In a little corner of Suffolk, on the edge of the River Deben, there’s a beautiful cottage called The Manor House. It’s a house that I spent a lot of time in growing up and thankfully its owner, Penelope, is as averse to change as I am. I went back recently to visit my father and Penelope for a weekend and was transported right back to my childhood. The faded green sofas were a little more faded, the jetty onto the river a little more rickety but otherwise it was blissfully unchanged. The overflowing children’s library had me overdosing on nostalgia as I rediscovered Ant and Bee and Robert The Rose Horse – two of my all time favorite books. For those of you with young children, I urge you all to buy copies!
So while Penelope gardened and my father napped, I walked along the river and felt that release of being close to water and out of the big city. I thought back to the weekends we had here and wondered how everyone used to fit – there seemed to always be at least 15 children and adults squeezed around the table. All of us scrambling for the bench by the window as that meant we didn’t have to clear up; a rule that still exists today. I had a flashback to a cheesecake we often ate and Penelope, an amazing cook, kindly dug out the recipe so we could recreate it.
I was so happy to see that it came from a Cordon Bleu Cookery Course indulging my recent obsession with retro foods. I was a little concerned my love for this recipe was based on sentimentality so I remade it back in New York and served it to Kate who proclaimed it her new favorite desert and asked for the recipe. I think it’s a keeper and like all classics, has stood the test of time.
12 oz cream cheese
12 digestive biscuits (if you can’t find them, graham crackers will work fine and you’d use approximately 2 cups crumbled)
2 oz butter
4 oz sugar, divided
3 egg whites (you can use the remaining egg yolks to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara)
1 dessert spoon gelatine (I used one packet)
2-3 drops of vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup heavy cream
1. Butter the inside of a 8″ springform pan and set aside.
2. Crush the biscuits in a large bowl.
3. Melt the butter and combine with crushed biscuits and 1 oz of the sugar. Divide the mixture in half and press the first half down firmly into the bottom of the springform pan.
4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Use an electric mixer if you have one.
6. In a small bowl, mix the gelatine according to packet instructions. If no instructions, dissolve in a 1/4 cup of boiling water until completely clear.
7. Beat the dissolved gelatine into the cream cheese mixture and add in vanilla extract and lemon zest.
8. In a medium bowl whip the heavy cream lightly. Fold the heavy cream and egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
9. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan, smooth the top and cover with the remaining crushed digestives. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least an hour and serve chilled with fresh berries.