The Best Strawberry Cheesecake

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This is the cheesecake recipe I turn to when time is in short supply but I still want to make something delicious for the following day.  I started making this at 8 pm tonight,  less than an hour later,  it was ready to come out of the oven!

You can vary the recipe depending on what is in season (or which tinned fruit is languishing at the back of your cupboard).  I used rosewater as a flavouring but natural vanilla extract or lemon zest would be lovely too.

You will need :

8 digestive biscuits
50g melted butter
600g cream cheese (I use 300g full-fat and 300g light)
2tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater
2 eggs +1 yolk
142 ml sour cream
400g strawberries
1 tbsp icing sugar

Method :

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/gas 4. Butter a 20 cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

In a food processor,  crush the biscuits into fine crumbs. Mix thoroughly with the melted butter and press into the base of the tin with your palm. Bake for 5 min.

Meanwhile, whisk the cream cheese, flour, sugar, rosewater, eggs, egg yolk and sour cream until well mixed and fluffy.

Wash half the strawberries,  hull and cut into quarters.

Pour the mixture delicately over the biscuit base, then scatter the strawberries over the top and push them down slightly. 

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Bake for 40 min until set but still wobbly in the middle.

Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar, then carefully ease out of the tin when cool and transfer to a serving plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Keep 3 or 4 strawberries to one side, and wash, hull and quarter the rest. Put in a small pan with the icing sugar and cook on a low heat for a few min until soft. Blend to a smooth purée.

Before serving, thinly slice the remaining strawberries, and arrange on each plate with a slice of cheesecake and a drizzle of strawberry purée.

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Filed under Bakes, Cakes, Desserts

Bring Some Excitement Into Your Life! Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seed Bread

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If you are bored of your everyday bread, if the thought of yet another white sliced loaf makes you want to scream, if you are crying out for something to break the lunchtime sandwiches tedium… Then this is the bread for you.

Why should this be the answer to your problems, you may ask? Well, not only does it look lovely, with its rich golden colour dotted with tempting pumpkin seeds, but this bread also has the advantage of partnering equally well with sweet or savoury toppings. I am pointing this out because sadly it isn’t the case with a lot of other speciality breads (onion bread with jam, anyone? ) so it is perfect for busy households where the same loaf needs to be used for toast at breakfast and to make sandwiches to take to work.

Don’t like sweet potato? Or pumpkin seeds? No problem. This works equally well with the same amount of potato, pumpkin or squash, and you can use sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.

You will also be pleased to know that this lovely bread is also rather good for you, with its vegetable goodness and healthy pumpkin seeds.

So, to sum up: this bread is good-looking, versatile, tasty, and healthy.

It will change your life.

Bake it.

You will need:

250 g sweet potato, cooked then mashed

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

350 g strong white flour

110 g pumpkin seeds

10 g salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

250 ml warm water

Method:

In  a large bowl, mix the sweet potato, flour, yeast, salt, pumpkin seeds and olive oil. Gradually add the water to form a consistent dough (you may need a little bit more or less water), then knead for about 10 min until smooth and soft.wpid-20140209_140641.jpg

If using a mixer, knead with the dough hook for 5-10 min.

Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rest, covered, for 1 to 2 h or until well-risen.wpid-20140209_144329.jpg

Press down gently with your fingertips to deflate the dough, then either shape into a ball again on a floured baking sheet, or fill a lightly oiled 900 g loaf tin. Cover and leave to rise again for 30-45 min.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/ fan 200C/ gas 8. Bake the bread for 25-30 min until dark golden (the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom).

Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Filed under Bakes, Bread, Breakfast, Vegetarian

The Greedy Frog has been interviewed (again!)

I have been interviewed by Mike Parr on BBC Tees as part of a feature about the different attitudes to food in France and Britain.

If you want to listen to the show click here , my bit is about 1h20 min into it.

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Chocolate Orange Brownies

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These brownies are deliciously moist and bursting with flavour. The richness of the chocolate teamed up with the orange makes for a wonderful combination.

I came up with this recipe when I was preparing for a charity bake sale at work. A colleague asked for brownies to be included but he is allergic to nuts. I didn’t want to just make a plain chocolate brownie, because I like something to counteract the richness of the chocolate. I instantly thought of including orange but I didn’t think that just chucking orange zest into the mix would deliver enough flavour.

Then I remembered the celebrated clementine cake by Nigella The Great, and decided that a boiled orange would deliver a strong orange taste and help keep the brownies moist. I added the candied peel for texture, but you can do without if you prefer your brownies without “bits” in them.

The finished recipe received a very enthusiastic reception and I have had several requests for these brownies since!

You will need:

1 orange
250 g dark chocolate
150 g butter
3 medium eggs
100 g demerara sugar
150 g caster sugar
85 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
40 g chopped mixed candied peel (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C/ fan 140C/Gas 3.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Immerse the orange (whole and un-peeled) into the water, and boil for 30 min. Drain, then purée the orange (with a stick blender or in a food processor). Leave to cool.
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Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in the microwave or in a small pan set over a very gentle heat. Leave to cool.

With an electric whisk, or in a stand mixer beat the eggs until pale, then gradually add the sugars and whisk until pale and foamy.
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Add the melted chocolate, then the orange mixing gently in between. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold gently.

Pour delicately into a greased tray bake tin (mine is about 20×30 cm)and scatter the candied peel over the top.
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Bake for about 20 to 25 min. It is ready when a skewer comes out mostly clean but with a few crumbs attached; don’t over-bake your brownies or they will be dry!

Turn out onto a wire rack, and cut into rectangles when cool.

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Filed under Bakes, Buffet, Cakes, Desserts, Nut-free

Mince Pies: The Taste of Christmas

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Mince pies are among my favourite Christmas treats. When I first came across mince pies, shortly after moving here from France, I was intrigued by the name: did these crazy Brits really eat sweetened meat? A quick Google search reassured me that this wasn’t the case anymore, and only the suet remained from what was originally a meat-based dish. Vegetable suet can of course be substituted if you prefer.

Baking mince pies has to be the best way to spend a cold December afternoon; it is a real joy to bring the lovely, golden pies out of the oven and it makes the whole house smell of Christmas!
This recipe makes more mincemeat than you need. Store the remainder in sterilized jars and keep for another baking session; or decorate the jars with pretty labels to make a lovely home-made gift!

You will need (for 24 mince pies) :

For the mincemeat:

250g Bramley apples, peeled and grated
100g sultanas
60g currants
70g dried cranberries
180g raisins
110g chopped mixed peel
30g chopped almonds (optional)
4tbsp brandy
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
170g dark muscovado sugar
120g shredded vegetable suet

For the pastry:

450g plain flour
230g cold butter, diced
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 beaten egg
Icing sugar

Method:

Make the mincemeat:

In a large saucepan, combine the apple, dried fruit, peel, almonds, alcohol, zest, juices, and spices. Cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, until the mix is fairly dry and the dried fruit has plumped up (this should take 45 min to 1h).

Leave to cool, then mix in the suet and muscovado sugar.

Make the pastry:

To make by hand, rub the flour into the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the zest and juice and bring together into a ball ( add a bit of iced water if necessary).
Alternatively use a food processor: mix the flour and butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then add the zest and juice and mix again until it comes together, adding a bit of iced water if necessary. Knead lightly a couple of times.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 to 20 min.

Assemble the mince pies:

PrehEeat the oven to 190*C/ fan 170*C/ Gas 5. Cut the pastry into 2 pieces, about one third to two thirds.
Roll out the larger piece (leave the other piece in the fridge) on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3 mm. With an 8 cm round fluted cutter, stamp out 24 bases and use them to line 2 12-hole mince pie tins, or patty tins ( you will need to re-roll the trimmings).
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Fill each pastry case with about 1 tbsp mincemeat.
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Roll out the rest of the pastry as before, and cut out 24 lids with a 7 cm cutter.
Brush the edges of the pastry cases with water, then press a lid down on each base, sealing well.
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Make 3 slits in each pie top with a sharp knife, then brush with some beaten egg and bake for about 20 min or until nice and golden.
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Cool for 10 min in the tins, then remove to a wire rack and dredge with icing sugar.

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Filed under Bakes, Cakes, Christmas, Desserts, Pastry, Pies, Sweet Tarts

The Greedy Frog Has Been Interviewed!

The lovely people at Gourmandize UK have made yours truly Blogger of the Day!

I have to admit that I am very excited about this, so please go and check it out when you have a minute!

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Looking for Comfort Food? Quick, Over Here! Chicken, Butternut Squash and Feta Pie

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If I had my way, it would be Summer all year round. I love warm weather, summer dresses, ice cream and long evenings, barbecues, and brightly coloured nail polish on my toes. I wish I could banish cold weather, umbrellas,  wellies and especially snow shovels.

If I love Summer so much, what am I doing in Northern England, might you ask. Well, I shall let you know once I have worked out a plausible answer.

In the meantime, I shall offer you the first pie recipe of the season, because if I cannot change the weather, I can at least make it more bearable with a bit of comfort food.

You will need:

For the rough puff pastry:

500 g cold butter, diced

500 g flour

2 pinches salt

About 250 ml iced water

1 egg, beaten (for glazing)

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash, cubed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped dried sage

2 chicken breasts, diced

200 g feta

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl (or directly on a work surface), make a well with the flour, and add the butter and salt in the middle. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the texture is grainy with the odd flake of butter. Add the iced water gradually, mixing with your hands as you go, until it forms a cohesive dough. Knead a few times, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Roll the pastry out into a rectangle about 40cm x 20cm. Fold the top third down towards you, then fold the bottom third up on top of the rest. Give it a quarter turn then repeat the rolling and folding. Wrap in cling film again, and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the rolling and folding as before, and refrigerate for 20 min again, still wrapped in cling film. The pastry is now ready to use, and will happily wait in the fridge for a few days. You will need half of it for this recipe, the other half will freeze for up to a month.

Make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 1 min, add the sage and butternut squash, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook on a low heat for about 20 min or until tender (add a bit more water if it starts to stick). Season the mixture, then tip into a bowl and reserve.

In the same sauté pan, heat up the last of the oil, and gently fry the chicken until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 4 to 5 min). Mix with the cooked squash and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C/ fan 190⁰/ Gas 6.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and to a size slightly larger than your dish (I use a 28 cm Ø round pie dish).

Crumble the feta over the bowl containing the filling, mix well, then tip into a large pie dish.

Wet the edge of the pie dish, cover with the rolled out pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut away the extra pastry along the edge of the dish. Press all around the rim with the prongs of a fork, then cut a small hole in the middle.

Brush all over with eggwash, then if you wish, thinly score the pastry with wavy lines made with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.

Bake for about 20 min, or until nice and golden brown.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Mains, Meat dishes, Pies