belinda jeffery's recipes
My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.
little ricotta cheesecakes with summer fruits and raspberry sauce
These pretty little cheesecakes are my stand-by recipe in summer as they take very little time to make, they don’t need cooking (hooray in summer’s heat!) and they look and taste so light, fresh and beautiful. I wasn’t quite sure what to mould them in to shape them and ended up buying inexpensive plastic picnic tumblers which I cut around the middle just over half way down, and then used the tops (so I had two open ends) to mould the cheesecakes. You will also need some clean muslin to line the moulds
Although I’ve served these with berries, lychees and peaches, as you can imagine they go beautifully with all sorts of fruits – mango, yellow peaches and passionfruit are wonderful, as are poached cherries. By the way, the raspberry sauce isn’t vital, but if you have the time to prepare it, it does make the cheesecakes extra-special.
300g crème fraiche or sour cream
60g caster sugar
2 packed tablespoons finely grated lemon (or mandarin) zest
120g cream cheese, in chunks, at cool room temperature
360g firm, dry-ish ricotta (not the creamed ricotta that is sold in small tubs), broken up
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 just-ripe white or yellow peaches
18 lychees, peeled and stones removed
About 300g berries (I used raspberries, blackberries and red currants in the photograph), to serve
Raspberry sauce, to serve, optional (recipe follows)
Put the crème fraiche (or sour cream), sugar and lemon zest into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar then heat the mixture gently until it’s hot but not boiling. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave the mixture to infuse. Once it’s cool, transfer it to a container, cover it tightly, and chill it in the fridge. (If you have the time, you can leave this overnight – the flavour only gets better if you do.)
Once the lemon cream is cool, pour it through a fine sieve into a bowl, pushing down on the zest with the back of a spoon to extract as much cream as possible. (If you’ve left the mixture overnight it will be quite thick, however if you work it with the spoon it will go through the sieve easily.) Cover the bowl and pop the cream back into the fridge until you need it.
Put a wire rack on a flat plate and sit 6 ring moulds on top. (If you’ve made the moulds from plastic cups, one end will be slightly smaller than the other – sit this end on the rack so the moulds widen towards the top.)
Cut 6 x 20cm (roughly) squares of muslin. Rinse the squares under cold water then squeeze out the excess. Use the squares to line the moulds as best you can, leaving an overhang all around. Don’t worry that the muslin doesn’t stick to the moulds much; the cheesecake mixture will weigh it down eventually.
Puree the cream cheese, ricotta and vanilla in a food processor, stopping and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the mixture is as smooth as possible. You’ll find this will take a while as the ricotta is quite grainy. When it’s ready, scrape the mixture into a large bowl.
Now, gently whip the chilled lemon cream until it forms soft peaks. Mix a little into the ricotta mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest.
Divide the ricotta mixture evenly between the moulds, then draw up the muslin overhang and twist it tightly (you can tie it with twine if you like) to help compress the cheesecakes. Cover the whole lot with plastic film, then sit the plate in the fridge and leave the cheesecakes to firm up overnight – just a little moisture will come out of them as they sit. At this stage, make the raspberry sauce (recipe follows) and chill it until you need it.
I usually take the cheesecakes out of the fridge 20 minutes or so before serving them to warm them up just a bit so the texture is lighter. And while they’re warming up, I get the fruit ready.
When you’re ready to serve the cheesecakes, open out the muslin, slide a wide palette knife under each one and invert them onto serving plates – they’re quite hardy at this stage so they’re easy to handle. Carefully lift off the moulds and muslin then top them with the fruit, letting it tumble down onto the plate. Serve them straight away with a jug of raspberry sauce.
80g castor sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) cool water
225g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
For the sauce, make a syrup from the sugar and water by putting them into a small saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat a little so the syrup bubbles steadily, then leave it to cook for 4 minutes. Remove it from the heat, let it cool in the saucepan, then pour it into a container, seal it tightly, and chill it.
Once it’s cold, pour the syrup into a blender along with the raspberries and puree them together (or if you have one, use a stick blender to puree the two together). Now comes about the only bit of hard work in this recipe, and that’s straining the puree to remove the seeds (I know this sounds a bit of a pain, however I hate getting seeds stuck in my teeth, so I always do it – at least it gives your arm a good work-out!). Sit a fine sieve over a bowl and pour the puree into it, work the mixture with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the pulp and liquid as possible – remember to scrape the bottom of the sieve as a surprising amount of puree can stick to it. When it’s done, scrape the puree into a small container, cover it tightly and store it in the fridge (you can make this a few days ahead of time if you like).
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© Copyright Belinda Jeffery 2014. This recipe and photograph are protected by copyright laws and written permission from the author must be obtained to re-use them in any form of media.