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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter 08 – a birthday, anniversary and cheesecake!

Easter this year was pretty special. I always love having four days off, but this year Easter coincided with Alastair's birthday (on Saturday) and our first year wedding anniversary (on Monday).

We celebrated Alastair's birthday at home with Birthday Lasagne. Every year, I ask him what he would like for dinner on his birthday. I offer to make him anything. And every year he asks for lasagne! I'm often rather critical of my cooking, but even I thought that his Birthday Lasagne this year was frickin' awesome! The meat sauce was flavoursome and rich, having simmered for a couple of hours, and there was oodles of cheese.

Apart from Birthday Lasagne, Alastair also had Birthday Pancakes and Birthday Cheesecake. He was rather spoilt.

Birthday Cheesecake

The recipe for the cheesecake was from Jamie Oliver's "Cook with Jamie" (the recipe is at the end of this post). In the book, he calls it the Bloomin' Easy Vanilla Cheesecake. Was it easy? Well, it would've been much easier if I hadn't been trying to juggle making lasagne at the same time! I broke my food processor pulsing the crumbs for the base – the tabs locking the bowl in place snapped. Then the cream cheese wasn't quite soft enough when I started beating the filling, and I got cream cheese on my face, on the bench, on other appliances, basically everywhere!

The other thing to note about this cheesecake is that it's HUGE. It has almost a kilo of cream cheese in and although the book says it serves 8-10 people, I reckon 12 people is a more accurate number. If I had realised just how big it was going to be, I would've scaled it down. It's pretty rich and filling, so it's not the kind of dessert where you'll have seconds. We had a piece of it after our anniversary dinner the next day, and I thought it tasted better after sitting in the fridge for a day.

1st year anniversary dinner

We also celebrated our anniversary in the weekend, again at home. We popped a bottle of champagne that had been a wedding present (thanks Scott!) and I prepared some garlic and chilli tiger prawns, steamed mussels, pan-fried salmon and tuna sashimi.

1st year anniversary dinner

It was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary. And we had such a lovely weekend that it was hard to go back to work on Tuesday!

Birthday Cheesecake

Bloomin' easy vanilla cheesecake

From Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie
Serves 8-10 (serves 12 in my opinion)

150g /5 & 1/2 oz unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
250g /9oz digestive biscuits, crushed
115g/4oz caster sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
900g/2lb full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large free-range eggs
115ml/4 fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

for the cherry compote

400g/14oz stoned cherries (I used a punnet of raspberries)
3 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
options: a swig of port or whisky
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F, and grease and line the bottom and sides of a 24cm/9 & 1/2 inch springform cake tin. Mix the biscuits and butter in a bowl, press into the base of hte prepared tin and cook for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Turn the oven up to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Combine the sugar and cornflour in a bowl. Add the cream cheese and beat, ideally with an electric whisk, until creamy. Add the eggs and beat well. Gradually add the cream, beating until smooth, then beat in the vanilla seeds or extract and lemon and orange zest.

Scrape the mixture on to the biscuit base, and gently shake it to level out the surface. Put the cheesecake in the centre of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minjutes until the top is golden brown and the filling has set around the edges. (A piece of foil over the top will stop it browning too much.) Let it cool at room temperature and serve after 2 or 3 hours. Or, for a slightly firmer texture, put it in the fridge until it's nice and cold.

Before serving, put the cherries in a pan, sprinkle over the sugar and add a splash of water. Put on a low to medium heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If you've got some port or whisky handy, feel free to add some. When the compote has reduced down it may be a little dry, so add a splash of water to loosen it. Remove from the heat and let it cool down, then serve spooned over the cheesecake with a dusting of icing sugar.

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