Nigella’s Cheesecake

I’ve made this cheesecake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook more than any dessert I’ve ever made. Many reasons; I am not really into desserts or sweet things. I’m definitely a savoury person; much to my wife’s dismay.

Baked cheesecakes are the best. The whipped up cream ones just don’t do it for me – or the shop bought ones where breaking into the plastic packaging is a mission in itself. No thanks!

I think I made this for the first time ten years ago, and have probably made it five or six times since. There’s a Nigella’s Nutella one posted on this blog somewhere that I made in next to no time – but this one takes a bit longer and requires a lot more effort.

Before you consider spontaneously making it one day make sure you have a deep sprung cake tin (I still use the same one from 10 years ago despite it being on its last legs) and clingfilm – AND tin foil. If you don’t have these it probably won’t come out right.

I usually make this the same and mix up the sauce a little each time. Nigella’s recommended sauce is Apple Schapps but this isn’t the easiest to come by – especially in small bottles – so a cheesecake can end up costing you £30 to make. It’s worth is – but.. probably too much!

I’ve since made it without booze, with Besos (vegan monkey nut Baileys), and most recently Chambord (raspberry and blackberry liqueur); my friends Vicky and Dan made theirs with Bourbon and raved about it.

The making is quite simple; you can actually prep everything in the same food mixer, and not even bother cleaning it between the base prep and the cheese part. The base is just Hobnobs and butter blitzed and press into the sprung tin. I went rogue and used chocolate chip Hobnobs for the most recent cheesecake – and I won’t do it again – the base went soggy, so stick to plain Hobnobs.

The baking is not so simple, and can cause issues if you don’t do it right.

Now in the same food mixer beat together double cream, cream cheese, vanilla, cornflour, caster sugar and eggs. I wouldn’t bother getting a branded cream cheese like Philly – but don’t go for the half fat own brand stuff, as it won’t come out as well. Full fat for this.

When you’ve beaten it for a while put some booze in it. Don’t go nuts with it or you’ll probably mess up the chance of the cake setting. In any case your sauce will be all over the cake so go easy!

You now need to wrap the outside of the tin with lots of cling film. The cake tin is going to sit in a water bath and if you don’t seal the tin the water will seep in to the base and ruin it. Once it’s wrapped up – I usually do three layers, pour the cheesecake mixture into the tin.

The cheesecake should now bake in the over in a bath of hot water. It is suggested that you make a nest with tin foil. When you make this for the first time you are quite diligent and have this done well in advance. When you’ve made it a few times you don’t and it can get you in a pickle. So either do this well in advance – or fill the bottom tray of your oven full of water – mine takes 2 kettles worth!

Bake it until it starts to colour and a wobble offers some resistance. I usually wait for the surface to crack. Again it doesn’t matter as you’re gonna pour sauce all over it anyway. Make sure it cools right down before unspringing it – it’ll keep cooking after you take it out anyway.

The sauce is a standard caramel sauce of butter, 2 sugars, cream, and then the booze of your choice. The most recent Chambord one I added a load of frozen dark fruits (that I usually have in my breakfast smoothie) and it was an epic sauce!

Whatever you do with it – the sauce makes it. The rest is amazing – but the sauce! Whenever we make it we are sick of it by the time is it gone – there are only two of us and it is 16 people big. Really big slices too.

Make this. You’ll definitely keep making it – despite the effort.

Nigella’s Calabrian Lasagne

  
We don’t often do pasta. Too many carbs!  But for some reason I felt Freya needed a lasagne to cheer her up a bit. 

The Brits tend to make their own version of lasagne and I imagine it is a million miles away from anything the Italians make. 

On Australian Masterchef this year one guy made a lasagne the English way (adding cheese to a white sauce) and he was suitably chastised by Marco Pierre White for not making a proper bechamel and using th wrong type of cheese – oh and doing the layers in the wrong order. 

I tend to make my lasagne different to most as well so I thought I should try an Italian version. Now granted you can’t normally trust Nigella to do anything authentic but this lasagne did remind me of one I’d had in Italy many years ago.

This lasagne has no white sauce. It doesn’t even have buckets of minced meat. Oddly, it contains slices of cooked ham and hard boiled eggs. Sounds strange – but it was amazing.

You can make this (well up to the point it goes in the oven) in less than 20 minutes. It is very easy. Most of the stuff from the Nigellissima book can be achieved by anyone – even if you do lack the rich language and voluptuous figure that comes hand in hand with her recipes. It is hard to believe it is one of her recipes because it is broadly quite healthy. Compared to the desserts in the book – which are guaranteed to give you heart failure! That said, she does say it is great for soaking up alcohol; so it clearly has a purpose!

Anyway, how do you make it!?

Well first you hard boil some eggs. You’ll need these to be peeled and cold so do those first. While they are on the go you make a very runny tomato and meat sauce by frying some onions, adding some mince, adding red wine, then a lot of passata and the same again of water.

I had to shift my sauce to the pressure cooker as my pan wasn’t big enough to hold 2.5 litres of sauce!

While the sauce is on a rolling simmer for 10 minutes or so you can peel your eggs!

Then you simply ladle the sauce into the bottom of your dish, add dried lasagne sheets, add another layer of sauce, then add slices of cooked ham (that stuff you put in your kids sandwiches!) and some sliced/chopped hard boiled egg.

Build up the layers until you’ve filled your dish (I did 4 layers) and top with one last layer of sauce and a load of grated parmesan.

Cover it in tin foil (I had a panic! I thought I didn’t have any) and wrap it tight and pop it in an oven for an hour. And it’ll be done.

Something awesome happens while it’s in the oven. The pasta layers all ripple and all the sauce soaks into the pasta leaving it so beautifully cooked. Being under foil effectively steams it too so you won’t get any hard uncooked bits. British lasagnes are all flat and regimented and predictable but this one is quite amazing. You don’t even miss the white sauce. And it isn’t a meat overload. The dots of mince here and there are all you need – it’s pretty special!

If you’re feeling cheated on the cheese you can always use more or try a stronger cheese but I found it perfect just the way it was. And was the ham and eggs odd? No. They were a great addition indeed.

Nice dish. I’ll definitely make it again. And we’ll definitely be eating it again today as we barely dented the batch that I did make!