Chocolate & Coffee Cheesecake

Every year I try to make/bake H. something for his birthday, since he has a huge sweet tooth. 🙂 This year happened to be the first time that we weren’t together on the actual day (and the same will happen for mine, coming up soon!). As he is a huge cheesecake fan I decided to make this one a couple of days before I left for Scotland for a conference. Aside from cheesecake, coffee and chocolate are two of H.’s favourite things. 😉

I only made a couple of modifications to the recipe. Instead of 250g cream cheese, I used about 150g and substituted quark for the rest, which made for a slightly lighter cake. I also forgot to dust with cocoa powder, so mine looks shiny compared to the magazine’s photo.

This is a fairly simple but delicious cake. My only complaint is that it did not taste enough like coffee; if I make it again I will increase the quantity of coffee quite a bit.

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Valentine’s Day 2015

For the past few years H. and I have had the tradition of staying home, opening a bottle (or 2) of wine and cooking something together — something more elaborate than we’d normally make. This year a was a little different because we spent the afternoon with 150+ people (most of them kids!) at a Valentine’s Day concert that H. and his piano partner put on — a raving success, I  might add! After a bottle of wine shared with H.’s piano partner and his wife, we returned home and spent the next couple of hours in the kitchen, happy to be alone in our quiet flat after a very loud and overwhelming afternoon.

In planning the meal, I’d had my eye on this gnocchi recipe for a while. Readers with a good memory might remember my first go — these ones, despite a bit of a panicky moment when I though I’d ruined them — turned out better, I’m pleased to say. I also knew that I wanted to make this cheesecake which had been on my to-make list for a few months.

Because I knew we’d get home quite late, I did some prep on Saturday morning. I made the cheesecake and started on the gnocchi by boiling (parsnips) and roasting (parsnips & sweet potatoes) the veg so that they were cooled and malleable by the time we got home. When we did, I concentrated first on assembling the gnocchi, then put the pork in the oven, cooked the gnocchi, and assembled the salad. Originally, I wanted to serve the gnocchi as a starter and then the pork and salad together, but by that point, I really didn’t (a) see the point of doing that or (b) care!

So how did it turn out?
The salad was definitely a hit — a predictable combination, but a reliable one. I omitted the raisins – yuck! (I can barely tolerate pear in my salad, let alone other fruit). I was quite happy with the gnocchi but resolved (again) not to make it at home anymore because it’s simply too much work. And I’m not 100% sure that I like it enough to make it worth it. The combination of blue cheese and pine nuts definitely works though, and if I saw this dish on a menu I’d order it. The pork was a tried and tested recipe — in hindsight a good idea as we had a lot else going on.

The cheesecake was a disappointment. It’s hard to describe. It didn’t taste bad or unpleasant, but it was not at ALL what I expected. H. described it as tasting like pudding, which was bang on. It had none of the mild tang of a typical cheesecake – I guess because of the mascarpone (although I have made cheesecakes with only mascarpone before and don’t remember them being so mild). The filling to me tasted like vanilla pudding and the consistency was also thinner/not as solid as I’d expected. On the latter point, in a series of tweets with Ruby, I guessed that I under-baked it a bit. The taste, however, I don’t know.

Along with the meal we had a well-deserved bottle of Prosecco and, on recommendation, some of this bottle of Dolcetto di Dogliani. I was happy with this wine — it is not something I would usually choose, but it went very well with the meal. It also inspired me to order a bottle of another Dolcetto when I was out for dinner on Saturday. (Read more about this grape variety here).

All in all, despite the disappointing cheesecake, it was a wonderful evening, the perfect antidote to the absolute chaos of the afternoon. And a great reminder that cooking can really be FUN!

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Pumpkin Latte

Believe it or not, I had never had a pumpkin latte before I made this for the first time yesterday. My sister and her boyfriend were visiting for the weekend from Brighton and I thought it would be a nice start to our Sunday. Unfortunately it received mixed reviews among my esteemed guests! H. didn’t like it (“vegetables in coffee”) and C. and F. thought it was just okay. I was the only one who really enjoyed it….hmmmm. I think it’s the perfect way to start a fall morning or afternoon pick-me-up which is when I made it today for the second time.

I used almond milk as my sister is dairy-free. I think it would work fine with regular too though and since I have to use this pumpkin puree up, I will be experimenting with that tomorrow!

Here’s how to make it:

  1. (Prepare espresso/strong coffee).
  2. Heat (and froth, if desired) 1 cup of milk per person.
  3. Mix milk with 2 tsps/per person pumpkin puree.*
  4. Pour in mug and add coffee as desired!
  5. Drizzle with nutmeg (optional).

*I had a bit of trouble finding the puree; in the UK, look in bigger supermarkets or online. I got mine at Whole Foods.

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Apologies for the large photo. I can’t figure out how to make it smaller!

All roads lead to…

This past weekend we were in Rome! In the works since May, it was a surprise trip for my boyfriend, who’s just recently completed his studies. It was a fantastic little weekend trip with lots of sightseeing, walking and of course sampling of local food and wine. Herewith, a few culinary highlights!

Supper night 2 – ravioli. I can’t remember what sort of sauce it was. I originally wanted something with artichokes, but they were out of season, so our waiter suggested this. Delicious, and also the perfect portion size.

Amazing pomodoro brushetta! I really want to try to recreate this on my own.

Morning cappuccino. SO DELICIOUS.

Spaghetti alla carbonara — no cream in the authentic version, just egg & bacon. My friend from Rome told us that this is traditionally a winter dish, but I had to try it nonetheless.