Speculaas Cheesecake : Recipe Advent Calendar 22nd

Speculaas, Spekulatius or Spéculoos, depending on where you are from in Europe, are traditional spiced biscuits made to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas at the beginning of December. They are made with a specific set of spices (known as Speculaas Spices) which bring warmth and sweetness to the biscuit.

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I love the combination of cream and ginger and spice, so here’s a lovely dessert that’ll be a simple yet elegant showstopper at any seasonal feast.

Speculaas Cheesecake

  • 200g Ginger biscuits
  • 1tsp Cinnamon (ground)
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg (ground)
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves (ground)
  • 1/8 Tsp ground or 1 fat pod Cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp White pepper (ground)
  • 75g Butter
  • 400g Cream Cheese
  • 300g Mascarpone
  • 200g Icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Take your ginger biscuits, and break down in to crumbs. It is easiest to do this in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin. Wrap the bag in a tea towel first to prevent the bag splitting.

Melt the butter in a pan, and add your Speculaas spices and mix in. Then add the biscuit crumbs and mix through thoroughly until the mixture is uniform. This mixture will be your base.

Press the crumbs into the base of a greased 9inch springform or loose bottomed tin to form the base of the cheesecake. Pop it in the fridge to cool and set.

In a mixer, or with a handheld electric whisk, combine the cheese and mascarpone. Whip until light and aerated.

Sieve your icing sugar and whip into the cheese mix bit by bit. Finally, add your vanilla and do the same until you have a fully combined, fluffy mix.

Spoon your mix into the tin on top of the crumb base and gently spread out, smoothing the top with a spatula or palette knife. Set in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Are you going to make this treat soon? Be sure to tell me how you got on!

Enjoy!

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The hostess with the most-ess in minutes.

In an ideal world, all of us would have a good couple of days to prepare for a party. Cleaning,  sprucing and catering for even modest do’s can be time and energy consuming, not to mention getting yourself ready to fabulously and ferociously show your nearest and dearest a good time. Of course, we live in the real world whether we like it or not: the work days are long, nothing ever goes quite to plan and nobody is perfect. Being far shy of divinity in the domestic department myself, I generally greet my first guests in my pajamas, with wet hair, brandishing brooms for them to do the final spot cleaning.

When you are out of the house as much as I am, you want preparations for any event to be as easy as pie. I’m a messy creature, and don’t have much time in the week for tidying, so this has to be my priority when it comes to party prep. Unless I stayed up all night, I’d never get all the food I planned done… unless I lower my goals to quick but classy party food that no one can resist. Your guests are wowed and well fed, and you haven’t been slaving away preparing it when you could have been doing your nails or trying hoover up all the catfluff that has, somehow, become attached to the ceiling light.

Having just held a party, here are 5 easy ‘recipes’ to make your life, well, easier.

1) Pre-purchased snacks

Popcorns, crackers, chips, gourmet crisps… they’re fairly inexpensive, can be bought in a variety of great flavours and can be moved from kitchen to table in seconds. Even popcorn made from scratch at home is the work of minutes. Little bowls of salt and vinegar are the bomb at kiddy parties. For grown up do’s, a couple of pounds more spent can buy you some real gems, and it isn’t cheating- selecting the perfect snacks for your guests means almost as much as whipping something up at home. Buy things you know your guests like, and if in doubt… Japanese rice crackers and wasabi peas, flavoured popcorns, ‘posh’ crisps and chips help the cocktails go down.

2) Canapés

Grab some of the following:

  • smoked salmon
  • sliced roast beef
  • cream cheese
  • blinis and/or brown bread
  • black pepper
  • dill

Pop your blinis in the oven at 180 for about 4 minutes, or toast your bread as usual. Cut your bread slices into triangles or rounds, and slather them and/or the blinis with cream cheese.

Top with smoke salmon and a spring of dill, black pepper and beef or just black pepper and serve warm or cold. Yum.

3) Olives

Love them or hate them, olives are a classy addition to a nibbles bar. I like black olives, but pick up whatever you like, either chilled, jarred or canned. Drain them and serve with generous chunks of feta, and cocktail sticks. It’s like cheese and pinapple for grown ups- tactile and special. For extra drool-worthyness, dress them with a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

4) Super-quick baking

Palmiers sound posh, look clever, cost little and taste great. Buy pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry, slather them with a filling, roll up and cut into little rounds, and bake until puffed up and browned. Try these fillings:

  • Tomato(passata, puree or otherwise), basil and black pepper (also good with cheese)
  • Parmesan and Italian style herbs
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Tapenade
  • Pesto
  • Cinnamon (1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 50g each sugar and butter)
  • Sundried Tomato and Feta

5) Crudités, or presentation, presentation, presentation.

A few shards of carrot and cucumber in a tumbler, next to a tub of dip is, well, a bit sad IMHO. Even when you’re pressed for time, a healthy crunchy snack that looks voluptuous and lush is moments away.

Buy or make dips- whichever you like. Hummus, salsa, guacamole and cream dips are always good bets. Decant them into pretty bowls or dishes if you want your spread to look more home made, and set out.

Next on your shopping list, get your veg:

  • cucumber
  • tomatoes- piccolo and little cherry yellow and orange ones are perfect.
  • Peppers- any colour
  • Celery hearts
  • anything else you like to dip- bread sticks might not be veg, but I tend to grab some too!

Start with a large decorative plate. Trim the celery and cut each stem into three, and use to section out the plate like a clock. Build up waves of colour with piles of sliced peppers and cucumber, and in the centre and sprawling out organically, pile the tomatoes. I try to get some on the vine for extra prettiness and freshness.

It’s a simple concept, but easy to glam up with presentation, and it’s great for making people feel good with the fresh, healthy crunch of nice veg slathered in naughty dips.

 

I hope that’s given you some ideas for your next party. Some if not all of these, make excellent pick me up snacks in their own right!

Until next time, then…

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Monday Night Gnocchi

Every monday night I have a dinner date with the lovely Miss Jo. We catch up, watch our stories and nosh on some pretty good grub, seeing as Jo is quite a cook. A couple of weeks ago she made this delicious gnocchi dish that hit all my sweet spots, and I’ve been itching to have a go ever since. This is my version; a no fuss, super quick, super easy yet satisfying and wholesome after work meal.

Monday Night Gnocchi

Serves 2

Photoset can be found here

250g Gnocchi

½ white onion

1 small courgette

4-5 chestnut mushrooms

½ tsp chilli powder

a couple of handfuls of spinach

1 tub cream cheese (I used one with herbs)

lemon juice

Parmesan

  • Season your pan with olive oil, cracked black pepper and sea salt.
  • Chop your vegetables fairly finely and fry off.
  • Meanwhile, pop your gnocchi into a pan of boiling water. When they float to the surface, they’re done! Drain most of the cooking water and set aside.
  • Once the vegetables are fried, add your chilli powder and spinach to the pan. Stir gently until the spinach has wilted down. Turn off the heat.
  • Add the gnocchi to the pan and stir through, before pouring the whole lot into an overproof dish.
  • Thin the cheese in a bowl by beating with the lemon juice and reserved cooking water. Add to the ovenproof dish and stir through until mix is combined.
  • Grate Parmesan over the dish and pop under a hot grill for 10-20 minutes until golden.
  • Serve with a rocket salad, and gleefully stuff your chops.

Monday Night Gnocchi

Hubba hubba, I spy supper!