This cheesecake has to be my all time favourite cheesecake and will impress your guests and make them beg for seconds. It takes a bit of time but is actually easy to make and requires no baking.
Chocolatey Pear And Amaretto Cheesecake
This decadent and somewhat exotic cheesecake is like no other and is suitable for the highest level of gourmet entertaining. The ingredients are fairly common but also easily substituted. The fact that it does not require any baking might be a welcome change too.
- 2 Pears large, ripe, preferably Bosc
- 50 g Sugar Super Fine or Caster
- 100 ml Water
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- 150 g Graham Cracker Crumbs see notes
- 50 g Butter unsalted
- 4 tbsp Nutella see notes
- 300 g Cream Cheese Philadelphia type
- 125 g Sugar Super Fine or Caster
- 550 ml Whipping Cream 35%
- 3 tbsp Amaretto Liqueur e.g. Disaronno
- 100 g Amaretti Biscuits see notes
- 60 g Chocolate Dark or Semi Sweet
- 1 tbsp Icing Sugar
Peal and quarter pears
Core the quarters
Slice quarters in half lengthwise to end up with ⅛ slices
Chop the slices into 4-5 mm chunks
In a small saucepan dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat
Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into a large bowl
Cut the pod halves in two and add to the sugar syrup simmering 5 minutes to infuse
Remove the vanilla pod pieces and add the pears
Simmer for 10 minutes
Strain, set aside and let pears cool off
Add Graham Cracker Crumbs to a medium sized bowl
In a small sauce pan melt the butter
Add the Nutella and stir to dissolve
Add this mixture to the Graham Cracker Crumbs and mix really well
Tip this mix into the spring form and distribute evenly over the bottom pressing it down firmly
Place in refrigerator for 45 minutes
Crush the Amaretti Bisquits using a rolling pin until you get crumbs about the size of Panko crumbs
Add the cream cheese to the bowl with the vanilla seeds
Add the sugar
Using a hand mixer or a whisk beat the mixture until evenly mixed and creamy
Slowly add 450 ml of the cream while continuing to mix
Add the Amaretto liqueur
Continue to beat the mixture at an increased speed until you get a soft peaks consistency
Fold in the Amaretti crumbs and the poached pear chunks
Remove the spring form from the fridge
Ladle the filling over the cake bottom and level the surface
Chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes until well set
Pour the remaining 50 ml of cream over top in a thin layer
Chill again for a minimum of 30 minutes
Unmold the cake by running a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake and pop off the spring form rim
Use a palette or pastry knife slid under the cake and transfer to a suitable flat serving plate or cake bell
Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl (see notes)
Spread the chocolate in a thin, even layer over a smooth surface such as a marble slab, Corian type countertop or the underside of a clean baking sheet
Let cool off until set
Using a sharp knife held at an angle of about 25° and working quickly, draw it across the surface to shave the chocolate into good sized curls
Arrange the chocolate curls on top of the cake
Finish this masterpiece by dusting it with icing sugar
Instead of using Graham Cracker Crumbs you can also use digestive biscuits turned into fine crumbs using a blender or food processor.
Nutella can be substituted with any other chocolate spread especially if you have allergies to nuts.
If you can’t find Amaretti biscuits in your local supermarket just make your own a day ahead (See my recipe here).
Melting chocolate the traditional way over a hot water bath has never worked well for me so I use the microwave as follows (adjust process according to how powerful your microwave is – my current one is not):
Times given in this recipe are only approximate and the total time needed depends on how well you are organized or how good you are at multitasking as you can overlap some processes and have them going simultaneously.
- Blast chocolate at full power for 30 seconds
- Let sit for 60 seconds
- Test chocolate with a clean wooden or silicone spatula
- If you can easily stir the chocolate, you’re done. If not, repeat the process until you can
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found in Gordon Ramseys book “Christmas with Gordon”.
Most meatloaf recipes are pretty much the same and while perfectly good and satisfying, I always felt they lack imagination and are missing out on flavour. That said, there are typically two ingredients in conventional meatloaf recipes that I actually profoundly dislike. One is Ketchup and the other is Worcestershire Sauce. So here is a recipe that substitutes those two components with ingredients that I believe make for a better meat loaf. But there is more to it than just that, so…
Proscuitto Wrapped Meatloaf
Take your same old boring meatloaf to the next level with this recipe and you will never go back to you the one your Grandma has handed down to you.
- 1 kg Ground beef regular or lean but not extra lean
- 8-10 slices Proscuitto
- 250 ml Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Onion large
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives pitted and chopped
- 2 Eggs large
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled, germ removed, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp BBQ sauce *see notes
- ½ tin Tomato paste
- 3 sprigs Thyme fresh, leafs only, *see notes
- 1 sprig Rosemary fresh, leafs only, chopped, *see notes
- 1 tsp Basil dried
- 1 tsp Parsley dried
- 3 tsp Beef bullion powder or 2 cubes crumbled
- 1 tsp Black pepper
- 1 tin Tomato past about ¼ cup
- 1 tbsp Honey e.g. wildflour
- 3 tbsp Water warm
- 2 tsp Soy sauce
- 1 tsp Hot sauce optional
Add Panko to a large bowl
Chop onion into chunks and purée in a blender
Add onion purée to Panko and mix well
Add all dry ingredients and mix well
Add remaining ingredients and mix well using your hands
Form mixture into a loaf
On a clean surface or cutting board lay out proscuitto in two overlapping rows of 4 slices and place loaf at one end
Start rolling the loaf across the proscuitto. It shoud pick up the proscuitto but you may have to coax it along to adhere to the loaf
If necessary, use two more slices of proscuitto to cover the ends of the log
Transfer the loaf into the prepared loaf tin or baking dish
Brush ½ the glaze generously over the loaf
Bake the loaf for 45 minutes
Remove from oven and brush it with most of the remaing glaze
Bake the loaf for an additional 30 minutes
Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes
Turn out, brush remaining glaze over top and carve into slices about 20 to 25 mm thick
Serve with your favorite sides and gravy (Shown here wth Hasselback potato and green beans)
I use Bulls Eye Hickory BBQ sauce. It’s a staple in my house. Feel free to substitute with your favorite flavour, e.g. Chipotle, Guiness etc.
If fresh herbs are not available, substitute dry ones except for rosemary. Dried rosemary will not soften enough to integrate well into the finished loaf.
The aromas that fill the kitchen and house when you are roasting potatoes and carrots infused with balsamic vinegar and combined with herbs like thyme and rosemary, will leave you salivating in anticipation of the finished dish.
Balsamic Roasted Potatoes And Carrots
Roasting potatoes and carrots infused with aromas of balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic makes for a wonderfully aromatic side dish to serve with pretty much any cool weather main dish.
- 1.5 kg baby mixed colour potatoes cut in half
- 500 g carrots peeled baby or baby cut
- 8 cloves garlic peeled, germ removed and smashed
- 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- 75 ml balsamic vinegar
- 50 ml butter melted
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme (2 ml dried)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (see notes)
- 5 ml salt
- 2 ml pepper freshly ground
Preheat oven to 220°C
Line a large baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil
Arrange potatoes, carrots, shallots and garlic in a single layer on sheet
Combine the balsamic vinegar, melted butter, dried thyme, (if using), salt and pepper
Pour over vegetables and toss to coat
If fresh thyme and rosemary is used, insert the sprigs among the veggies
Cover the sheet with aluminum foil sealing the edges
Roast covered for 45 minutes giving it a good shake every now and then
Remove foil and roast for an additional 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally until potatoes and carrots are tender and golden
Remove any remaining sprigs or stems of the fresh thyme and rosemary (if using) before serving
I do not recommend using dried rosemary in this recipe as the needles will not soften sufficiently to make for a pleasant eating experience.
We tend to associate this kind of salad with Spring and Summer. It can however make for a nice treat in any season.
Mixed Green Salad with Smoked Salmon and Crostini
A flavourful salad that can be served at any time of the year.
- 4 cups Mixed Greens e.g. Mesclun
- 6 slices Smoked Salmon
- 12 pieces Crostini store bought or home made
- 1 tbsp Capers
- 10 g Parmesan for garnish shaved
- 4 tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard course grained
- 1/2 tsp Basil dried
- 1/2 tsp Tarragon dried
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small bowl and mix thoroughly
Divide and arrange salad greens between six salad plates
Add a dab or two of cream cheese on each crostini and add to plate
On each plate top salad with an artistically arranged slice of smoked salmon
Place a few capers on each slice of smoked salmon
Spoon vinaigrette over each salad including salmon
Grind a few twists of black pepper over each salad
Garnish with a few shavings of Parmesan and serve
When fresh herbs are available use these in place of dried
If fresh parsley is available add a few leaves as additional garnish
Truite Amandine or Trout Fillets with Almonds is a fairly regular dish in our house. It’s easy to make, light fare, looks and tastes great and lends itself as everyday dinner as well as for entertaining.I typically use whole almonds and slice them myself. I like having a bit of skin on the almonds for colour as opposed to using store bought ones that are just plain white.
Trout Fillets Amandine aka “Truite Amandine”
The recipe below is for 2-3 people, depending on the size of the fillet. Use 2 fillets if you are feeding more or if the fillets are small, use one per person.Make sure you serve a nice glass of white to go with that. I might suggest a Riesling of Cabinet quality.
- 1 large trout fillet 250 g (8 oz), skin on
- 1 shallot finely sliced into rings
- 6 almonds roasted and sliced or a small hand full if store bought sliced
- 1 sprig of fresh dill or 1/2 tsp of dried parsely or thyme make suitable substitutes, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat you stove to 180°C (350°F)
Thoroughly wash the fillet in cold water, then pat dry
Prepare a piece or pieces of aluminum foil large enough to hold the fillet and butter them so the fillet doesn't stick
Place the fillet on the foil skin down
Dowse fillet with lemon juice to your taste
Sprinkle dill over fillets
Spread shallots over fillet
Distribute almonds over fillet
Add some salt and pepper to your liking
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (adjust time to your oven and your liking)
Finish on broil for 2 minutes or until you get a nice looking colour 🙂
Serve immediately with sides of your choice, e.g. rice, asparagus or what ever green is in your fridge
Beef Wellington is one of those dishes that is hard to beat as a classy dinner such as Christmas, New Years, Anniversaries or other special occasions. It’s got the wow factor. It looks great, tastes great and is loved by all. It may be expensive because we are using one of the most expensive cuts of beef and it may not be the easiest to make but when the occasion calls for it, it’s all worth it. So let’s get to it. A few things to note. You may need to order the meat ahead from your butcher. If you can’t find ready made cooked walnuts, skip them or substitute with cashews or pine nuts. If anyone in the dinner party is allergic to nuts, skip them altogether or substitute with shallots. For the mushroom Duxelles, I use cremini. You also can use portobello mushrooms or then white button mushrooms if you prefer a more subtle taste.
Classy Beef Wellington
Classic Beef Wellington Recipe
- 450 g (1 lb) cremini mushrooms
- 100 g (3.5 oz) cooked chestnuts
- 2-4 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves only
- 900 g (2 lb) piece beef tenderloin fillet, centre cut, trimmed
- Salt coarse, kosher, sea
- Pepper fresh, ground
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 8-12 slices of prosciutto
- 500 g (1 lb) puff pastry, all butter, ready made
- flour to dust
- 2 egg yolks lightly beaten with 1tbsp water (egg wash)
If tenderloin is tied, leave tied. If not, tie with butcher string in 4 places to hold its shape while searing.
Season with salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in large frying pan to high heat, add fillet and quickly sear on all sides including ends until evenly browned. Transfer to a plate and while still hot, brush with Dijon mustard all over, then set aside to rest.
To make the Duxelles, put the washed and trimmed mushrooms in a food processor. Add chestnuts, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper. Pulse processor until you obtain a finely chopped mixture.
Heat up a large dry frying pan and add the mushrooms. Add the thyme leaves and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, driving off the moisture until most of it has evaporated. Spread out on a tray to cool off.
On a clean surface, roll out a good 50 cm (18 in.) of cling wrap. Place prosciutto on wrap, overlapping each piece in such a way as to form a rectangle that will completely wrap the fillet with the Duxelles and the prosciutto. As an example, a fillet of 8 cm in diameter and of 16 cm in length would need a rectangle of about 20 cm wide by 25 cm long. Don’t skimp here. Make good overlaps in both axis and give a couple of extra cm in both directions and ensure there are no gaps. 2 rows of 4 pieces is usually perfect for a fillet this size.
Season the prosciutto with fresh ground pepper, then spread the Duxelles evenly on top leaving a gap of about 2 – 2.5 cm along the edges.
Place the fillet in the middle of the rectangle.
Grab the cling wrap at the edge in front and slowly start to pull up and wrap it and the prosciutto layer over top of the fillet and keep rolling until you have a nice tight barrel shape making sure no cling wrap gets trapped between the fillet and the prosciutto. Grab the ends of the cling wrap and twist them really tight and secure. Place in refrigerator for 20 min. to let it set up.
Now roll out the pastry dough on a lightly flour dusted surface. Again, make a rectangle large enough to wrap the beef and keeping it about 5 mm thick. Brush lightly with egg wash, unwrap the fillet and place it in the middle of the rectangle. Use your judgement to trim off any extra dough but making sure you have enough. Wrap the pastry around the beef, overlapping the edge along the length of the fillet and pressing to seal. Pinch the dough at the ends to seal and trim as necessary.
Wrap the log tightly in cling wrap, again twisting the end to make a firm log and refrigerate for 10 min. (overnight if making ahead.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (180 convection). Remove the cling wrap from the filet and brush with egg wash. With the back of a small knife, score the pastry lightly in a decorative pattern if you wish (see the image above for an example) and place it on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt, the bake for about 40 min. If the pastry is browning up to quickly, reduce the temperature 5 or 10°C. You should end up with the meat at medium rare. If you or your guests like the meat well done, cook longer.
When done, rest the Wellington for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Cut into thick slices (4 – 5 cm) and serve with your sides of choice.
Recipe loosely based on Gordon Ramsey’s found in this book: