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Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

When I was at school I took Food Technology as a GCSE subject. I know, I know. Can food really be an academic subject? Should it be? Have GCSE’s gone soft? Too coursework based? I don’t know and that’s really not the point of this story. I took it because amid the histories, maths, and Spanishes of my school life it seemed like a fun option, and because, well FOOD. I was sorely disappointed by the course. 99.9% of it was learning about food theory and hygiene, and when we finally got round to doing some actual cooking/ baking we had to pick one food item to do our coursework ‘project’ on, make 101 little variations of said food item and write each one up in tedious detail.

For my project I chose cheesecake. I can’t quite remember why, at the time I think I thought it was something I could never possibly get sick of. Oh how wrong I was. Nothing takes the shine off something you love like having to analyse it’s every flaw, how it could be improved, why it has such a ludicrously high calorie count, and producing so much of it that even your three younger siblings can’t stand the sight of it any more. (Yes that little analogy ended up very specific, no that was not the intention). So, as you can well imagine, by the time I handed in Project Cheesecake I swore I’d never go near the stuff again. Then I discovered New York-style baked cheesecake. In Starbucks, during an A-Level revision session, incidentally. Baked cheesecake is a revelation. It’s cheesecake 2.0. Just as creamy and sweet yet non-sickly, but with the added bonus of a thick and luscious texture. And it holds all manner of sauces and toppings much better than regular cheesecake.

I should preface this recipe by admitting that while I’ve been a devoted eater of baked cheesecake over the years, this was my first time actually making it myself. Turns out it involves a bit more time and effort than a chilled cheesecake to whip up, but my is it worth that effort. As well as tasting great, with the blueberry sauce and a dusting of icing sugar it looks pretty as an Instagram picture – great if you want to make something cheap and non-fiddly that will still impress at a dinner party. To make mine I followed a basic baked vanilla cheesecake recipe courtesy of BBC good food (I adjusted the measurements to make it smaller) and then made a blueberry sauce to top it with. If you’re not a huge blueberry fan it would also work well with a strawberry sauce or berry compote. A word of warning on the blueberry sauce: it doesn’t last for long, mine congealed and went jelly-like the next day. I would advise making it at most a few hours before you plan to serve the cheesecake.

With the ingredients below, I’ve included the ‘official’ measurements, and how to measure it all out if, like me, you don’t actually have weighing scales. As with any recipe use your instincts with the amounts, prior to putting the raw eggs in the mixture you can taste-test and adjust to your own preference.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce 

Serves 6-8 people (depending on portion sizes)

Preparation Time: 20 minutes   Cooking Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Ingredients

For the vanilla cheesecake:

100g Digestive biscuits (use the packet weight to ‘guesstimate’)

50g Butter (one heaped tablespoon)

600g Full fat cream cheese (two 300g packs)

140g Caster sugar (one small cup, taste-test for sweetness)

150ml Soured cream

2 Tbsps plain flour

2 Eggs + one egg yolk, lightly beaten

2 Tsps vanilla extract

1 Tbsp icing sugar (for dusting)

For the blueberry sauce:

200g Blueberries

30g Caster sugar (around 1 tbsp)

1-2 Tsps lemon juice (adjust to taste)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4.
2. Line a round spring form cake tin (cake tin with a removable bottom) by greasing with butter and sticking down a carefully measured-out piece of baking paper.
3. Make your biscuit base by bashing the digestive biscuits into small crumbs, I did this by placing them in a large bowl and hitting them repeatedly with a rolling pin, it’s very satisfying. Melt your butter and add to the biscuit crumbs, mix well to coat.
4. Layer the bottom of the cake tin with the biscuit mixture until evenly covered, push down the mixture with the back of a tablespoon until it looks firm all over. Cook in the oven for ten minutes until golden.
5. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Adjust the oven to 160C/315F/Gas 2.
6. While the base cools, prepare your cheesecake filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and flour.
7. Gradually add in the eggs and vanilla essence, mixing carefully but not whipping (you don’t want to let too much air in).
8. Pour the mixture evenly over the biscuit base and put back in the oven for around 45 minutes. To check if your cheesecake is cooked through, make sure you test the middle as the sides cook a lot faster. The cheesecake should be slightly wobbly with a creamy colour in the middle and a golden brown round the edges.
9. When it is ready turn the oven off and leave it in there to cool with the door slightly ajar, this stops the top from cracking. Make sure it is completely cool before removing from the tin.
10. Up to three hours before serving the cheesecake, make your blueberry sauce by blitzing half the blueberries in a food processor along with the sugar and lemon juice. Press the sauce through a fine sieve to get rid of the bits.
11. Serve a slice of your cheesecake dusted with icing sugar and with blueberry sauce and a few fresh blueberries on top.

 

‘Meaty’ Vegetarian Chilli Recipe

Vegetarian Chili

Hello and welcome to my new food blog! My name is Jess – or ‘The Hungry Northener’ – as no one has called me, ever. I am however, a Northener living in London, and am generally in a permanent state of hunger. Except of course when I’m eating lots of delicious food – whether that’s prepared by me, bought from one of London’s many amazing street food markets, or served at a restaurant. The point is, I LOVE food; all of it, all the time. I also love writing, so to write about food seemed a natural life choice.

I’m also an accidental part-time vegetarian, due to recently moving in with my full-time vegetarian boyfriend, who no matter how much my mum badgers, simply will not just give in and eat a bit of steak. My food journey over the past several months has been finding and developing recipes that work for both of us; that are veggie but don’t leave me feeling like something was lacking. My ‘Meaty’ Vegetarian Chili is a prime example – and it also happens to be one of my all-time favourite meals.

I come from a big family and grew up on dishes like chili con carne, spag bol, and chicken curry – anything that you can easily make large quantities of in a big pan. Catering to four kids’ fussy requirements is no mean feat, and chili con carne was the dish that had it all: meaty enough for my protein-mad brother, spicy enough for me (did I mention I have a penchant for food, like, off-the-chart level spicy?), and yet not too spicy for my two korma-loving sisters. Since moving out of my family home I have continued to love chili just as much. It’s a great meal for when you’re nearing the end of available fresh food, but don’t quite want to buy any more, as most of the ingredients are from the cupboard. It’s an easy dish to throw together at the end of a long day, and most crucially; it’s undoubtedly delicious.

When I first ate vegetarian chili it was of the ‘five bean’ variety – substituting mince for an extra tin of mixed beans. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but as someone used to getting a meat fix from my meals, I found it slightly samey. After substituting those extra beans for quorn mince, I fell in love with the dish once more, and as an incidental bonus – quorn is a less fatty source of protein than regular mince.

Everyone has their own way of cooking this delicious dish made for sharing, and the best thing about it is that you can add stuff in as you go along, depending on what strikes your fancy. Traditionally I’d eaten mine with white or brown rice, but recently discovered it works well with cous cous or bulgar wheat, as the grains don’t dilute the flavour as much as rice. I’d generally cook the dish with a beef stock cube, as it gives that depth of meaty flavour that you miss without the meat, but if you want to steer clear of any meat products a good splash of Lea and Perrins will do the trick.

‘Meaty’ Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Serves four

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, cut into small chunks

1 chili – if you like it spicy

1 small pack of quorn mince

1 can of kidney beans (or mixed beans)

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp each cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper

1  beef stock cube or 1 tbsp Lea and Perrins

A good glug of red wine (optional)

To serve

Small pot of low-fat natural yoghurt

1 tsp dry chives

Cous cous, bulgar wheat, or rice

Lime wedge (optional)

Method

1. Heat some olive oil in a large deep pan and fry the onion until slightly softened, then add in the garlic, chili, and peppers.

2. When all the veg has softened, add in the quorn mince, cooked until it is mostly defrosted (it will cook completely during the simmering process) and then add the kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine, and Lea and Perrins if using.

3. Add all the spices – and crumble in the beef stock cube if using – do a taste check and add in more if it needs it, season with salt and pepper, and leave to simmer for 15 to 20 mins.

4. While your chili is gently cooking away, pour the natural yoghurt into a small bowl, add a teaspoon of dried chives, and mix well.

5. Prepare the cous cous, bulgar wheat, or rice according to the packet instructions, and serve with a generous dollop of the yoghurt and chive garnish, and a quarter slice of lime each.

If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers,  the chili makes a great lunch to take to work and eat with toasted pitta bread.

Enjoy!