This is one of my go-to recipes when I need to make a cake in a hurry, particularly if I am visiting friends and am in charge of dessert. I promise it will never fail to impress. It is the recipe for the first cheesecake I ever tasted, baked by my mother’s sister, zi’ Anna (auntie Anna). Whenever we were invited to my aunt’s I would look forward to this being one of the many sweets we would be offered. She was given the recipe by a Jewish neighbour of hers back in the 1960's. My aunt is an amazing cook, and it’s no wonder her son, who trained as a science teacher, decided instead to become a chef and opened his own restaurant.
I have copied this recipe from my mother’s book. It came with no instructions so I will tell you what I do.
For the pastry:
1 ½ cups of self raising flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter
Use a magimix to rub the butter into the flour and sugar, being careful not to overblend. Transfer to a big bowl, make a well in the centre, add the beaten egg and as much chilled water as is necessary to make the dough come together. Keep it in the fridge for a while.
For the cheesecake:
2/3 cup sugar
375 g. tub of ricotta
lemon peel of I large lemon
pinch of salt
2 tbsps. cream
2 tbsps self raising flour
I have made this in two very different ways and it has worked out both times! The first time I happened to put all the ingredients into the blender until I was scared I had overdone it! The next time I beat the eggs with the sugar before mixing in the other ingredients. I would advise folding in the flour.
Unlike regular short pastry, this pastry doesn’t seem to get very hard so that makes it very fragile to handle. It is best to use plastic film on top and below the pastry to roll it out. After years of simply using flour to help roll it I wonder what took me so long…. Roll to about half a centimetre thick, or until you have enough to line your baking pan with it. I like to use a rectangular pan but my aunt always uses a loaf tin. Cover your pan with baking paper, then the pastry. Pour in the ricotta mixture and then bake it in a moderate oven until the pastry is golden and the filling has set. This will take about half an hour. When it has cooled, take it out of the pan and sift liberally with icing sugar.
You can add lots of things to this base recipe. I usually add sultanas which have been soaked in brandy or rum.
I have even folded about a half a cup of frozen blueberries through the ricotta mixture on one occasion. I keep a bag of these in the freezer as they always come in handy.
When I am not busy sewing down at our island retreat, I love spending time in my organic edible garden or in the kitchen.