Friday, February 20, 2009
Cooking with the Inept Balcony Gardener: Deconstructed Pear Cheesecake in a Lemon/Lime basil reduction
Tonight will be the first ever Balcony Garden Dinner Party. I aim to use produce from the balcony in a delectable three course meal sort of way. This is also a post about what happens when they let the inept balcony gardener loose in the kitchen! Ok so I did work as a cook for a year or so in the UK, and have always had a love of all things culinary, so in smart dinner party planner style I decided to start the 'never cooked it before and have no single recipe' dessert a day before. Was probably lucky I did.
If it were to adorn the menu at an upmarket Australian restaurant I think the entry would go a little something like this:
Deconstructed, Gluten-Free Pear Cheesecake - Vanilla Bean Poached Pears, stuffed with a crisp lemon cheesecake, adorned with a mixed nut crumble and served with buttery vanilla icecream and a lemon thyme/lime basil reduction
Sounds posh enough, and it should be a show stopper. However I didn't really find a recipe for it, all I did was blend a poached pear recipe, a no cook cheese cake recipe, my usual nut crumble (gluten free of course) and then played with the poaching liquid, adding flourishes from the balcony garden. Such a treat! Wanna walk through it with me?
Core and peel the pears, I used 10 pears and bought an apple corer just for the occasion (the gourmet apple corer at that, a whole dollar more expensive) Unfortunately I was a bit vigorous and managed to bend the apple corer, making the task even more difficult. But really, who needs to go to the gym when you can core pears, this was a reallllll work out.
Eventually all 10 pears were naked and soaking in lemon juice water, didn't want them to oxidize now did I!!!
Now to create a poaching liquid. For 10 pears it was 5 cups of sugar to 15 cups of water. Very sweeeeetttttt. I added some lemon basil, lemon thyme and lime basil at this stage, and a seeded vanilla bean.
Simmered for 10 minutes or so, then popped in the pears. Covered and simmered for a further 25 minutes and hey presto, 10 vanilla poached pears!
Now to make the cheesecake filling. This was easy, I simply blended cream cheese, condensed milk, some lemon juice, and whatever I could scrape out of the vanilla beans that were in the poaching mix.
Add the mix to the centre of the pears. Probably should have put some gelatin in because the mix, unfortunately, did not set well!
Fix the problems like Macgyver - make it a semifredo cheesecake instead - and pop the lot into the freezer.
I don't have any photos of this yet, mostly because I haven't made it yet! Thought I might serve the crumble straight out of the oven for a little bit of heat to the dish. To make the crumble is easy. Rub together some hazelnut meal, some crumbled nuts of your choice (I am going with walnuts this time), some butter or margarine, a dash of vanilla extract and some brown sugar. Exact measures? Can't help you there, but it should still be a relatively dry mix and certainly not all stuck together like dough. sprinkle it on an oven tray, pop it in the oven on a moderate heat for about 5 minutes - et voila - instant gluten free crumble!
Make the sauce. I just threw some of the poaching liquid into a pan, added some more lemon basil, lime basil and lemon thyme and a smidge more of the vanilla bean.
Then bubbled away for a while and reduced it by half. Once it starts to boil up (and in my case over) you know it is ready.
Make the buttery vanilla icecream - for this I got in my car, went to the shop, and purchased it! Alas no icecream machine at my place yet, but one day maybe ...
So there you have it. Tonight my dinner guests for the first ever Inept Balcony Garden Dinner Party will be desserting on this crafty little number. Will let you know how it (and the rest of the dinner party goes) once the hangover wears off.