Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Cheesecake (3)

Shirley's cheesecake was the third to get an outing. I knew it would be good, because Shirley is a great cook, and she didn't let me down. It was dead easy, the only down point was when I looked in the microwave the next day and found all the solidifed butter spats! It seemed a lot of creme fraiche but it tasted lovely. The family made appreciative noises and said things like "This isn't your normal cheesecake, it's great".  Sometimes I don't know why I bother.

It was very wobbly after 30 minutes but I had faith, took it out and voilá, it worked,
and say what you like but I do think cheesecake is best cooked in a bain marie. Mine certainly are.

Here is Shirley's recipe as she wrote it, put here so that I can find it easily next time.

I aways use a bain-marie - no more cracked-top cheesecakes.

Here's mine for another comparison (and it really is mine - did it when I found I couldn't get sour cream here - works brill - is actually best cheesecake I've ever tasted. Modest, moi.)

8ozs crumbed dig biscs,
4 ozs butter melted in m/wave till beginning to brown - takes ages but gives lovely butterscotchy taste to base

400grms full fat cream cheese
50cl tub crème fraîche (30% or 15% fat - both work)
3 eggs
6ozs sugar
rind and juice of a lemon
teaspoon vanilla.
26cm tin - I use a fixed bottom one.

Mix cheese and crème till smooth, beat in sugar then eggs one at a time - gently - don't want too much air. then beat in lemon juice and vanilla and stir in rind.
Pour over buscuit base, bain-marie 30-35 mins at 175C. There will still be a real, real wobble in the centre. Cool and chill.

Number 1 son was very disappointed it wasn't an uncooked one with gelatine because that means he won't have a go at making it, silly boy (and him a trained chef as well).
The other pudding we had was Squidgy chocolate torte which I've blogged about before. Number 2 son and his girlfriend polished most of this off. Jade even tweeted about it. I am so proud!


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee puddings

It has been a very wonderful and inspiring Jubilee for us Royalists. From the amazing pageant of vessels along the River Thames, via the Jubilee concert showcasing some of our favourite oldies (but maybe not such goodies as they once were), through the dignity of a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's, and culminating in a carriage procession, a balcony appearance and the inevitable Lancaster/Spitfire/Red Arrows fly-past.

But what to eat? Well that was easy enough. Jubilees deserve street parties so outdoor eating was de rigeur.

Except that the weather let us down and by Saturday it was fairly clear that dodging the showers was going to be the sport of choice.

I was catering for 17 on Sunday but my own children had informed me they would be "going on". Presumably to somewhere where cool, rather than Her Majesty, reigns. I reckoned on 3 puddings and a cheeseboard. Anne brought Nigella's Ice cream cake which pretty much took care of the under 30's.

I had another go at Matthew's lemon tart. I had bought the right tin in the interim and this time it was much better. Not perfect yet but definitely sticky and edible. It needs adjustment in the lemon department I feel. I used 3 not very juicy ones and it wasn't sharp enough for my taste. I didn't pre-bake Dilou's pastry either and it was fine. By the way, Matthew electric oven temperature is for a fan oven. But you probably knew that.

I had also been brainwashed into making Heston Blumenthal's Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Crumble Crunch. Honestly, I am so gullible. But hey, it was easy and it went down well, particularly with yogurt-hating husband, not that I told him what was in it. I omitted the vodka as I'm 5 months on the wagon at present, and I reckon the elderflower cordial was a bit overpowering.

Oh. And my trifle dish was the wrong shape. I liked this quite a lot but I don't think I would bother to make it again. I think it missed a spongey layer but I wouldn't dare tell Heston.

Re the concert. The general verdict amongst my muso friends was that Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey still have it but know their limitations these days. Elton, Cliff and Macca are well past their sell-by date. Personally I think that's because the former have good singing technique which the others don't.

Oh yes. My boss thought Lang Lang was a panda.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Matthew's Lemon Tart

I had bookmarked this from Matthew Fort ages ago because it sounded just my sort of thing. And it sounded easy. The family turned up for a couple of impromptu barbecues last weekend. The weather has been so terrible this year that I think impromptu is probably the only way to go. It is the 15th of May today and it is raining again. It had all better stop for the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. And it would be nice if it was dry for the First Test against the Windies which starts at Lord's this week. My cooking fairy had obviously been on a bender on Saturday night because everything I touched whilst making this pie went wrong. I made bad decisions throughout. I did not have a metal flan tin. I don't know why because I used to have several. They may have gone rusty and been thrown out when I had the new kitchen. Or maybe the cooking fairy hid them somewhere last night. So I had to use a ceramic dish and knew that the pastry needed to be baked blind if so. Wrong. It tasted like cardboard. But it was defrosted (homemade) shortcrust and I'm not sure how long it had been in the freezer. I also managed to set the fan oven too low. Heaven knows an electric to fan conversion is easy enough but apparently not. So after half an hour it still looked pale, yellow and soggy. Needless to say I then overcompensated. The filling sank, defeated.
But here's the funny thing. It tasted bloody gorgeous. Like a cross between a lemon meringue pie and a treacle tart. I shall buy myself a new flan tin before I make it again though. Chris's only comment was "Whatever have you done to this pastry"? And I promise you I wrote this in neat paragraphs. No, I don't know where they've gone either. Must be that fairy again.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cheesecake (2)

This recipe was given to me by Sue at Mainly Baking. It's a Gordon Ramsay one which was published, I think, in The Times but I can't find it online. For the base I used 8 ounces of mashed digestives with 4 ozs of butter, that being suggested by Shirley for cheesecake number 3. Filling - process 500g cream cheese and 200g caster sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 tablespoons cornflour, 300g sour cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Process 30 seconds to combine. The mixture looked fab when it went into the oven.
Pour filling into tin and bake for 1 hour (130 in my fan oven). Should be well-risen, slightly firm and golden brown. Turn off oven and cool cheesecake in oven with door open. Refrigerate when completely cool. Now I don't know quite what went wrong but it also looked great when it was baked, although not golden brown. But it looked like this once it was cooled. I guess that was always a risk if a bain-marie isn't being used but I would have not expected it to carry on cooking once it was cooling. Memo to self: Don't cool it in the oven next time!
Taste-wise it was a bit bland. Next time I will substitute lemon juice for vanilla. The texture was very good. 6/10

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Lunch at Quo Vadis

It is the Easter holidays and so it is time for another lunch with Liz. Except that she isn't on holiday. She has retired this time and I hate her. We decided ages ago to go to the Lucian Freud exhibition at the Portrait Gallery but could only get tickets for 4 pm. So, long lunch and then go, or view exhibition and dine early evening? We chose the former. Next time we'll do the latter. The problem is that it was such a very good lunch and we just wanted to doze afterwards, despite alcohol not being involved. Quo Vadis has been in Dean Street, Soho for many years. Now it has had a revamp and chef Jeremy Lee is the new resident man in the kitchen. This was enough to tempt me without even looking at the menu. Foodycat and I had seen him having lunch when we first dined at Le Café Anglais and in fact Quo Vadis is very similar is style and decor to that institution. The restaurant is a series of small rooms but because of all the glass around it feels spacious and airy like one large room. On arrival you are greeted by a sensational display of fruit and flowers - Amalfi lemons and Seville oranges this time since you ask.
We were seated in the furthest corner which meant we walked through 2, or was it 3, bright and welcoming rooms with lovely stained-glass windows. That doesn't mean in a cathedrally way, more an Art Deco way. Behind Liz was what in some of the chick-lit novels I've read is called a "booth", in fact a smaller room with just the one table. I was pleased to see Heston Blumenthal making his way towards it. Fortunately before I managed to excite Liz by telling her so I realised my mistake. It was journalist and restaurant critic Toby Young. I am not very good at sorting out famous people be they bald or not but at least I knew he wasn't Gregg Wallace or Yul Brynner. He was joined later by a young man who also looked like a journalist but could equally be someone quite different. I did not want to talk to Mr Young. His setting up of a Free School in nearby Ealing does not please me.
Because Liz was on a retirement splurge we decided not to stint ourselves by going with the (very attractive) pre-theatre menu (available all day and a steal at £20 for 3 courses), but go the whole hog and eat exactly what we fancied. Our first treat was a delicious cranberry and orange juice cocktail.
We both wanted all of the starters. Liz settled for crab with a light, luscious, lemony mayo, and I had the patés and pickles. One paté was dense, meaty and gobsmackingly good, the other was rillette-like and very bland. I don't know what it is about me and rillettes. I want to like them but they invariably disappoint. Special mention here must be made of the pickled prunes, pickled walnut and cornichon accompaniments. Just perfect.
Our mains chose themselves. I am a steak and chips girl at heart and the wonderfully deep-flavoured onglet did not disappoint. The fat had been studded with peppercorns which would have been an issue for my husband had he been with us but that is principally why we usually leave him behind on these occasions. The chips were large, feathery and quite outstanding
Liz's Braised kid with peas and wild garlic was also a triumph and we both tried very hard not to think of the baby goats at the petting farm just up the road from her house. The kid was truly melt-in-the-mouth, cliché though that is.
We chose the one pudding that didn't mention cream in the title, and of course it was covered in the stuff. Poor Liz. But she is used to it and gamely scraped most of it off. The Walnut meringue was near perfect but not as good as the rhubarb sorbet, and I want the recipes.
With tea, coffee and service the bill came to £93. Not cheap but, as previously mentioned, you can dine well there for much less. I will be back. Please join me.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Cheesecake (1)

My family are big on cheesecake but not as big as I am. Felicity Cloake recently used the cheescake as one of her "Perfect" investigations and it has inspired me to try a few of my own. Today I decided to make the one she declared the best. Felicity's perfect cheesecake.

We started off well. I had the correct size tin and I had all the ingredients in bar the cheese and the sour cream. Once mixed and in the tin I was pleased with it.

When cooked, cooled in the oven and released from the tin the cheesecake was also "pleasing". The top had not cracked despite there being no bain-marie.

The problem came when I transferred it to the fridge. It kind of sighed and tried to escape over the edge of the plate. It had looked set, it obviously wasn't quite. Why? No idea. Here is the finished, not attractive, article.

Taste-wise it was fine according to the crew, and they quite liked the texture but there was one main criticism and I reckon that was totally down to Felicity. Unanimously they declared that the base was too thin and there just wasn't enough of it.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A photo-free lunch

It's half term - the last for Liz who retires at Easter - and a trip to the Hockney at the RA was booked. It was a fabulous exhibition and, after my disappointment with the Leonardo, restored my faith in the people who create these things. I want to go again. But I shan't because I won't have time to queue and neither will I be organised enough to book any of the extra tickets that have recently come online.

Afterwards we adjourned first to Fortnum and Mason as Liz had birthday presents to buy. Diamond Jubilee food goodies fitted the bill, and we then strolled Ritz-ward along Piccadilly.

The Wolseley is on the opposite corner of Arlington Street to The Ritz so although it is pretty posh it isn't really posh enough to compete. Photography is banned and I am presuming that this is because it is a self-styled celebrity haunt. Certainly they enforce the no-photography rule which is good to see. A couple of people were prevented from taking pictures whilst we were there although the only celebrity we spotted was Melvyn Bragg who these days doesn't exactly fill the gossip columns. Liz and I, it has to be said, are not the best people to be on a "rich and famous" hunt. There were 2 men who kept their hats on throughout lunch. She thought one was a ballet dancer and I surmised that the other could have been Terry Pratchett. I suspect we were both way off the mark. What is without question is that The Wolseley is the best place ever for people-watching.

It is a very bustly restaurant with everyone rushing around looking awfully important. The food was very good but I was a little disappointed that it wasn't exceptional. It was not, for example, as good as Les Deux Salons, with the exception of the puddings.

Liz began with a  mixed beetroot salad which was fresh, spiky and refreshing. She followed this with 7 hour baked lamb which in her words "was unexceptional". She loved her dessert, a slightly enormous "petit pot de chocolat".

I opened with delicately fried whitebait with an artfully executed tartare sauce. the capers had just the right amount of crunchiness. This was followed by a  medium-rare rib steak which was excellent as were the skinny fries - the gem salad was a little greasy. My ice cream coupe was the star for me - pistachio and nougat ice creams with hazelnuts and a butterscotch sauce. Just the thing for someone who's been on a diet since last September.

Liz had a glass of Corbieres,  I stuck to mineral water (notification of my sainthood must be stuck in the post). With a decaff coffee (GQS take note) the bill including service was £112.

It has to be said that the service which was friendly was also fairly slow and more than a tad haphazard. It didn't matter though as it was such fun eyeing everyone up.

Next time I go I will make a point of going either for breakfast or afternoon tea.