Sunday 27 July 2014

Blackcurrant & Ginger Yoghurt Cheesecake

Ok so this is not technically a cheesecake in the traditional sense, as it contains no cheese – yep this is a cheese-free cheesecake. It does however still look like a cheesecake, taste like a cheesecake and contain lovely thick Greek yoghurt – which is still milk/dairy and as this forms the base of cheese, then I’m still calling this dessert cheesecake.

On my recent visit home to my parents I also managed to arrange to see some of my old friends. I was invited to dinner with one friend and her family and they have the most amazing garden complete with a vast array of homegrown fruits and vegetables. They put Tom and Barbara from The Good Life to shame. Homegrown tomatoes, cabbages, leeks, green beans, spring onions, beetroot, lettuce, cherries, apricots, apples, pears, quinces, gooseberries, blackcurrants and figs!! Figs! I didn’t know you could even grow figs in this country. I was in love with their garden and could have quite happily lived in there, snuggled under a bush, feasting on the delights. Sadly the figs weren’t ripe at the time of my visit but I did leave with an array of tomatoes and a huge bagful of freshly picked blackcurrants. I am so jealous and can’t wait to have my own garden so I can (attempt to) grow my own fruit and veg too.

I wanted to put the blackcurrants to good use and decided to use them to top a cheesecake. I adore cheesecake but don’t make it that often as unless you are having people round I find a whole cheesecake can be a bit rich for one person! As the warm weather has finally arrived I was also worried that cheesecake might be a bit too heavy for a summer dessert. I then remember the cheeseless yoghurt cheesecake I invented a few years back and decided to do the same again here. Using yoghurt rather than cream cheese makes for a lighter, softer and more summery cheesecake.

I wanted the blackcurrants to really stand out, so cooked them slightly and then used them as a topping for the cheesecake, rather than stirring them in. Fresh blackcurrants are amazing. They have such a distinctive sharp zingy flavour, that really is the essence of concentrated Ribena. It’s quite a sophisticated grown up fruit flavour, almost like a mature Port. It’s very unique and I loved how plump and juicy these currants were. I find pairing ginger with fresh zingy fruits always works well and so used some fiery stem ginger biscuits as my cheesecake base.

The finished cheesecake tasted amazing. The blackcurrants were the star of the show, becoming even more sweet and intensified in flavour after their bake in the oven. They retained their lovely juiciness and zing which then complimented the smooth and creamy yoghurt cheesecake, with its lightness and freshness. This was then finished with a little peppery ginger kick from the stem ginger biscuit base.

Oh it was so good, I ate far too much of it on the first day, but I just couldn’t stop myself going back for ‘just another small slice’ and then to ‘just neaten up the edges’. I drizzled each slice with some of the reserved blackcurrant juice which added extra glossy fruity goodness.

I’m convinced yoghurt cheesecakes are the way to go. They are lighter and fresher, meaning you can eat more of them without feeling guilty or bloated! A well known brand of full fat cream cheese has around 235 kcal and 22g fat per 100g whereas full fat Greek yogurt has only around 100 kcal and 5g fat per 100g. That’s less than half! Imagine what you could get it down to if you used low fat or 0% fat Greek yoghurt too. Now you really can have your (cheese)cake and eat it too!

Blackcurrant & Ginger Yoghurt Cheesecake
Blackcurrant Topping
150g fresh or frozen blackcurrants
80g caster sugar
100ml water
¼ tsp arrowroot or cornflour

Ginger Biscuit Base
150g gluten free stem ginger biscuits
50g butter

Yoghurt Cheesecake
500g full fat Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp cornflour
50g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Start by making the blackcurrant topping. Place the blackcurrants, sugar and water into a pan. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble gently until the blackcurrants have released some of their juice and liquid has turned purple. Dissolve the arrowroot in a little water and add to the pan. Stir until combined and then remove from the heat. This will help thicken the liquid slightly. You can use cornflour, but this will turn it slightly cloudy.
Drain the syrup into one bowl and place the blackcurrants into another. Set aside to cool.

Make the biscuit base. Heat the oven to 180C. Line the base of a round 6 inch deep springform tin with baking paper.
Crush the ginger biscuits until they resemble fine crumbs. You can either do this in a food processor at place them into a bag and attack it with a rolling pin.
Melt the butter and stir in the biscuit crumbs. Mix until well combined and then tip into the base of the tin. Press the crumbs down well to form an even layer. (A good tip is to cover it with clingfilm and then press down with a potato masher, then remove the clingfilm)
Place the base into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Then remove from the oven and set aside.

For the yoghurt cheesecake, take 1 tbsp of the yoghurt and mix it with the cornflour until you have a smooth paste. Mix this into the remaining yoghurt and stir well.
Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and whisk together until you have a smooth, thick mix.
Pour the yoghurt mix over the ginger biscuit base and smooth the top.
Carefully spoon most of the blackcurrants (without their syrup) over the top of the cheesecake, making sure to scatter them into an even layer. They should stay on top.
Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes.
It should be slightly risen, lightly golden brown and puffed around the edges. Give it a gentle shake and if it wobbles in the centre slightly then it’s cooked. If the whole top wobbles then leave it for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature for 1½ hours before covering the top with clingfilm and placing in the fridge to chill and set for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.
It may relax, sink back down and crack slightly on cooling, this is fine.
When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the inside of the tin before carefully releasing from the tin.
Transfer to a plate and serve drizzled with some of the reserved blackcurrant syrup.
Makes 1 x 6 inch yoghurt cheesecake.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Seabrook Lattice Crisps: A Review

I was recently sent 2 large sharing bags of Seabrook’s new lattice crisps varieties to try. I don’t eat crisps very often but when I do I often choose Seabrook crisps as unlike other brands, all their crisps are gluten free and vegetarian. A lot of crisp companies use wheat based flavours for their crisps making them unsuitable for people with coeliac disease, so to have a whole range of safe crisp flavours to choose from is great.

When the bags arrived I was delighted by the shape and design of the crisps. Rather than being thin and flat, these were thickly cut and lattice shaped for extra fun and crunch. I was also pleased to see they were all hand cooked and made in Yorkshire. Although I’m southern born and bred, I now live in Yorkshire and have become rather proud and protective of it, so was pleased to see they were local. Extra bonus points.

The two bags I was sent to review were Sweet Chilli and Cheese & Onion.

Sweet Chilli
Quite thick crisps, not thin and ‘crisp’ like most crisps, these had more crunch and bite. I liked the hashed lattice shape. They reminded me a little of potato waffles we sometimes had when I was a child. Unfortunately my samples were delivered via post meaning quite a lot of them had been broken, so I got mostly pieces rather than whole crisps.

On opening the bag I stuck my nose in and was surprised to find they had hardly any aroma other than fresh potato. If I’d have been blindfolded I’d have guessed these were ready salted flavour. That being said, I suppose it could be due to the fact the bag claims they use no artificial flavours, so they are indeed natural and neutral smelling. This should therefore be a plus point rather than a minus.

After tipping them out I was struck by the red/orange coating on them and the little flecks of green. I eagerly tasted one and at first was taken aback. My first flavour was of nacho cheese…cheese…on a chilli crisp? As I chewed and swallowed a warming glow built up until I was left with quite a sweet chilli kick in the back of my throat. I looked at the ingredients and was intrigued to see that along with some garlic and cayenne (ah there’s the spice!) there was also red pepper powder, apricot powder (how unusual), paprika, anise and fennel. The flecks of green turned out to be parsley. I got the heat and the sweet, but there was still something a little odd about them. I ate a handful more and still the underlying flavour was of cheap nacho cheese. I have no idea where it came from though. I got a second opinion and ‘cheesy’ also came up again. Maybe the mix of spices, garlic and apricot powder created some sort of flavour combination that confused by taste buds but there was definitely more than just chilli going on. Or perhaps they didn’t clean the line before starting the next flavour and some of the cheese flavour was left over from a previous crisp batch, who knows? I’d be interested to try another bag and see if I get the same result.

That being said I loved the thickness of the crisps. This gave them a great crunch and texture. I was also impressed that they were not too greasy, as my fingers weren’t coated in oil after eating them. The warming heat from the chilli also lingered for several minutes after eating them. These would be great with dips.

Cheese & Onion
Next up was the actual cheese flavour. I’m not a big fan of cheese and onion crisps so my expectations of these were slightly lower but I’m pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised. On opening the bag I was pleased to see that a lot more of these crisps had survived the post and were in fact still whole. Again I stuck my nose in and apart from a very faint cheese aroma, the crisps smelt neutral and of fresh potato.

When tipped out there was a mix of pale and lightly golden crisps with a lovely thick crisp and crunchy texture. I took a bite and the flavour of cheddar cheese instantly flooded my mouth. It was a really nice strong cheese flavour, that actually tasted of a smooth and creamy Cheddar cheese, rather than just a generic cheap cheese flavour. It was surprisingly creamy, without too much tang. I was converted!

The onion flavour came through as a second note and again I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed sweeter and more mellow than some cheese and onion flavours I’ve tried. To me they tasted more like chives. I looked at the ingredients and my instinct about the onion was correct. The onion came from shallots which are sweeter and mellower versions of onions, so I was sort of right that they weren’t as harsh as regular onions. I could imagine eating these tucked into a cheese and salad sandwich, which I used to sometimes do with my packet of crisps at school for a bit of added crunch. It made me feel such a rebel.

Overall it was a mixed review for me, although definitely more on the good side. I loved that they were:
  • Gluten free and Coeliac UK certified
  • Yorkshire based
  • Vegetarian
  • All natural ingredients
  • Great crunch and thickness
  • The fun lattice shape
  • The Cheese & Onion actually tasted like real Cheddar cheese

 The things that weren’t quite right for me:
  • The strange nacho cheese flavour in the Sweet Chilli crisps
  • They are only available in large 120g bags. I’d love to see some single serve bags.

 Would I buy again? Yes, but I’d want to try some of their other flavours. I’m not usually a cheesy crisp fan and so to have both flavours tasting cheesy was a bit of a shame. Their Sea Salt & Red Wine Vinegar flavour and the Salt & Black Pepper both sound great.

Note: Although I was sent the crisps for free I was under no obligation to write a good review and all thoughts and comments are my own.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Tea & Cake at Fancy, Bedford

This weekend I am back in Bedford visiting my family. We had planned to go fruit picking at a Pick Your Own farm, but the wet weather put a kibosh on that idea. By the afternoon it had brightened up and my Mum and I decided to venture out for a walk around Bedford Park.

This is a quiet, very green park with a good circular walk with lots of open space and lush green trees. There are free tennis courts at the front and plenty of open space for playing football, rounders or having a picnic if you wish. We spent an hour enjoy the stroll and chatting before heading to a nearby café for a slice of cake and cup of tea at Fancy.

Fancy is situated on Roff Avenue and is quite understated from the outside but walk inside and you discover a lovely gem of a place. The counter is lined with cake stands each displaying some delicious and slightly different types of cakes. The reason I love this café so much is that they also offer cakes for a variety of diets, gluten free, egg free etc. All the cakes are handmade on site which is another lovely touch.

When we ventured inside we were greeted with a wonderful display of tempting cakes. I was delighted to discover they had three gluten free cakes on offer that day. Very impressive for such a small café. I had a choice between Lemon & Polenta, Coconut & Lime or Fig, Almond & Dark Choc Chunk.

My Mum and I decided to share a slice as they were serving very generous portions and we settled on the Fig, Almond & Dark Choc Chunk cake. What a great choice this turned out to be! It was a very moist light cake that I suspect was made with ground almonds, it had pieces of dried fig and dark chocolate chunks stirred in. It was finished with a scattering of flaked almonds on top.

The little nuggets of dried fig added a little pop and crunch from the seeds while the dark chocolate chunks meant you had a sudden burst of intense rich chocolate every few bites. The almonds kept it light and deliciously soft and moist. It was the best gluten free cake I’ve ever had out of home. It looks quite dark round the edges, but this wasn’t burnt, instead it tasted slightly chewy and caramelised which only added to the flavour. We both loved it and I’m longing to try and bake something similar myself. It was fantastic to have such a tasty and unusual cake when out and about, a real treat.

Fancy’s tea selection is also very impressive. While my Mum chose a pot of traditional tea I selected Lemongrass. This had a lovely fresh citrus aroma and a mellow well-rounded lemon flavour. Not as sharp as fresh lemon, definitely more aromatic and like lemongrass. Again we both loved how the tea was serving in individual teapots with assorted floral china teacups and saucers. Just like a dainty cup of afternoon tea should be.

The café seating is an assortment of mismatched wooden tables and chairs which gave it a charming homely feel. They had a small lunch menu printed on brown paper bags attached to clipboards which was another nice touch. The owner did make it clear to me when we visited that they can’t completely guarantee the cakes are free from certain allergens as they do also bake ‘normal’ wheat cakes on site. I’m very sensitive but have never had any problems in the twice I have eaten their gluten free cakes, so I think they are quite clued up about keeping things separate and cross contamination. All in all it made for a lovely afternoon and I highly recommend you stop by Fancy for a cup of tea and delicious slice of cake if you are ever in the area.