Monday, June 25, 2007

What's your most craved dessert?

That's the theme of the June Sugar High Friday challenge, hosted by SHF founder, Jennifer, on her blog, the Domestic Goddess. This one's taken me all month to narrow down.... holy guacamole - so many desserts, so little spare room inside my waistband!
I finally settled on a cheesecake, one of those proper baked ones which are miles easier to do than their flavour would suggest... and I've teamed the basic recipe with some of my haul of wild cherries - another bumper year, possibly thanks to all the late spring rain? My wild ones were perhaps a little smaller and not quite as juicy as canned ones, but hey, they were free, fresh, organic and they tasted fabulous. My twist of originality is to make individual 'cheesecakelets' using a flexible silicon muffin tray. I think paper cake cases would also work, as the cheese mixture in this recipe seems firm enough before cooking. This would make them ideal for a midsummer's picnic: no messy cutting and they can be made in advance and stored for a day or so; add the topping just before serving or packing your picnic. This recipe made 8, although two got eaten before I could photograph them!

Wild Cherry Cheesecakelets

Ingredients - base:

75g plain digestive biscuits, 30g melted butter.
300g plain cream cheese, 1 egg, 30g golden cane cugar, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
topping: 300g pitted cherries (that's about 400g whole cherries), 1 tablespoon golden cane sugar, mint leaves.
Method: Preheat the oven to Gas 3/140C, pit the cherries and melt the butter. In a bowl, crush the biscuits to fine crumbs and add the melted butter.Mix until the crumbs are fully coated. Firmly press a small amount of crumb mixture into the bottom of the muffin tray or paper cases if using. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla until smooth, then add the egg and flour and beat in until the mixture is firm and creamy. Place a dessertspoonful on top of the crumb base and smooth with the back of the spoon or a palette knife. Bake for around 40 minutes or until the edges turn lightly brown. Allow to cool then put in the fridge to set firm. To make the topping, put the sugar into a pan over a high heat and when it begins to melt and caramelise, add the pitted cherries. Cook for around 4 minutes until they start to release their juice; be careful not to overcook the cherries, or they'll collapse into a pulp. Allow to cool then strain the juice back into the pan and reduce it down over a gentle heat until it becomes thick and syrupy. Take the cheesecakelets out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving and spoon over the cherry topping. Give the syrup a quick blast in the microwave or over a bain marie if it's set firm, then spoon over the cheesecakes and allow to set. Decorate with a small mint leaf and serve

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On an errand into the depths of East Anglia's Fenland the other day, I came across vast quantities of one of my favourite summer eating greens, fat hen. The grey green leaves were at their absolute peak for picking: young, around 10cm high with very little stem and refreshed from some heavy rain the night before. It didn't take me long to fill a basket! Some for a salad and plenty more for cooking.
It's quite rare for me to find enough of one weed to serve as a single veg: in order to keep my foraging within the bounds of 21st century living ( short on time and living in an over populated country) my strategy is to gather a little of this and a little of that, reducing the distance I need to travel to find my wild food. so tonight's menu is: Fat hen pizza - I'll post the pic later!
Below: young fat hen nestling amongst stinging nettles

Friday, June 01, 2007

I found this yesterday - an online petition to get more fruit and nut trees planted in parks and public spaces. Seems sensible, free fruit with zero air miles, and fruit trees cost the same to maintain as the usual varieties we see in municipal plantings. You need to be a British citizen or resident to sign it.