Yuzu and yoghurt cheesecake with bergamot

Yuzu, a fruit which you may well have tasted but rarely seen, is a popular Asian citrus variety with a beguiling and exotic flavour – somewhere between a sweet mandarin and a fragrant grapefruit. Until recently I had only ever tasted it in Japanese restaurants, usually combined with savoury flavours – it is excellent with fish – or in salad dressings. I am now delighted to discover you can buy hand squeezed fresh yuzu from thewasabicompany.com, along with other more mainstream suppliers, like Waitrose. At this time of year, thewasabicompany.com also sells the whole fruit, a small and deeply wrinkled orb shaped citrus indigenous to Japan and Korea, which is in season now. The zest is prized for its strong flavour and is often used instead of the juice. The benefit of the juice over the whole fruit is that a whole bottle can serve several recipes, is less expensive and keeps for longer.

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Yuzu fruit

So for this recipe, I’ve substituted the yuzu zest with bergamot. Another exotic fruit, but one which is grown in Europe and therefore much more available and also in season this time of year. It has a slightly sweeter, more fragrant flavour than lemons, the zest is highly perfumed (traditionally used as the scenting oil in Earl Grey tea). Bergamot zest adds a delightful flavour to the cheesecake mixture and the sweeter yuzu juice adds a good balance with both flavours contributing exotic and unusual elements.

If you end up buying more than one bergamot and need other ideas of ways to use it, Patricia Michelson of La Fromagerie, one of a few retail stockists of bergamot, recommends making bergamot syrup to add to prosecco or sparkling water. She also likes to slip slices of bergamot into a cup of Earl Grey and single- estate Ceylon tea. Or recently I ate a beautiful pudding of poached quinces with whipped bergamot-infused cream at Sally Clarke’s restaurant, Clarkes.

With Thanksgiving this week, I looked to America for pudding inspiration. A cheesecake is not a dessert I grew up with and one which took me some time to come to like, probably because I’d never had a really good one. Challenged by this, I thought I’d introduce these new flavours to something classic and try to give it a lift. I’m a fan or Mascarpone but it can create too heavy a filling, so I’ve used half yoghurt to balance it out. The yoghurt also gives a subtle sourness to temper the richness of the cream cheese. More importantly, it’s light, delicious and really simple to make – with an impressive outcome, if nothing else, that’s worth giving Thanks for.

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Yuzu juice and bergamot fruit. Picture credit Leila Amanpour

You will need:

20cm springform tin

A roasting tray large enough to fit inside surrounded by water

tin foil

Serves 6

160g plain digestive biscuits

75g unsalted butter, melted

300g thick Greek style yoghurt

300g mascarpone

130g caster sugar

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

4tbsps yuzu juice

½ bergamot, zested

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Picture credit Leila Amanpour

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
  • Using a pestle and mortar or a food processor, crush the biscuits until they are the texture of coarse crumbs, then mix with the melted butter.
  • Line the base of the springform tin with baking paper and wrap the bottom of the tin with a single sheet of tin foil which covers and seals the base and sides. Repeat with another sheet for double protection. Press the biscuit and butter mixture into tin, using your hands or a spatula to form an even surface. Place the tin in the oven for 8-10 minutes to toast the biscuits and form a crisp crust. Remove from the oven and cool.
  • Put the yoghurt, mascarpone and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and beat to combine. Add the eggs, yuzu juice and bergamot zest and continue beating until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
  • Place the tin in the roasting tray and pour the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base in the tin. Boil the kettle and fill the roasting tray with water so that it comes at least halfway up the sides of the cake tin, but be careful it doesn’t seep over the top of the tin foil.
  • Carefully place the roasting tray in the oven and bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes then reduce the temperature to 150°C and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Remove the cake when the top still feels slightly wobbly.
  • Carefully lift the cake tin onto a wire rack and allow to cool before removing the foil. When the cheesecake is cooled to room temperature, chill in the fridge for an hour or so before removing the springform tin.
  • The cake can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.

 

 

Puffball mushrooms

Grilled Puffball with rosemary and garlic

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Last weekend I discovered a puffball. It was the first one I’ve seen this season and a very welcome sight it was, too. Fairly big, it needed two hands to cup it and it looked in prime health. Puffballs remind me of giant marshmallows and indeed the texture is not dissimilar.

They are excellent to cook and behave much better than many other mushrooms, mainly because they don’t release masses of liquid when you put them in a hot pan. They are perfect to grill and because their flavour is mild, they are all the better with a good marinade.

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I crushed garlic and mixed it with olive oil to brush generous amounts over both sides and studded the soft flesh with rosemary. Lots of salt and pepper is necessary and a fairly long time grilling on both sides, then finished with some good olive oil. Simple but delicious.

There are many other ways you could try too. Other herbs such as thyme or savoury would taste good and another good tip I’ve been given is to fry them in salty smoked bacon fat for breakfast. Definitely worth a try.

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1 puffball mushroom, sliced lengthways into pieces about 1cm thick

Garlic, crushed to a paste with a little salt

Rosemary sprigs

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

Mix the crushed garlic with some olive oil and brush it over both sides of the mushroom. Push the sprigs of rosemary into the flesh and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle pan or frying pan and cook the slices on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until well coloured and soft.

Pour over some good olive oil to serve.

 

Game terrine

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A good terrine can be one of the greatest pleasures of the kitchen, both in the making and the eating. It may take a bit of time to prepare, but it lasts well too; if you don’t eat it all in the first sitting, it is a welcome dish to discover in the fridge; an instant and satisfying lunch. It also makes an impressive and hassle free starter if you’re entertaining.

I love the process of putting all the parts together; it something you can really build, both in terms of structure and flavour.

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Pheasant braised with cider, apples and crème fraîche

As male game birds go, the pheasant has to be one of the most striking. Larger and more colourful than a partridge, with a spike of tail feathers that gives it a wonderful silhouette in flight. Up close, the male bird is a beautiful mixture of chestnut brown, oily dark green, black and red feathers with a precise white ring around its neck.

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A hen and cock pheasant – luckily they are usually sold ready plucked!

Pheasant is a notoriously tricky bird to cook, with a great tendency to become dried out and tough. But as they are in abundance at this time of year and readily available in butchers and most supermarkets, it’s a pleasure to eat these birds while they are in season (October to the end of January). Experimenting with various methods of dealing with these problematic birds, I discovered two things: the breast and leg joints are nearly always best cooked separately and brining beforehand greatly improves both the flavour and texture of both.

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White truffles – star of the season

There’s been a bumper harvest of truffles this year. Italy’s unusually wet summer and warm autumn created the perfect conditions to send usually high prices tumbling. But they’re still not cheap even at £18 for 10grams, so what is it about these knobbly fungi that make us willing to pay such a high price?

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The biggest truffle I’ve seen – this weighed about 300g

As the famous gastronome Brillat Savarin put it, white truffles are the “diamonds of the kitchen”. The exotic and mysterious fruiting bodies of a subterranean fungus, found in just a handful of places in Europe (although the best come from the Langhe area of Piedmont in Northern Italy) lie hidden in the soil, living symbiotically amongst the roots of oak, beech, poplar and hazel trees.

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Squash gnocchi

Things have been quietly getting on in the pumpkin patch. The big leaves have been hiding some steadily enlarging pumpkins and squashes. `I went away for a while and when I came back one of them had grown to gargantuan proportions. Perfect for Halloween but a bit overgrown for the pot. The Crown Prince and Onion squash varieties have grown a little slowly and are at the perfect size. The Turk’s Turbans looked so good, I just wanted to keep them as decoration with their toy shop shapes, colours and patterns.

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Small hand, big pumpkin

Different varieties suit being cooked in different ways: the Crown Prince is perfect for soup – it can sometimes be a little floury so it suits having some moisture added; the Onion and Acorn squash are good for roasting, and the big old pumpkins, well, I think they’re best for the children at Halloween.

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Apple and blackberry galette

Around this time of year, there are just a couple of weeks when the late blackberries ripen and the last apples are ready to picked. That starry, seasonal alignment happened last weekend and I was determined to make the most of it. Making a fruit galette is usually my fail safe recipe to turn to when I lay my hands on exceptional bounty like this, be it figs, plums, or this time, apples and blackberries.

The pastry used for galette is thin, crisp and buttery and plays a good supporting role to the fruit, rather than overwhelming it. The free-form shape also allows for a ‘stuffed crust’ – off cuts of the fruit can be finely chopped and tucked inside the folded crust, so every mouthful is a perfect balance of rich pastry and sweet fruit.

 

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I love the way the blackberries bleed their colour over the apple. This is best eaten warm, with a generous dollop of creme fraiche

Last weekend I stumbled upon a bank of wild blackberries at the peak of ripeness. They were so ready for picking, they were starting to drop off the bushes. That same day, I’d gathered the last apples from the tree. Autumnal fruit flavour combinations don’t get better than this.

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