Turkish Delight Cheesecake

You’ve probably gathered by now that I really like food. At its finest, food is an artform, but even when it’s a messy-looking bowl of apple crumble it manages to enhance everything around it. To me, food isn’t just a form of fuel, it’s comfort, it’s fun, it’s family and friends, and some truly great memories.

Legs of lamb slowly roasting on a spit over an open fire in a field whilst canvas flaps in the breeze… a Sunday stew with the sounds of Formula 1 in the background… pancake day in New York… raspberries fresh from my grandmother’s garden, still warm from the sun… it’s all this and more.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it before here, but I write a weekly recipe column for my local paper.  For me, the best thing about doing that is undoubtedly that I get to eat every recipe I write. The second best thing is the development stage, when I’m either daydreaming about food, or messing about in the kitchen to see if I can bring those fantasies to life.

I’ve been toying with the concept of a Turkish Delight cheesecake for a long time; wondering how I’d make it, taking ingredients out and putting others in, tweaking and refining it until finally… oh, sweet heaven!

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but I can assure you that the photograph of this week’s recipe doesn’t come close to describing the sublime reality of consuming this exquisite confection.

That first rush of sweet chocolate sweeping over the taste buds, blending perfectly with the delicately floral cream filling, followed by a palate-cleansing burst of bittersweet lemon jelly and a lingering echo of pistachio… it’ll send shivers down your spine!

This recipe is dedicated to a constant source of inspiration. This one’s for mum.

TD CCake

Turkish Delight Cheesecake
Feeds: 12
Takes: 45 minutes
+ 8 hours chilling time

300g bourbon biscuits
75g unsalted butter, melted
8 gelatine leaves
1kg cream cheese
275g caster sugar
80ml milk
12 drops red food colouring
300g double cream
1 & 1/2 tbsp rosewater
250g Turkish Delight
3 lemons
30g pistachios

Line a base of a 23cm spring-form tin with greaseproof paper, and the sides with cling-film.

Place the bourbon biscuits in a food processor and blitz until reduced to fine crumbs. Add the butter, and pulse until well combined.

Turn the biscuit crumbs into the tin and press firmly down. Clean and dry the food processor, and pop the tin into the fridge to chill, while you make the cream cheese filling.

Place five gelatine leaves in cold water to soften. Pour the milk into a small saucepan, set over a medium heat and bring to just below the boil. Remove from the heat, squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and drop it in the milk. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the cream cheese, and 165g of the sugar in the cleaned food processor, and whiz until the mixture is smooth. Add the cooled milk, and the food colouring to the cream cheese mixture and combine well.

Cut each piece of rose Turkish Delight into square quarters, and the lemon Turkish delight into small pieces. Set the rose aside to use for decoration. Beat the cream and rosewater together until soft peaks form. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cream and scatter in the lemon Turkish Delight. Combine by folding the two together.

Pour the filling into the spring-form tin and level it. Tap the tin to shake out any air pockets, and chill for four hours, or until the filling has set. Once it has, place the last three gelatine leaves in cold water to soften. Pour the remaining 100g of sugar and 125ml of water into a small saucepan, and set over a medium heat. Add the zest, and juice of all three lemons to the pan and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before straining the syrup through cheesecloth into a bowl. Don’t crush the pulp to wring extra syrup out or it will make the jelly cloudy.

While the syrup is still warm, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine leaves and stir them into the syrup. Allow the jelly to cool completely and then place in the fridge for 15 minutes until it thickens slightly. Pour over the cheesecake and return to the fridge for three to four hours, or until the top has set.

Once the top has set, blitz the husked pistachios in the (cleaned, again!) food processor until they resemble large bread crumbs. Use these, and the reserved rose Turkish Delight  to decorate the cheesecake.

Carefully remove from the tin, peel off the cling-film and greaseproof paper, place on a pretty plate and serve to mum.


On Top of Spaghetti…

… all covered in cheese.  I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed.

If you were ever a child (and I think that most of us were) then you’ve probably heard at least the first verse of the popular folk song “On Top of Spaghetti”.  When my nephews came to stay for a week over the summer holidays, my eldest nephew constantly sang it for about two days until I introduced them both to Ging Gang Goolie.  They’re seven and five so that went down well.

With that brain worm firmly stuck in my head I announced to the boys that we were going to make spaghetti meatballs.  The deal when they come to my house is that I’ll cook their favourite meals, but they have to help.  Granny does the washing up.

I had a packet of Heck’s chicken Italia sausages in the fridge that needed eating, so instead of going to the butcher’s for some pork sausage meat, I slid the sausages out of their cases and used those as the basis of the meatballs.  Because they’re made from chicken it gives the meatballs a lighter and more delicate texture than pork, and allows the Italian flavours to shine through.

For a sauce we made my famous Italian “splodge”, which is basically made from whatever vegetables are in the fridge, a tin of tomatoes and Italian herbs and spices.  I’ve been making it for so many years that I no longer even have to think about what I’m doing, it’s just second nature to me.

The boys really enjoyed making the meatballs, although they were both a little uncertain about getting their hands into the mixture and rolling it into balls.  Once I’d got them started though, it was difficult to persuade them to stop!

Mum told me when we were about halfway through cooking the meal that the boys don’t like meatballs.  You can imagine my response!  They delighted in proving her wrong and both of them went back for seconds.

All in all, it was a quick and fun recipe that got us all involved in the kitchen.  Plus it tasted great too!

On Top of Spaghetti Meatballs
Feeds: 4    Takes: 30 minutes

340g Heck chicken Italia sausages meat1
35g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
Dash of Lea & Perrins
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 red pepper, finely sliced
200g dried spaghetti
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Remove the sausages from their casing and place in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs to the bowl and mash the sausage innards and crumbs together with a fork.  Using your hands, scoop up pieces of the meat mixture and form into evenly sized balls.

Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil. When the oil has heated, add the meatballs to the pan.  Fry the meatballs for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they’ve browned on all sides.

Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and set aside. Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and diced celery to the frying pan and sauté until the onion turns translucent.

Tip the onion, garlic, and oil into a medium saucepan and add the tomato puree. Place the saucepan over a medium heat.  Mix the puree in with a wooden spoon, then add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.  Stir well.

Add a dash of Lea & Perrins, and the paprika, basil and oregano.  If you happen to drop the entire container of basil into the sauce, don’t panic.  Sam did the exact same thing and it still tasted amazing.

Stir the new ingredients into the tomato sauce and simmer for five minutes.  Add the meatballs and red pepper to the saucepan, stir them in and allow to continue simmering, stirring occasionally.

Cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions and then drain. Serve with the meatballs, smothered in cheese.