It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago (or rather – it was when I first started writing this post but a month has now gone by) and the occasion was marked by some lovely gestures from dear friends.
I received this absolutely beautiful bunch of green and white blooms from my gorgeous friend Deneil, filled with freesias, chrysanthemums and lisianthus.
I was so taken with it that I had to get some photos of the florist’s creation.
I was also treated to a delicious homemade birthday lunch at Nicole and Mike’s, which was finished off with a rather spectacular cheesecake topped with cascading stack of popcorn and lashings of salted butterscotch sauce.
Hours of entertainment were also provided by their new Burmese kitten, Morris (a.k.a. Mini Morrie, a.k.a. Morris Minor).
As you can see from the photos he’s an absurdly adorable little guy, full of seemingly boundless energy until the batteries run out and he conks out for a nap wherever he happens to be at the time.
I’ve included the cheesecake recipe here, which is featured in food writer, stylist and journalist Rosie Birkett’s latest cookbook – A Lot on Her Plate.
Rosie is based in Hackney, East London, but travels the world to taste and report on different cuisines, recently specialising in North American cuisine having spent a sabbatical living in Vancouver, British Columbia.
salted butterscotch popcorn cheesecake
from ‘a lot on her plate’ by rosie birkett
1 tbsp flavourless oil generous pinch of sea salt 40g popcorn kernels
cheesecake 200g digestive biscuits small handful of popcorn (from the quantity above) pinch of sea salt 100g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing 500g mascarpone (or cream cheese, if preferred) 100g quark 80g icing sugar, plus extra to taste 100ml double cream
salted butterscotch sauce 1 tsp full cream milk 160ml double cream 145g light muscovado sugar generous pinch of sea salt
First, make the popcorn. Put a large pot with a lid over a medium-high heat and add the oil and salt. Drop in a couple of popcorn kernels and cover the pan with a lid. When the kernels start to pop, add the rest of the corn and cover with the lid. Shake the pan to evenly coat the kernels and leave to heat up, shaking the pan around gently when they starts popping. This will ensure the un-popped kernels get to the heat and the popped ones don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
Set the lid slightly ajar to release some of the steam and make crisper popcorn. Once the popcorn has stopped popping every few seconds, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to one side until all the popping has stopped completely.
Grease a 20 centimetre (7 7⁄8 inch) ) cake tin and line the base and sides with greaseproof paper.
To make the cheesecake base, place the biscuits in a sealed food bag and smash them with a rolling pin into crumbs, or put them in a food processor and grind to coarse crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in a small handful of popcorn and a pinch of sea salt.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and pour it over the crumbs. Mix it all together with a fork and put your mixture into the cake tin. Tap the side of the tin with the flat of your hand to even it out and gently compress the mixture with the back of a large spoon until it’s packed in and level. You want it fairly well packed so that it holds together. Transfer to the fridge to cool.
To make the salted butterscotch sauce, melt the butter, milk, cream, sugar and salt together in a medium non-stick saucepan, and – stirring continuously – bring to the boil. Although it may look super tempting, don’t swipe your finger over the spoon: flesh and boiling sugar don’t mix!
Turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set to one side. If, when it’s cooler, the mixture is stiff, warm it up over the heat with a splash of milk to loosen it. You want it still warm and runny so that you can pour it over the cheesecake.
Put the mascarpone or cream cheese, quark and icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat together until the mixture is well combined. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use an electric hand whisk. Mix until the mixture an even consistency and thickening, then add the cream and continue to whisk. You want a thick consistency but not over-whipped.
Pour in about half the salted butterscotch sauce and fold through the cream cheese mixture to create a ripple effect. Taste and add more butterscotch sauce or salt if you feel it needs it.
Pile the mixture on top of the buttery biscuit base and smooth it down with the back of the spoon or a palette knife. Cover with cling film and chill for at least two hours, then scatter the rest of the popcorn over the top, drizzle with the remaining butterscotch sauce and serve.