Christmassy Cheesecake


So today is Monday, but today I’m going for slightly different. I have stuck to the usual format in that this recipe is completely meat free, but to be honest, I’m not sure it really counts as a meat free Monday contribution. But it is Christmas after all, so I’m sticking it in anyway.

Everybody loves a good cheesecake, right? Even people that don’t like cheese seem to like them, and my family is no different. In fact, my husband (or not as he was at the time) once said after eating a piece of one of my cheesecakes that he would marry anyone that could make him cakes like that. He never tires of reminding me that we have had that particular cheesecake about 3 times since in our (so far at least) 14 year marriage. Trouble is, I got bored. Of that cheesecake, I might add, not (again so far at least) our marriage.  I like to mix things up a bit, and this is what this is. My Christmas cheesecake mix up. This isn’t in your face with its Christmas flavours, rather it is subtler and more delicate. But is is Christmassy with its figs, cinnamon and vanilla and is a perfect alternative dessert to Christmas pudding or whatever other heavy options you may have on the menu. Try it and you’ll be raving about it too, but I can’t promise it’ll get you any proposals.

Christmas Cheesecake Recipe

Serves 10:

For the base:

200g digestive biscuits or similar

125g butter, melted

1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling:

1 x 400g tin of figs

6 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

600g cream cheese

5 eggs

For the topping:

100g cream cheese

250 ml mascapone

2 tbsp icing sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 figs

4 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp runny honey

Firstly, line a 23 cmd spring form cake tin.

Crush the biscuits and mix with the melted butter, then press into the base of the tin.

Leave to set in the fridge, whilst you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 170 deg. C.

Puree the figs in a food processor, with enough of their liquid so that you get a smooth puree. If you can’t get tinned figs, use fresh and poach them, I don’t think I’d try dried, you wouldn’t get the right texture.

Mix together all the other filling ingredients in the food processor, then pour into the prepared base.

Wrap the tin in a double layer of foil, then bake, in a bain marie (a roasting tin filled with enough boiling water to come two thirds of the way up the tin)

Bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour 10 minutes, until the filling is set, but still wobbling in the centre enticingly.

When it is done, take it out of the oven and leave to cool completely on a metal rack.

Then make your topping. Preheat the oven to 200 deg. C and beat together all of the topping ingredients and smooth over the cake using a palette knife. Return to the oven for around 10 minutes until the tip is just coloured.

To decorate, roast the figs in the orange juice and honey for around 15 minutes. Leave them to cool and use to artistically decorate the top, then reduce down the juice slightly so that it becomes a little more syrupy, and drizzle appetisingly over the top.


Spaghetti Squash with Herby Mushroom Sauce


So this is the time of year for over indulging. I don’t think it is written in stone that we have to, but it seems so hard not to right now. My theory is  that Christmas is pretty much incidental. Rather it is the cold weather, and no prospect of spring on the horizon and the long nights and short days that result in us consuming everything edible in sight and knocking back the booze like it is going out of fashion. Call it the holiday season, but basically, for me at least, it’s darkness induced boredom followed by the inevitable crash and cravings. But it doesn’t have to be this way;  there are ways that we can get the comfort food that we all need right about now without feeling that we need to reach for that list of New Year’s resolutions and dusting it off a bit. Honestly. Continue reading

Lucky Lentils


So it’s that time of year again, when we start to look forward to our  potentially better, thinner, healthier selves. Lists will be compiled, resolutions will be made. It doesn’t hurt that we’re all probably still bloated from the big Christmas blow out, but before we commit to a complete life overhaul, there’s usually time for one last over-indulgence; New Year’s Eve. Continue reading

Meatfree Monday: Orzo with Leek and Salsify


So last week I talked about my love affair with salsify, and this week I thought that I’d up that by adding another of my often unsung heroes: leeks. A lot of people underestimate how nutritious leeks and onions are for you and view them as purely a flavour enhancer. Well, obviously they fulfill that role rather well, but next time you reach for a leek, grab one or two more. They are full of vitamin A and K, have good levels of B vitamins, are high in fibre and contain calcium, magnesium and iron as well as several other vital minerals. Particularly useful at this time of year (when they happen to be at their finest) leeks also provide brilliant anti-inflammatory action, and calm the respiratory tract so helping cold and flu sufferers. Continue reading

Salisfy and Bean Soup with Ham Hock


Salsify and its more common partner in crime, black salsify or scorzonera are not a well known vegetables outside of continental western and central Europe. Their popularity is spreading though, if you look carefully you’ll see that they are starting to crop up more and more in farmers’ markets and veg boxes in the UK, and I have even heard anecdotally that their availability is spreading to North America. If you’ve never tried it, do your best to source some; now is the perfect time. If I tell you that black salsify is often referred to as the oyster plant, it may go some way to describing the wonderfully mild and delicate flavour these roots have, and what you’re missing out on. Don’t be put off by the long, knobbly witch-like fingers these veggies appear to be; once you’ve tasted them you won’t look back. Continue reading

Pan Fried Mackerel with Fennel and Leek Spelt Risotto


I’m lucky enough to live close to the sea, and apart from the invigorating walks this also means I can usually hold of gorgeously fresh fish. Yesterday was no exception, and after hovering indecisively between the prawns and the mackerel much to the annoyance of everybody behind me (they say never go shopping when you are hungry to avoid such situations. The problem is, I am always hungry, when am I supposed to do it?) I eventually found myself on the way home, day dreaming about what I would pair with my bag full of beautiful silvery mackerel fillets. Line caught, I should add. Something we should all be demanding if we still want marine life in our oceans, or our grandchildren to have the chance of tasting any such fish in the future. Continue reading

Gorgeous Goulash Soup


So we’re busy packing for our Christmas on the ski slopes, and it is not only the thought of a white Christmas that has me excited right now. I love the whole combination of a skiing holiday, the snow, the scenery, the fresh air and of course, the food. My standard lunch (and quite possibly one of the main reasons that I even go skiing there) on an Austrian ski holiday is a goulash soup. I’m not sure if it can be beaten, especially if eaten outside, half way down a mountain and wrapped up toasty warm. Recipes for goulash vary depending on who you consult, and where they come from, but you’re missing out if you don’t stick to the fragrant warming caraway and paprika combination. Continue reading

Meatfree Monday: Parsnip Gnocchi with Rocket and Walnut Pesto


Although the rush of the kitchen in autumn has almost passed, when every day sees a new glut of ingredients landing in our larders, eating seasonably always means that there will be times of feast and famine. Times when you will have a rush on and will have to do something quick to make sure you can still benefit from those lovely ingredients when the pace has slowed down and your larder isn’t quite so overflowing. Right now,  I am awash with parsnips, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. This shouldn’t be a problem, but I can’t say the idea of eating parsnips excites my children, even served up my favourite way; roasted in the fat of the roasting joint and glazed with a bit of maple syrup or honey and, of course, some thyme. They do, however, keep quite well for a couple of weeks, so we are not talking the full scale panic that occurs when the pears or plums come into season, but with a good few weeks left to go before they are past their best, I thought I’d better start using some up in some new and innovative (well for us at least) ways. Continue reading

Meatfree Monday: Soup for the Soul


So it’s December the first, our thanksgiving leftovers are just about eaten (we don’t hang around in my house) and it is cold and damp outside, with another 3 weeks to go before we can legitimately start the next feast. Now, I quite like the hunkering down, almost hibernating atmosphere of this time of year, but I do understand why others find it trying, especially in the UK with our limited daylight hours. It seems I have barely finished lunch before it starts to get dark. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like further north; I am only surprised people have enough time to get out of bed at all. Luckily though, as with most things, we can ease these things slightly by what we eat. Maybe not as much as two weeks in the Maldives (but following the sun around the planet would be a nightmare for your carbon footprint), leaving us with the next best option; a diet filled with tryptophan. Continue reading