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The judgment of scones

It’s probably the same countrywide but I didn’t realise until we moved to Northumberland that many people judge a café purely on its scones. We’ve lived here nearly 11 years and I now know people who won’t enter the doors of certain establishments because of perceived scone quality.

Such people would surely celebrate were Yotam Ottolenghi to set up shop selling pull-apart scones with za’atar and feta on the corner of Marygate in Berwick-upon-Tweed. These gluten-free, veggie beauties are scones, Jim, but not as we know them.

My take on Yotam Ottolenghi's 'pull-apart scones with za'atar and feta' from Guardian Feast. Sublime gluten free, vegetarian beauties.

My take on Ottolenghi’s pull-apart scones with za’atar and feta from Guardian Feast: they are scones, Jim, but not as we know them (in a good way)!

I’m six months into my epic challenge to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021 (find out more about that here), and the goodies just keep coming.

Some may take issue with a 16-ingredient scone. They’re wrong. But they’ve probably stopped reading already so they’ll never know. The only ingredient I couldn’t source here in Berwick was ‘powdered pectin’. After much consideration and a bit of Googling, I decided to eschew gelatin and agar agar and up the quantity of ‘finely grated lemon zest’ to a full lemon instead of 1/2 tsp. My square baking tin wasn’t quite the dimensions required by Yotam, but all was well with the end product.

My za’atar was what I’d term cupboard vintage – but it worked a treat.

Only two crisis points for me in the recipe:

  1. Yotam says: ‘Pour in the cream mix, pulse again until the ‘crumbs’ are moist but not quite coming together’ – see picture below. Also, am I the only person who, when a recipe says ‘in a small bowl’, takes it literally and then has to upgrade to a bigger bowl? There was no way I could safely whisk my cream, yoghurt and egg in my chosen bowl.
  2. Not sure what a ‘rough 15cm long rectangle’ looks like. I made a square – see below. The pile of cheese looked impossibly huge heaped on it, but it wrapped up just fine.

As Yotam promised, I ended up with nine scones and had 54g of dough left over rather than the predicted 80g – not bad!

The alchemy of Yotam’s scones is not only in magically making something gluten free feel light and fluffy (I know enough people with celiac disease to understand the sad hefty mouthfeel of many gluten free products), but also in the perfect balance of intense cheesy herbiness and floaty pastry.

Original recipe:

Yotam Ottolenghi – pull-apart scones with za’atar and feta

We’re fools for Meera’s aubergine

The kind of dish that makes me think being a vegetarian might be possible

The Husband

Praise indeed for Meera Sodha’s fabulously easy walnut-stuffed aubergines. A super vegan supper dish from Guardian Feast Issue No.175. Couple it with Felicity Cloake’s masterclass fruit fool from the following week’s Issue No.176 and you’ve practically got a party on your hands!

First the aubergine. I was relieved to read that Meera doesn’t advocate salting aubergine. Personally, I don’t find salting removes any ‘bitterness’ but does give you salty aubergine. I was also comforted to learn that aubergine doesn’t need ‘drenching in oil to cook’. As with mushrooms and other oil guzzlers, it’s always tempting to go over the top with oil and end up with something bordering on greasy rather than unctuous.

With the cumin, cinnamon, paprika and walnuts, there’s something of a Lebanese riff with this dish. And Meera says she’s loosely based the stuffing around the Levantine dip muhammara.

We served our aubergine and its perfect blend of textures and balance of flavours with asparagus and Meera’s suggested salad. It was wonderful.

With no children in our household currently, the cooking with kids special was a bit of a challenge. But hurrah for Felicity Cloake and her masterclass fruit fool. We have a glorious crop of rhubarb in the garden and are total fool addicts. I was delighted to follow Felicity’s instructions which totally mirror my own approach to fools.

Straining the rhubarb to create a pot of bright, clear pinkness to pour over your fool is almost my favourite element. However, the addition of orange zest, syrup from stem ginger and garnish of chopped stem ginger turns this pinkly happy summery pud into a more grown-up treat.

Cheers to children’s week in Guardian Feast – particularly when there are no children around to snaffle all the fruit fools! And we could easily have made this meal totally vegan, by replacing the cream I used with a vegan alternative.

Original recipes

Meera Sodha – walnut-stuffed aubergines

Felicity Cloake – masterclass fruit fool

Sticky finger food

The Husband (not the biggest fan of chicken wings) wolfed down Yotam Ottolenghi’s chicken wings with banana ketchup from Guardian Feast Issue No.174. These sticky spicy delights are scrumptious with dollops of the yummy sweet, sour and chilli rich banana ketchup – and all very easy to make.

I personally wouldn’t make a beeline for them at a picnic – not without a ready source of soap and running water. I would, however, cook them for a quick and easy evening meal – particularly for kids (maybe with a little less chilli in the ketchup). Although, when I say quick, remember marinade time – something I always manage to forget! The wings and ketchup are also fab cold (which maybe they would be for a picnic?).

The ketchup’s super easy to make and the recipe creates three times the amount you need – so there’s plenty to have with another batch of wings. In fact, it goes well with everything, from pork pies to cheese on toast. Wonderful to have a truly delicious recipe for overripe bananas that, as Yotam says, is ‘not banana bread’.

I never tire of the joyous fragrance of onions, chilli, garlic and ginger chopped then fried. Mouth-water central.

I was celebrating submitting my final assignment for the first year of my master’s degree, so filling a couple of chicken-wing-marinating hours marinating myself with a glass of fizz and a fire was rather pleasing. The wings soaked up garlic, chilli, lime and freshly made banana ketchup while I gazed at the fire. Kind of like the old TV test card in the 70s but with more movement.

The cooking’s as you’d expect for chicken wings high and fast. Yotam’s salad of spring onions, lime juice and olive oil (come on Yotam, surely this is a garnish, not a salad!) is the quickest thing in the world to make and totally the right sprinkle for the wings.

My take on Yotam Ottolenghi’s chicken wings with banana ketchup

Original recipe

Yotam Ottolenghi – chicken wings with banana ketchup

Tart of Triumph

Since I started my epic challenge to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021 (find out more about that  here), I’ve had a lot of success with Tamal Ray’s The Sweet Spot recipes (including: lemon crumble cookies, chai-spiced mousse with caramel pecans and Japanese cheesecake with cherries in syrup ). However, his mango meringue pie threatened to overcome my skill levels and make me redecorate our kitchen.

Never in the course of human pudding endeavours has one woman spent so much time wondering if she was doing it right. And this is a great thing about this project: I’m learning so much! And, as you’ll see from my triumphant end product, Tamal’s pie is so worth overcoming terror of processes, lack of knowledge and general apathy when faced by cooking setbacks.

A tin of mango pulp looking like something you might paint your walls with – trust me, I nearly did!

I don’t think my tinned mango pulp was the ‘kesar’ or ‘alphonso’ in the recipe but it seemed to work and tasted superb. For the mango filling, Tamal asks you to put the mango and lime juice into a saucepan and reduce them by 300g in weight – I’ve never had to do this before. I protected my scales from the hot pan with a cork mat and managed the reduction – although it took a little longer than 40 minutes. I think I was a bit cautious about the mix sticking to the bottom of the pan. It didn’t.

Mango reduction in construction

I’m getting a bit better at pastry (pricking, blind baking and all that) – but still not great at rolling out the pastry to the right size. As you’ll see from the pics below, my pastry shrunk too far in places.

The filling finally chilling, the pastry case baked, I set about making the meringue. I followed Tamal’s instructions and whisked the egg whites, taste of lime juice and salt to soft peaks bang on the moment the golden syrup, sugar and water hit 110C. Then, ass soon as the syrup reached the required 118C, I drizzled it gradually into the whites, whisking all the while. It looked like it would never go stiff and glossy. In fact it looked as deflated as I felt.

Don’t tell Tamal, but in a panic I put in some cornflour in the hopes this would remedy it. No luck. I did a quick internet search on Italian meringue and read something that said to whisk for ten minutes plus. By this time, I was overheated and so was my hand whisk. However: success! I had sprayed meringue over the recipe, across the work surface and up the walls. I didn’t care: my meringue was ‘stiff and glossy’.

The next challenge came with pouring the filling – which was a tad liquid – into the case – which was a tad challenged at the sides. I tucked some of the cooked offcuts into the worst gaps and tipped the orange mango nectar in. I ladled on the meringue and began to feel pretty good about myself. A quick blowtorching of the meringue and, hallelujah!

It is true that the filling was a bit runny when cut, so maybe I didn’t reduce quite enough after all but…

Dear reader, this pie is a beautiful thing. A fine centre piece for any celebration. Sweet, yes, but the touch of lime in filling and meringue is transformative. My Sri Lankan friend says that lime juice reveals the true flavour of mango. She is absolutely right.

My take on Tamal Ray’s mango meringue pie featured in Guardian Feast Issue No.173 (look closely and you’ll see my copy of Feast is spattered with meringue!

Original recipe:

Tamal Ray – mango meringue pie

Greens and rice: super nice.

This week’s recipe from Guardian Feast Issue No.172 is a moreish fab Japanese-ish vegan rice and greens dish from Meera Sodha. This bright, clean, fresh dish packs an umami lip-smacking punch way above the sum of its ingredients. It’s fragrant and crunchy with pings of salt, a tang of sake and green sweetness from the peas.

The Husband and I enjoyed it so much that we pretty much polished off the quantity for four (and, yes, with 350g of rice, there was plenty for four) between the two of us.

All set up to create Meera Sodha’s green tea rice with sake vegetables

As regular readers will know, 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.

Along with the garlic, spring onions, sake and soy sauce, Meera steams pak choi, mange tout and frozen peas. I couldn’t lay my hands on mange tout so used some French beans instead – they worked just fine.

I don’t think I’ve ever cooked Jasmine rice before (available in Berwick from The Green Shop on Bridge Street) and felt a bit sceptical about infusing it with teabags. Oh me of little faith! Meera gives precise instructions about cooking the rice which deliver perfect fluffy, fragrant results. I appreciate these exact directions. For something so ‘easy’, rice is often the thing that goes wrong.

Just a brief word of caution: don’t do what I did and leave the green teabag strings dangling down the side of the pan. A gas hob will ignite the paper tabs!

Original recipe:

Meera Sodha – green tea rice with sake and vegetables

Brownies: it’s a (low sugar, low fat) date!

As regular readers will know, 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 are dedicated fans of Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess brownies. The gooey, unctuous chocolate squares have starred at countless parties and celebrations. But, with a stonking 500g caster sugar and 375g butter (which makes ‘a maximum of 48’), they’re not low-impact treats.

Of course, brownies are not supposed to be a healthfood, but it’s always nice to stumble on a recipe that suggests taste potential and calorie frugality.

So, Nik Sharma’s date brownies with black pepper in Issue No.171 of Guardian Feast were an intriguing prospect: dates for sugar, a tiddling 60ml of olive oil for butter and a nip of black pepper for zing. Added bonus: Nik touts these as ‘sweet treats for outdoor meets’ and we planned a hike in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills on the Sunday.

Wandering up Yeavering Bell in the Cheviot Hills. Brownie-less as it turned out.

These moist, chocolatey cubes are super easy to create. A one-blender wonder. I’m not sure that the date, bicarb and boiling water mix was any more ‘soft and gloopy’ after its 20 minute sit than it was before, but am happy to accept it was. I worried my batter might be too runny: not a problem – although I left it in the oven for an extra couple of minutes on top of the suggested max of 30 minutes. And, sorry Nik, I’ve not come across ‘unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder’ before, but Morrisons own did the job. I used almonds instead of walnuts because of the eldest daughter’s allergy.

As so often, time ran away from me, and I ended up making the brownies when we returned home from our splendid walk up Yeavering Bell in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills.

Walkers rewards. Puffed up and fresh from the oven: My take on Nik Sharma’s date brownies with black pepper

We allowed them to cool as much as our exercise-induced hunger allowed, then sliced ’em and scoffed several each. They were moister and lighter than expected and none of us felt you’d guess dates were a core ingredient unless you knew. The black pepper gives them a slightly exotic edge and a warm finish on the palate – although I should probably be more precise about measuring a teaspoonful rather than just grinding in an approximation!

We’ve been eating them with our coffee breaks since Sunday. On balance, the flavour and texture improve with proper cooling and a little maturation. The best squares are the ones with a good chunk of chocolate nesting within, so definitely worth using all bar chocolate, rather than the mix of block and chips that I used.

Overall verdict: sophisticated flavour, light moist crumb, delivers a halo of virtue without compromising on taste.

All chopped up but nowhere to go: we ate our ‘sweet treats’ after we returned from our ‘outdoor meets’

Original recipe:

Nik Sharmadate brownies with black pepper

The magical Cheviot Hills on a balmy April Sunday.

Green fingers: asparagus tip to toe

As regular readers will know, 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.

This week it’s all about asparagus – every last bit of it.

Historically I always considered asparagus a sort of exotic, premium ingredient. Probably to do with the short harvest season here in the UK and with memories of my mum’s reverence in cooking it. She seemed almost nervous of it, standing it carefully in a pan of boiling water so as to cook the end but not overcook the delicate tips. There only ever seemed to be three spears each but, boy oh boy!, such flavour – all the greenness and optimism of spring into summer served with a slap of melting salted butter.

When was the last time you tried peeling six soft boiled eggs in under three minutes?

The Husband

My perception now is that asparagus is way more available and the days of a lonely showcase of seasonal spears accompanied by a dollop of hollandaise or knob of butter are long gone. Our absolute favourite asparagus dish is Ottolenghi’s asparagus and samphire from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (it involves black sesame seeds, fresh tarragon and garlic too). So, it’s fitting that it’s an Ottolenghi dish that greets me when I open Guardian Feast Issue No.170 – the 15-minute meal issue. Eggs are a perfect pairing for asparagus and buttered eggs and asparagus on toast looked just the ticket for a Sunday brunch.

It fell to The Husband to recreate Yotam’s dish, and he did an excellent job. The butter-double-dipped fried sourdough slices are a masterstroke; the spring onions, chives and pinch of chilli flakes (we don’t have aleppo) the perfect seasoning lift; and the squeeze of lemon zings merrily across the buttery eggy richness. However, The Husband muttered darkly when I said that Yotam gives the prep time as three minutes and cooking time 12: ‘When was the last time you tried peeling six soft boiled eggs?’ he said.

Peeling six soft boiled eggs is not necessarily a speedy task for an amateur cook!

I always enjoy Tom Hunt’s ‘Waste not…’ column in Feast – there’s no doubt that a no-leaf-or-limb-in-the-bin is a kitchen aspiration of our household. Through the various lockdowns we have definitely become more fleet of foot when it comes to using up fridge scrapies – any veg offcuts go into a bag ready to create ‘compost stock’ for soups, risottos and so forth.

However, this week, the end bits of asparagus from Yotam’s breakfast feast went into Tom’s chilled almond and asparagus soup. And what a fabulously creamy, acidic decadent vessel for them. The soup is vegan – the creamy aspect comes solely from the almonds and olive oil. I topped up my handful of asparagus ends with broccoli to get the 100g required by Tom. For the breadcrumbs I used a white roll I found gathering dust in the freezer, and for sherry vinegar I used white wine vinegar with a splash of sherry – same thing, right?

I whizzed all the ingredients in the blender as instructed, but wasn’t totally happy with my ‘smooth paste’. Another going over with the stick blender sorted the texture. In some ways, the soup is a bit of a ‘nail soup’ (the nail soup in the story is augmented by so many other delicious ingredients that the rusty old nail itself is superfluous). However, I’d definitely do it again – great use of asparagus ends. And the handful of other ingredients. Nice one Tom.

Original recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi – buttered eggs and asparagus on toast

Tom Huntchilled almond and asparagus soup

The Husband's take on Yotam Ottolenghi's buttered eggs and asparagus on toast - allow a bit more than 15 minutes!
The Husband’s take on Yotam Ottolenghi’s buttered eggs and asparagus on toast

Egg custard, meringues, coffee: sugar rush central!

I’m inexorably drawn to any riff on the egg custard tart format: I adore pastel de nata and loved Rachel Roddy’s budini di riso fiorentini (little rice pudding tarts) which I cooked back in January from Guardian Feast Issue No.158. Plus, who doesn’t love an affogato? Vanilla ice cream literally ‘drowned’ in a shot of hot black coffee – sometimes served with a crunchy crumble of amaretti biscuit.

Affogato means ‘drowned’ in Italian – creamy egg custard, crispy nutty meringue shards, hot shot of espresso. What’s not to like?

So, Yotam Ottolenghi’s baked custard affogato, meringue brittle was a no brainer for me to try to recreate from Feast Issue No.169.

As regular readers will know, 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.

I’m ready to rock with Yotam’s baked egg custard

Even as I put this dish together, I was thinking: Wow, Yotam, that’s a lot of sugar. However, in the context of bold, bitter espresso shot, the sugar levels make total sense.

On to the making. Yotam says it will take 15 mins prep: I’m not sure how many hands he has, but whisking egg custard (separating five yolks and whites takes me about five mins!), toasting and blitzing nuts, whizzing egg whites with sugar… It took me a little longer! Having said that, the cooking time includes 20 minutes of meringue cooling so, pro rata, I guess from prep to finish probably took about an hour and ten. Don’t forget to factor in three hours of fridge time for the baked egg custard.

Each element is perfect – caramelly vanilla egg custard, sweet crunchy nutty meringue and a bitter coffee kick.

The Husband

I didn’t have full fat milk, so I used 300g of double cream (instead of 200g) and 100g of semi skimmed – don’t know if that’s an accepted replacement ratio but it worked fine.

I’m so glad Yotam warned me that ‘the custard will look very curdled’ when it’s taken out of the oven. It’s a great heads up. Take a look at the scramble below! That’s the kind of thing to make you cry if you’re not forewarned.

For the meringue brittle, I used almonds instead of hazelnuts (eldest daughter allergy) – and we all agreed peanuts would probably be a good fit too. Watch the measurements of the baking tray for the meringue spread (Yotam suggests 39cm x 30 cm). Actually, focus on the depth of meringue spread – about three millimetres, I’d say. My first batch of brittle was too thick to be ‘brittle’ (chewy shape shifter rather than shard). Fortunately, I still had three whites to play with from the five separated eggs and used those to better effect.

I started the dish late in the day and left the baked custard in the fridge overnight. We looked forward to Thursday morning coffee break with more fervour than usual. Yotam says there’s enough to serve four – we reckon its sweetness and intensity would certainly stretch to six. The Husband declared: ‘It’s delicious. Each element is perfect – caramelly vanilla egg custard, sweet crunchy nutty meringue and a bitter coffee kick.’

The eldest and youngest daughters agreed it would make a great dinner party pud but with a shot of decaf – I suggested a splash of brandy too. No one disagreed. The sugar hit was perhaps a tad vicious for 11am – but we’ve managed to continue picking at the leftover meringue (and my original chewy blobs) throughout the day. Thank goodness I have a dentist appointment in May!

Original recipe:

Yotam Ottolenghi – baked custard cream affogato, meringue brittle

Rhubarb? Go on, force me!

We found a dustbin without a bottom in the garden when we moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. There were all sorts of quirky upcycled and useful repurposed things left for us around the house and garden, so I figured the bin must have a purpose.

I stuck it behind a bush until I decided what that might be. Several years later I realised it was for forcing rhubarb. Out it came and up came the treasured pink branches of delight. Eat your heart out Wakefield triangle!

I love rhubarb – as does the eldest daughter – stewed, crumbled, pickled: we’ll eat the lot. I think of forced rhubarb as very cheffy. Stylists and chefs can’t get enough of the vibrant stalks, they just love to showcase its pink, tart gorgeousness.

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten.

The chef contributors to Guardian Feast are no exception. As regular readers will know, 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.

Lockdown lunches (or any workaday lunch) can become a bit samey. Of course, you can wrap a wrap or slice a cheese sandwich many ways but, even so, it’s nice to inject a thrilling new element every now and then. Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie) from March Feast Issue No.164 – which I have not cooked from yet.

The jam is quick and easy – although mine is more the consistency of a sauce (fine by me!) than a jam. Hibiscus tea bags aren’t something we have kicking around so I omit (Yotam says that’s okay!). The making of the sarnies falls to The Husband who positively quivers at the idea of frying slices of sourdough filled with grated cheddar and taleggio (we didn’t have gruyere) slathered in mayo – ON BOTH SIDES!!!

The jam is sensational. Smoky, sweet, sour, smooth with pings of salt – it’s got the lot. I thought the colour of my beautiful forced rhubarb would be lost in the process, but take a look at it oozing out of that sarnie above. Gorgeous.

Rhubarb really is the gift that keeps on giving, forced or not. Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart was calling out to me. It’s in much-loved Feast Issue No.162 (we’ve cooked five recipes from that Issue – Felicity Cloake’s the perfect keema twice!).

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. Seriously, I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten. Three harmonising elements: the crumbly, crunchy, melty pastry; the orangey, cardamommy, nutty, gooey frangipane; and the sparkling, tangy rhubarb topping. We loved it.

It’s also super-easy to make. Although, I’m no pastry queen and you’ll see the flaws in my method if you look closely at the pics. I love how Meera talks you through the helpful practical stuff like pricking the pastry with a fork before blind baking and scrunching up the sheet of greaseproof paper before you line the case – it makes the paper sit better (why have I never known this trick before???).

I got sucked in by the idea of tessellating the rhubarb. Hands-up, I am a chuck-it-all-in sort of gal and I wasn’t about to get out a protractor to ensure accurate angles on my rhubarb cuttings. Even so, I’m pretty pleased with my approximation of tessellation. I’ll be making Meera’s tart again – due to popular demand.

My version of Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart – photo credit: the youngest daughter

Original recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi – rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie)

Meera Sodha – rhubarb and pistachio tart

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.

Uncle Rikoro’s wibbly-wobbly cheesecake. Osaka.

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.

My take on Tamal Ray’s Japanese cheesecake with cherries in syrup

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.

Original recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi – slow-cooked lamb with figs and pistachios

Tamal Ray – Japanese cheesecake with cherries in syrup

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