The best cherry & chocolate cheesecake


The best cherry & chocolate cheesecake


I’ve used cherries here because they take two things that are already delicious together – cheesecake and chocolate – to a whole new level. You really can’t beat a good cheesecake and this one is mega.


Ingredients:

For the cheesecake:
150 g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
300 g dark chocolate digestives
100 g golden caster sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
900 g full-fat cream cheese
2 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
100 ml double cream
1 orange
50 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
For the cherries
300 g dried sour cherries
3 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
1 orange
1 stick cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
1 splash rum, brandy or grappa
For the chocolate sauce:
100 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
200 ml single cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with butter. 
  2. Finely crumble the biscuits into a bowl then mix in the melted butter. When it’s well combined, spoon it into the cake tin, spread it evenly so it covers the base, then press it down. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then let it cool. Turn the oven up to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. 
  3. To prepare the cherries, add them to a pan with the sugar, the zest of the orange, the juice of half, and the cinnamon. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and put them to one side. Add a splash of rum and the vanilla pod to the pan, then put it on a low-to-medium heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and leave to cool. 
  4. To make the cheesecake, combine the sugar and cornflour in a bowl, then add the cream cheese and beat well. Add the eggs and beat again until the mixture is smooth and light. Slowly beat in the cream, then add the reserved vanilla seeds and zest of the orange, and beat again. 
  5. Using a slotted spoon, take half the cherries out of the pan and gently fold them into the cheesecake mix with the chocolate. Spoon this over the biscuit base, and gently shake the cake tin to level out the surface. Pop a few cherries on top and gently press them in. Scoop the remaining cherries and juices into a small bowl to serve with the cheesecake. 
  6. Put the cheesecake in the centre of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is lightly brown and the edges have set. If it looks like it’s browning too much, cover the top with some tin foil for the rest of the cooking time. When the time’s up, take the cake out of the oven and either leave it to cool at room temperature, or, if you like your cheesecake really firm, pop it in the fridge until completely chilled. 
  7. Just before serving, make the chocolate sauce. Pour the single cream into a small pan and place over a low heat. Cook until it just starts to bubble, then add the chocolate and whisk gently until it has all melted. 
  8. Serve your gorgeous cheesecake with the bowl of reserved cherries and a jug of warm chocolate sauce on the side so people can drizzle over as much or as little as they like.

Beef Stew


Beef Stew


SERVINGS: 4


Chocolate & beetroot cake


Chocolate & beetroot cake


Tip: 
Flavour wise beetroot is sweet, which is why even though its a vegetable it works really well in cakes. You can grate it by hand using a box grater, if you prefer, depending on how much time you have.


Ingredients:

olive oil
plain flour, for dusting
300 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
250 g raw beetroot
4 large free-range eggs
150 g golden caster sugar
120 g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon good-quality cocoa powder
natural yoghurt, to serve

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

2. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm springform cake tin with olive oil.

3. Use scissors to cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, roughly the same size as the bottom of the tin, and use it to line the base.

4. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.

5. Break 200g of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl.

6. Place the bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water over a medium heat, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water, and allow to melt, stirring occasionally.

7. Once melted, use oven gloves to carefully remove from the heat and put to one side – beware of the steam when you lift up the bowl.

8. Use a Y-shaped peeler to peel the beetroot (you might want to wear gloves to do this), then quarter them on a chopping board.

9. Push the beetroot through the coarse grater attachment on the food processor, then tip into a large mixing bowl.

10. Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a large clean mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.

11. Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.

12. Use an electric hand whisk to whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.

13. Use a spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then once combined, fold in the rest but try not to over mix.

14. Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.

15. Bake in the hot oven for around 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through.

16. To check if it’s done, stick a cocktail stick or skewer into the middle of the sponge, remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean the cake’s cooked; if it’s slightly sticky it needs a bit longer.

17. Allow the cake to cool slightly, then carefully turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

18. When you’re ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate (in the same way as above), then serve each slice with some yoghurt and a little drizzle of the melted chocolate.

Prune & Armagnac cake


Prune & Armagnac cake


Ingredients:

50 ml Armagnac
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
A pinch of ground cloves
130 g semi-dried prunes
250 g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
200 g salted butter
5 free-range eggs, seperated
100 g caster sugar
75 g plain flour
75 g ground almonds
Cocoa powder , for dusting

Method:

1. You can do this step well in advance, otherwise, make it the night before. Place the Armagnac in a pan with the zest and spices and bring to the boil. Pop the prunes in a bowl, pour over the spiced Armagnac, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge. 

2. When ready to make the cake, line a 20cm cake tin and preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally, until melted, then take off the heat. 

3. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whip the egg whites with 1 tablespoon of the sugar until it forms hard peaks. Place the yolks and remaining sugar in another bowl and whisk for about 5 minutes, until you can draw a figure of 8 in it and it retains its shape. 

4. Pour the chocolate into the whisked yolks and stir to incorporate. Roughly purée the prunes in a food processor, then fold them into the mixture. 

5. Combine the flour and ground almonds in a bowl then fold into the chocolate mixture. Carefully fold in the egg whites, in three stages, so you don’t lose any of the air you have whisked into it. 

6. Once everything is thoroughly mixed in, pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 1 hour, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly before turning out onto a plate and dusting with cocoa powder. Serve with more hot Armagnac-soaked prunes on the side.

Pasta peperonata


Pasta peperonata


This is a great pasta dish using rigatoni, which is quite robust. It makes a really nice lunchtime snack. The mascarpone or crème fraîche is a lovely addition, but you can leave it out if you prefer. It will give you a wonderful mottled sauce, but try it without first and see how you go.


Ingredients:

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped, stalks reserved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls Parmesan cheese, grated
2 heaped tablespoons mascarpone cheese or crème fraîche, optional
455 g rigatoni, penne or spaghetti

Method:

  1. Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. Don’t rush this too much, as cooking the peppers slowly like this really helps to bring out the flavour. Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and parsley stalks and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes most. Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar – it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan and the mascarpone or crème fraîche if you are using it and turn the heat down to minimum while you cook the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Put the peppers, pasta and parsley leaves into a large warmed bowl. Give them a good toss together, then add a little of the pasta cooking water and a few good lugs of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pasta nicely. Serve straight away sprinkled with the rest of the Parmesan.

Brown Windsor soup with pearl barley


Brown Windsor soup with pearl barley


Serve the brown Windsor soup in mugs with hunks of rustic soda bread to mop up every delicious drop.


Ingredients:

1 large knob butter
olive oil
500 g quality stewing steak, diced
1 tablespoon Marmite
1 splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon flour
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 litres organic beef stock
150 g pearl barley

Method:
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a splash of oil. Lightly brown the meat in the pan, then stir in the Marmite and Worcestershire sauce. Turn the heat up and keep stirring as the meat browns further. It will release lots of juices – just keep stirring and cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. 
  2. Throw in the chopped veggies, bay leaf and rosemary sprig, place a lid on top and sweat gently on a low heat until softened. 
  3. Stir in the flour and, after a minute, pour in the stock. Season well with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the pearl barley and cook gently for about an hour. 
  4. Take the pan off the heat and discard the rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Whiz the soup with a hand-held blender for a couple of seconds, so it thickens, but there are still some chunky bits in it, then give everything a good stir. Serve with hunks of soda bread.

Classic carrot cake


Classic carrot cake


 Nothing beats a classic carrot cake – this one has a touch of cinnamon and walnuts.


 Ingredients:

For the carrot cake:
  • 450ml/16fl oz vegetable oil

  • 400g/14oz plain flour

  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 550g/1lb 4oz sugar

  • 5 free-range eggs

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 2½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • 525g/1lb 3oz carrots, grated

  • 150g/5½oz shelled walnuts, chopped

For the icing:
  • 200g/7oz cream cheese

  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar

  • 100g/3½oz butter, softened

 

Preparation method:

  1. For the carrot cake, preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Grease and line a 26cm/10in springform cake tin.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients for the carrot cake, except the carrots and walnuts, together in a bowl until well combined. Stir in the carrots and walnuts.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the tin and set aside to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  4. Meanwhile, for the icing, beat the cream cheese, caster sugar and butter together in a bowl until fluffy. Spread the icing over the top of the cake with a palette knife.