Easter feaster: lamb, figs and airy cheesecake
I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
We were lucky enough to visit Japan back 2017. One of the many food-driven odysseys we enjoyed was the pursuit of the fabled Uncle Rikoro’s wibbly-wobbly cheesecake in Osaka (picture below) – read about that here. Ever since, I have dreamed of creating a similar delight at home. My few attempts have fallen woefully short.
Tamal Ray has delivered toothsome delights for us before (his chai-spiced mousse with caramel pecans is a dream in a glass), so my heart soared when I spotted his Japanese cheesecake with cherries in syrup in Feast No.168. I was delighted and a tad daunted. Light fluffy baked items have a way of deflating and withering on my watch.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s slow-cooked lamb with figs and pistachios from Feast Issue No.167 had already marinated in ginger, turmeric, coriander, dill, garlic, olive oil and cider vinegar overnight. We’d watched the sun rise over the Tweed on Easter morning and the lamb was tucked snuggly in the oven for a long, slow cook and already producing stomach-rumbling aromas.
Now, can I follow Tamal’s instructions well enough to deliver a madeleine moment of taste and texture to the waiting fam for our Easter feast? First indicators are pretty good. I manage to grind, beat, whisk and combine reasonably effectively – although I’m not sure what constitutes the ‘pistachio paste’ required by Tamal. I do like that there’s a pistachio theme for the meal.
Is this a pistachio paste? All I know is that the blender began to overheat.
My meringue seemed bouffant and glossy enough, and in it went to the mix.
Early indicators were good. The cheesecake puffed up proud and regal in its water bath. I had high hopes. However, that moment I finished scraping the mix into the tin and said: ‘I’m not sure I’ve done this right’, would come back to haunt me.
Tamal says: ‘Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper, grease the sides and base with butter, then cover with a double layer of aluminium foil.’ The eldest daughter says she would not have come up with the solution I did but allows that the instructions are not totally clear (I think she was being kind!). I see now that lining the bottom of the tin with a double layer of tinfoil rather than lining the whole thing had a fatal flaw. Ho-hum.
Look, the result was a cheesecake light, fluffy and scrummy on the top half and a tad water-logged and slippery on the bottom. We still wolfed it down – and the zingy cherries in syrup (I used sour cherries) were a perfect foil to the cheesecake’s floaty dreaminess. The other great thing about Tamal’s cake is that it has none of the eggy flavour that such cheesecakes sometimes have. Another plus: Tamal’s recipe is quick and easy – next time it will be perfect!
Happy Easter and happy eating.
Yotam Ottolenghi – slow-cooked lamb with figs and pistachios
Tamal Ray – Japanese cheesecake with cherries in syrup