I was fortunate enough to attend a glitzy awards dinner in London’s Mayfair this month. The reception was alive with bright cummerbunds, jewels and pretentious air kisses. Angela Lamont, ‘as skinny as a rain drop down a window’, hosted the event with a swarm of cameramen at her feet and‘voice of the balls’, Alan Dedicoat compèred from the wings. It promised to be a really good night and I was sensible enough to be wearing an elasticated waist.
I’m usually keen to analyse function menus, as I’m fascinated as to how these events are designed and run. I knew there were nearly 500 of us eating a four-course meal over a tightly controlled 90 minutes. We started with sea bream with fennel sauerkraut and crushed potato salad in a sauce of some kind. This was rather too cold for my liking, but we washed it down with an oaked Chardonnay that complimented the dish well. Other than missing the blue cheese foam from our gooseskirt beef dish (must ask Buttlings what cut gooseskirt is), the main course was comforting, tender and looked spectacular. I tweeted about the lack of blue cheese foam, which caused a rush of tweets from fellow diners (it was a technology awards ‘do’ after all. Seems table 26 wasn’t the only table missing its blue cheese foam.)
What made the biggest impression on me was the garnish on our dessert. We were served a very light mousse, beautifully presented with a perfect disc of raspberry jelly on the top and a dehydrated orange slice carefully balancing in the centre. Now, dehydrated citrus fruit slices look great on a Christmas wreath or in a bag with cinnamon sticks and pinecones, but you don’t expect to eat them. One of my fellow guests gave his a nibble. His reaction was unexpected – he clearly liked it and put the whole thing in his mouth. I had to follow his example and took a nibble of my own – it was like a biscuit perfectly crisp, sweet and orangey. I wasn’t mistaken, it certainly was a dehydrated orange slice not a biscuit at all, that looked as if it had been pressed and baked, perfectly flat, very thin and precisely round – extraordinary.
I have been reading about dehydrated fruits recently as I was tempted to buy myself a dehydrator to make fruit leathers and fruit and vegetable dried chips. I plan to write about fruit leathers next summer, when hopefully I will have the produce to work with and have suffered the trials and errors on your behalf. I came across some interesting fruit leather recipes using sea buckthorn, autumn olive and rose hips on a forest garden course.How delicious. Fruit leathers would make a lovely present for friends or a packed lunch surprise – Truly Scrumptious readers will need to wait until next summer for how to make these.
The recipe for this month is the very best of cheesecakes, just perfect for Christmas entertaining. According to the notes in my well-thumbed Joy of Cooking book I first made this recipe when living in Munich in 1979. How well it would go with dried, crisp and sweet orange slices…..I may buy that dehydrator after all.
Best wishes for the holiday season and happy, creative entertaining.
Sour Cream and Cinnamon Cheesecake
Approx. £7.80 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores
For the crust base
150 g digestive biscuits
2 tbsp Icing sugar
100 g melted butter (preferably unsalted)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the cheesecake mix
2 well-beaten large eggs
350 g soft cream cheese
100 g caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the sour cream glaze
300 g thick soured cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180ºC / gas mark 4. (AGA roasting oven, rack on bottom shelf with cooling shelf above)
1. Crush or blitz the biscuits in a processor or bash with a rolling pin into fine/small pieces in a plastic bag
2. Add the warm melted butter, icing sugar and cinnamon and mix well
3. Pat your crumb mix into the bottom of a greased or lined, loose bottomed 9 inch tin. Press down hard and chill for a few minutes
4. Mix the cheesecake ingredients (excluding the cinnamon) together until smooth
5. Pour the mix onto the biscuit base
6. Bake at 180ºC for 20 minutes or until firm. There should not be a wobble, neither should it crack but shrinking from the sides is good
7. Dust with the cinnamon and allow to cool
Raise the oven temperature to 220ºC / gas mark 7 (remove cool shelf from AGA and raise shelf to top)
8. Mix together the glaze ingredients and pour over the top of the cooled cheesecake
9. Bake for 8–10 minutes to glaze the cheesecake – watch it carefully
10. Leave to cool then refrigerate for 6–12 hours before serving with cream or chocolate curls (or be a smarty pants and try with crisp orange slices)
A truly, truly scrumptious dessert for the festive season.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.