I have a new and recently published recipe book on my bookshelf, Ottolenghi Simple, thanks to a recent birthday gift from wonderful friends, and this recipe literally jumped out at me from it's pages. I am very happy to review it and give it 10 out of 10. It is delicious. There are 3 stages and layers to this dessert, something like a parfait really, all very achievable and quite simple to prepare, the attraction being that they can be made well in advance of when they will be served, if you are organised enough that is. I now have the time to be well organised in advance although I realise not everyone has. So that's what I did. The Cheesecake keeps for 3 days in the frig, the compote keeps for 5 days (although this is risky as you will be dying to eat it with absolutely everything), and the nut crumble which keeps for a week or so can be kept on the kitchen bench in a covered container, just don't tell anyone or it will disappear as well. As Yotem Ottolenghi says the compote and crumble are also lovely for breakfast, served with Greek yoghurt, if you have any leftovers that is, and I doubt you will. The crumble will also take any fruit crumble to greater heights.
The cheesecake component of this dessert is not the kind of food that I would suggest we eat every day of the week. Most people I know are practising calorific restraint on an almost daily basis, however as I love to cook and enjoy beautiful food I allow myself the occasional indulgence, such as this dessert. It is lovely to share delicious food with friends. Wanting to cook and eat spectacular recipes that I come across is one of the realities of being a food blogger, however I am not just a food blogger but also a healthy lifestyle advocate so I try to find a balance with what I cook and add to the blog. It is also a trap to be influenced by the fads of celebrity chefs and to be totally guided by their choices, and I suppose Otam Ottelenghi falls into this category. However I like his emphasis on mostly healthy ingredients, such as vegetables and spices, and simple preparation, and it is our choice after all as to what we choose to cook. We owe it to ourselves to stay healthy and that is what is guiding a lot of my cooking choices now, on a daily basis.
Speaking of ingredients, here they are. Whilst it might seem like a lot of ingredients, the only ones I needed to go out and buy were the frozen Cherries, hazelnuts and cream cheeses.
Serves six to eight:
300g full-fat cream cheese
40g caster sugar
1 small lemon: finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp
130 ml thickened cream
2 tbsp olive oil, to serve
100g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped (I blanched these myself but buy them if you are short of time) There are good websites available on how to blanch them with bicarb soda and boiling water.
30g unsalted butter, fridge-cold and cut into 2cm dice (I used salted butter)
80g ground almonds
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (or white)
1/8 tsp salt
600g frozen pitted cherries, defrosted
90g caster sugar
4 whole star anise
1 orange: skin finely shaved to get 4 strips
To make the Cheesecake
Use a spatula, and break down the feta in a large bowl until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add the cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest and whisk by hand to combine. I used a fork during this process as well to break it down. This needs to be done by hand.
Pour in the cream and gently whisk together until the mixture has thickened enough to hold its shape, This happens quickly. Leave to set in the fridge in a covered container until ready to use. You can leave this for 3 days in the fridge.
To make the Crumble
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. fan forced
Place the hazelnuts, butter, ground almonds and sugar in a separate bowl.
Use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the dry mixture until the consistency of breadcrumbs is achieved.
Stir in the sesame seeds and salt, then spread out onto a baking tray.
Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool, then store in a covered container on the kitchen bench until ready to use, or use straight away, when the compote is made.
To make the Cherry Compote (use with any berries)
(I love this part)
Put the cherries, sugar, star anise and orange skin into a medium saucepan and place on a medium high heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened (but it will continue to thicken as it cools down). Set aside to come to room temperature. The star anise and orange peel should be discarded.
When ready to serve, spoon a large scoop of the cheesecake into each bowl and top with half the crumble. Spoon the compote on top and finish with the remaining crumble. Drizzle over the olive oil, yes really, and serve.
I really hope you enjoy this dish if you decide to make it this weekend. Have a great weekend everyone, and do something that you love doing.