Um, really? It's almost March already? Yeesh.
Let's not even go there on what that means for my book deadlines... the important thing is that I only have a couple more days to write a Valentine's Day post and have it be remotely relevant! So here we go.
Now, the bf and I don't really go in for big Vday hooplah. Last year we tried to have a low-key set lunch at a nearby restaurant, but it turned out to be overpriced and awful (swordfish carpaccio with strawberry mush? No, thanks). In general, my opinion is that February 14 is just an excuse for restaurants to serve sub-par set menus for astronomical prices; it's a total racket.
That doesn't mean we don't celebrate Valentine's Day, though. It just means we tend to celebrate on off days, and in off ways– I figure it's an arbitrary date anyway, so why not pick our own time to appreciate our relationship? This year we opted for a delicious meal out at our favorite London restaurant on the Saturday night before the 'official' day, and then I cooked a nice dinner on Monday night. After work... and a mad scramble for a skillet and some champagne... in the midst of all the latecomer men scrounging for last-minute roses (I got tulips, because my bf knows how I feel about long-stemmed red roses!).
Anyway, I managed it, just. Luckily I'd made the cheesecake the day before, and amazingly it turned out perfectly! And so on the night itself I only had to make the Shakshuka...and thank goodness it was the only thing on my plate. I may have burned the onions while chopping the garlic, and I may have almost set the smoke alarm off when I added the tomatoes, and I may even have almost forgotten the bread in the oven to burn to cinders, but in the end I pulled it all out of the bag.
The Shakshuka was delicious: tomato-y and rich and just spicy enough (well, for me... the bf could probably have handled another jalapeño). But the kicker for me was definitely the cheesecake. My first ever cheesecake, and it had a lovely texture and a rich, indulgent flavor, and it didn't crack at all!
I served it with a big dollop of lemon curd– storebought, because I'm just barely too lazy to make my own– and it was deeeelish, if I do say so myself. But boy was there a lot of it... I took a huge hunk in to work on Monday, and then brought another slab to my friend Magda on Tuesday, and we still had enough for dessert three nights in a row! I guess that's what 900g of cream cheese gets you...
All in all, it was a lovely, (mostly) laid-back Valentine's with my guy. There were no presents exchanged, just lovey cards and goofy looks and lots and lots of cheesecake. Just as it should be, as far as I'm concerned!
Note: The Shakshuka I made exactly as Deb suggested, so I'll direct you here if you'd like to give it a go. The cheesecake, though, I made according to the recipe, but with a bunch of amendments from the comments on Allrecipes, so I've written that method up below.
New York Cheesecake
Adapted from Allrecipes
*Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature before you begin!
Preheat oven to 350F/175C, and grease the bottom and sides (really well) of a 9in springform pan.
In a medium bowl, mix:
15 graham crackers (or Digestives)
2 Tbsp (30g) melted butter
Press onto the bottom of the pan, and up the sides a bit if you like. Pre-bake crust for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
While crust cools, mix together in a large bowl:
32oz (900g) plain cream cheese
1.5c (300g) sugar
Beat until smooth, then blend in (carefully– don't overbeat):
Then, one at a time, mix in (just enough to incorporate):
1c (230g) sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4c (30g) flour
Stir or whisk until smooth, and pour onto cooled crust. Wrap the pan well in two layers of heavy-duty foil, making sure there are no open spaces, then set the pan in a large roasting pan and pour boiling water around the springform, until the water reaches 1-2 inches up the sides (be sure not to let the water come up over the foil seal).
Bake 1 hour, then turn the oven off and let the cake cool completely with the door closed, 5-6 hours. Chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
*Apparently it's blasphemy to use lower fat ingredients in cheesecake, but I used lowfat cream cheese, semi-skimmed milk, and half-fat sour cream and my cake was perfectly rich and creamy!