Monday, November 10, 2008

Lemon Lime Cheesecake

Sat 08 Nov 2008

One of the British food celebrities you'll not find featured often on these pages is Jamie Oliver. When he first appeared I was too busy being wound up by the annoying voice over woman to realise how much he irritated me.

This, I suspect, is quite a shame, as more than once people have enthused about his recipes. On Friday I got to have a peak in his Jamie's Ministry of Food. For those not in the UK, this accompanies a television series in which he teaches 'ordinary' people to cook a couple of simple recipes, and the idea is that they go out and teach two friends and so on. Pyramid cooking.

Many of the recipes in the book are very basic, so the book itself might not appeal if you already know how to make scrambled eggs and knock together a stew. However, I did spot a cheesecake recipe that looked quick ... and, well, it's cheesecake ... what's not to like?

Firstly, I really admire that Oliver has put together his recipe without resorting to an array of esoteric kitchen kit. I recognise that failing in myself: if there's a gadget to do the job, I'll use it and rarely do I bother pointing out alternative means. I might have to start considering that.

So - we begin with our cheesecake base. Take 200g of Digestive biscuits and crush to fine crumbs. Oliver suggests wrapping the biscuits in a clean tea towel and battering them with a rolling pin. You so know I put them straight in the Magimix. Toast (in a dry pan) 100g of rolled oats. At this point I melted 150g of unsalted butter and added the melted butter and biscuits to the toasted oats. I'm not sure why I did that, and next time I'll follow the recipe, and dice the butter and then add it to the oats. Less washing up.

Combine the oats, butter and biccies and then press the mixture into the base of a greased 23cm springform tin. I found I had a little too much mixture - but any you don't use, keep to one side. You need to press the biscuit mix down firmly and evenly, and then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the filling, you'll need 600g of cream cheese (you'll find supermarket own brand just as good, and about a quarter of the price, of branded), 300mL of double cream, 150g of caster sugar, a vanilla pod and one lemon and one lime.

So, mix together the cream cheese and sugar. If the cream cheese is looking quite wet in its container, drain it off. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod (or substitute 1 tsp vanilla essence - a lot cheaper but you won't have all the little black flecks!) and mix in. Add the finely grated rind of the lemon and lime and the juice of the lime*. Make sure it's all mixed together well.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold this into the cream cheese mix.

Have a good taste and adjust as you feel necessary.

This probably won't take you an hour, so after you've made the base make yourself a cup of tea and have a rest.

Once your base has had a chance to set, remove it from the fridge and fill with the creamy filling. Smooth the top, cover with the clingfilm and refrigerate for at least another hour. You'll need to keep the cake refrigerated until you eat it all up!

Oliver finishes his cheesecake with an easy raspberry coulis (raspberries and caster sugar mixed together). You can easily manage without: the cake is rich and full of flavour. If you have some left over topping, sprinkle this over slices to serve - it's delicious!

I rate this cheesecake recipe highly because it's not baked and doesn't involve the use of gelatin. This means it's easy on the cook and also makes the end product suitable for various flavours of vegetarian. As I've already mentioned, I rate Oliver's instructions and the fact he doesn't resort to gadgetry. The only thing I think he should mention is the importance of covering the cake with clingfilm. With all that cream and cream cheese it will absorb the slightest smell from your fridge - which might be less than ideal if it happens to have last night's curry as a neighbour! Depending on your springform tin, it's may be a bit of a bother to slice: my base has quite a pronounced lip and next time (and there will be a next time) I'll go to the effort of base-lining the tin with baking parchment.

All in all - quite a result and a dish which is ideal for preparation in advance. With a fruit compote on the side (or the raspberry coulis) I would be more than happy to serve this as a dessert at a dinner party.

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*Oliver's recipe uses the rind of a lemon and an orange and then uses the juice of the lemon. Because of my rather strongly dislike of orange-flavoured food this was never an option ...
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