The May Day Bank Holiday was an anniversary for The Husband and I. It is the day we "officially" became boyfriend and girlfriend, at the tender age of sixteen. We had our first date on the third of May, however our relationship only truly started when a group of us went bowling on the fifth, and The Husband and I took that serious step in declaring our commitment to one another and held hands in front of our friends.
Particularly as we were together for ten years before we married, we always seem to have found a small way to mark the occasion. This year The Husband was on a stag party all weekend, and so I decided to cook a nice meal (the last from our most recent Hello Fresh delivery) and a homemade dessert. I hoped that as he was due home before lunch, there would be enough time for him to recover enough to spend the evening celebrating with dinner and a dvd.
When I asked The Husband to pick a cake for Easter, his first choice was a cheesecake. I wanted to make something a bit more akin to a cake, so he opted for the sachertorte instead. However, in his absence this weekend I spotted the fresh eggs he had brought home from a colleague who had been overrun whilst chicken-sitting for a friend, and I decided to rustle up his favourite for his return.
It wouldn't be my first choice of dessert, The Husband and I have a long-standing disagreement about whether vanilla is a valid flavour (the only time I opt for vanilla ice-cream is if it is to go with a pudding), and I would prefer dark chocolate over white every time. To me white chocolate just tastes of sugar and fat (which is probably pretty accurate) but it works well in this dish, adding a sweetness rather than being overpowering.
So as the ingredients might suggest, this is a sweet, creamy dessert, perfect for those sugar-fiends in your life. The ricotta makes it rich, but stops it becoming tooth-achingly sweet, and I had mine with a few berries on the side for a little more acidity. The shortbread biscuit base also made a nice change, as well as adding a few extra calories, I'm sure, just for good measure.
Be warned though, this is a big cheesecake, the original recipe is said to serve 16, and even with the mammoth portions The Husband gets through, that's probably a pretty accurate estimation. I tried adding the melted white chocolate over the top, as the original recipe states, but it was too thick to pour and so I wiped it off (and caused the beautiful crack in the top in the process!). Feel free to give the topping a go, but I haven't included it in the recipe here, and it honestly doesn't need any more sweetness adding!
Place shortbread biscuits into a sandwich bag and crush with a rolling pin. Alternatively tip into a large bowl, and use the end of a rolling pin to crush them (similar to a pestle and mortar).
Melt the butter in a small pan, and combine with shortbread crumbs in a mixing bowl. When the butter and biscuits are well mixed press the mixture into the bottom of a 25cm/10inch springform cake tin.
Place cream cheese, ricotta, eggs and sugar into a food processor. Split the vanilla pods and scrape the seeds into a food processor. Combine the ingredients using a pulse setting until the mixture is smooth. (I used a bowl and a whisk to save on washing up and it worked just as well!)
Slowly melt 150g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Gently fold the chocolate into the cheese mixture and spoon onto the biscuit base. Use a palette knife to smooth the top.
Place into the oven and bake for around fifty minutes, until the surface is springy to touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Once cool remove the sides of the cake tin and serve in slices.
I started this new blog, because I was finding the self-imposed minimum word count over on my old blog was stopping me from writing as often as I would have liked. Although I'm posting much more often, I feel like I'm writing a lot less. I'm thoroughly enjoying linking up with projects, and taking more pictures, but I started blogging because I enjoyed the process of writing, of playing with words, of taking a topic and presenting my perspective.
The Husband is away on a stag do this weekend, and I've been going to bed fairly late, mainly so that I would be tired enough to fall asleep immediately. Otherwise, the peculiarity of lying alone in our bed would have prevented me from drifting off. It seems bizarre when I think that for the great majority of our relationship The Husband and I didn't go to sleep in the same house, let alone the same bed. In fact, what is even more unusual, although it seemed anything but at the time, is the fact that we got engaged and bought a house having never actually lived together. We had, however, lived in different counties for six years of those first eight years, spent a few months on different continents, and spent any time we were together in university accommodation, student houses, or our parent's homes. While it wasn't without its rough patches, I suppose having survived all of that, actually living under the same roof, and not sharing the bathroom and kitchen with three other people seemed like a doddle.
It is amusing how quickly it has become the norm, and as I sit up into the early hours, grateful for Millie's company, I realise that having a weekend in the house alone is a novelty, but going to sleep alone less so. And so it was that last night, having run out of lives on Candy Crush (guilty pleasure), having managed to clear my bloglovin feed (feel free to follow me here!), not wanting to start a book knowing that I would find myself still reading several hours later, and looking for something to help me switch off, I went back to my old blog for a read.
It's funny how your perspective changes with time, how things seem different when you gain a little distance. I quite enjoyed re-visiting the posts, and far from the cringing I expected, I felt proud of taking the plunge and starting, and seeing where I have come. I also realised it was a very different style of blogging to what I have been doing more recently, and I miss it. I seem to have got into a pattern of writing regularly, committed to the projects I am joining in with, but it seems to have become an automatic process. I'd like to shift the balance a little and make a bit more time for longer, wordier posts, rather than much of what I'm doing currently, which seems to be guided by which pictures I have taken.
I'm not sure what about, I might revisit the writealm prompts for some inspiration, as I look back at my previous pages and feel decidedly out of practice! For now though, Millie has stopped snoring on my knee and looks ready to be let out again, and I have a busy day planned for tomorrow before The Husband returns home. So I shall go to bed at a reasonable hour, pile up all of the pillows, and make the most of the middle of the mattress.
Have been seeing my family today, for my uncle's retirement party, including my beautiful nephew who keeps everyone enthralled with his gorgeous smile.
Have continued to see lots of the great outdoors, with regular walks with Millie. According to MapMyWalk I did over 10 miles in the four walks I tracked last week. I'm finding it a great motivator to see how it adds up over the course of the week.
I didn't end up seeing the NT Live screening of King Lear, which I was pretty disappointed about, especially reading the wonderful feedback on twitter after. I had a ticket, but ended up very late home from a course I was on, and so didn't get there. I'm crossing my fingers for an encore screening soon.
The Great British Menu has been keeping me entertained on television, it is one of the few series I watch regularly. So on Friday night I curled up in the kitchen with Millie and watched the week's episodes back to back. The Husband and I bought the box set of The Mentalist at the start of the year, after dipping in and out of it on tv and really enjoying it. We are up to season five, and have been devouring it, but have slowed it down a little now, as we realise season six is still being aired so we would have to wait to buy it. Apparently there is no decision yet as to whether they will commission season seven, but I really hope they do, I'm thoroughly enjoying it (and Simon Baker helps obviously!).
Again, nothing specific this week, but I have had the radio on lots this weekend. With it just being Millie and I in the house while The Husband is away I've had it on full blast in the kitchen. I was listening to Dermot O'Leary's show from last week on catch-up, just to hear Elbow in session. It was lovely to hear this favourite from a while back, and I thought this track he played was gorgeous, will definitely be keeping an ear out for more from this group.
I'm finding this one the hardest this week, nothing notably sticks out. I have a fig scented candle which is on my dressing table and I light it while I get ready for bed. It's not a fragrance I would have picked up myself, I got it as a gift, but I associate it now with winding down and switching off. The nights when I take the time to light it, take off my make up, write in my diary, always leave me feeling soothed. It's never more than ten minutes, but its a really relaxing habit I've got into this year.
We had another Hello Fresh box and I cooked duck at home for the first time. It came out really well, and The Husband declared that he liked apples (this is a first in our twelve year relationship). I enjoyed the lentils with it, which is something I wouldn't know where to start with normally.
The cod with capers was another dish from the box, and it was good, although the lemon and caper sauce wasn't as strong as I expected, so in fact most of the flavour came from the cous cous and vegetables. I've started to re-use some of the recipes too, and have definitely found that I'm being inspired to make different things, or add a few fresh herbs to the shopping basket to liven up our usual dishes. I'm planning on recreating the pork with sage butter at home this week, and doing some home made potato salad to go with it, inspired by cathryn's delicious looking post.
Thankful for the three-day weekend. Life feels so much more balanced with the extra day off! I have managed to achieve lots this weekend and it has been quite nice having the house to myself for a day or so while The Husband has been on a stag do. Millie and I have been having a girly weekend, and lots of the things that were feeling like they were building up earlier in the week are now progressing and getting sorted, so I'm feeling much cheerier. Besides, its easy to feel positive when this puppy is around.
117. On our visit to our wedding venue we went for a walk around the grounds after our late lunch. Spotted some spring lambs skipping through the fields in the sunshine, but couldn't get any closer than this.
118. We had another Hello Fresh box this week and I loved this colourful pan of lentils, chilli, carrot and coriander to go with our duck and apples. It was a lovely Sunday dinner, and the first time I've ever cooked duck.
119. The woodland path in the local park as we went on a walk with Millie after work. The bluebells are popping up everywhere now.
120. Millie's favourite place to curl up is on top of the nearest pair of feet she can find. If you stand still for a moment in our kitchen you suddenly become pinned in place by a beagle.
121. Another Hello Fresh photo, and again I loved the colours in this tray of (soon-to-be) roasted veg which went with cod and cous-cous. It's true that so much of enjoying a meal is about it looking appealing, and I automatically feel healthy when my plate is a rainbow of colours!
122. As I got off the train in Liverpool for a course, people from Morrisons were giving out free fruit to all of the commuters. I was very grateful for the apple when I was hanging around waiting to get home, and it was fabulous to see a company combining self-promotion with health promotion!
123. Quite pleased with this picture, it was a quick over the shoulder snap as Millie dragged me down the path. This was a lovely Friday night walk, a perfect way to relax into the weekend, and I will admit to singing at the top of my voice as I strode out across the fields with Millie bouncing beside me (only after I checked there was no-one else around though!).
I really wanted to make the most of the long Easter weekend and use some of the time to do some baking. As I left work on the Thursday I asked The Husband to have a rummage through the recipe books to find something he would enjoy as part of our Easter dinner.
I drove home with visions of a fresh lemon cake, or perhaps a classic victoria sponge with strawberry jam. Something appropriate for celebrating the start of spring. The Husband bolted for the bookshelf as I walked through the door, his guilty glances through the recipe books giving away the fact that he had forgotten to look until I got home.
When I rejected his request for a vanilla cheesecake because I wanted to actually bake something, he picked out this rich, dark, sweet sachertorte. Whilst it didn't exactly epitomise spring, the excess of chocolate somehow felt fitting for Easter weekend, and so the decision was made. It was a recipe I had made before and it was a great success so I looked forward to trying it again.
The cake wasn't the neatest ever, a few of the edges broke off after I removed it from the baking tin, but the glossy ganache meant it still looked fairly appetising. It is a rich, fudgy cake, almost brownie-like in texture, and keeps well for up to a week in an air-tight tin, actually getting better after a few days.
Other than the fact that it requires a few different bowls when making the recipe, it is straightfoward, and as it doesn't contain flour it's also a good gluten free cake. Apart from the butter in the ganache, the recipe is dairy free too, so it could easily be adapted if needed.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 23cm cake tin with the butter and line with greaseproof paper.
Melt the 200g of dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Separate 5 eggs into two separate bowls. Whisk the 5 egg yolks with the remaining whole egg and the caster sugar until it has a thick and creamy texture.
Add the ground almonds, coffee and melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture and combine thoroughly.
Whisk the 5 egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until well mixed and pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. After the cake has been baking for 40 minutes, cover the top of the cake with a layer of foil to ensure the top doesn't burn.
Release the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Melt the apricot jam in a small pan and brush over the top and sides of the cake.
Melt the remaining 100g of dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. When it has melted add the butter to the bowl and stir until combined. The icing should have a thick, pouring consistency.
Pour the icing over the cake, smoothing over the top and sides. Use the back of a teaspoon to make a pattern of rings over the top of the cake and then leave the icing to set. If you are feeling particularly creative you can dig out the icing bag and pipe sachertorte over the top too!