some fresh raspberries.