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Best ever cheesecake

This is my best-ever cheesecake. The cooking time looks short, but this works perfectly, giving you a pale, light and softly set centre. It needs to be chilled well before serving so if you can, make it the day before you want to serve it. This is lovely served as is or with fresh berries or ripe fruit.

180g digestive plain sweet biscuits (about 10)
100g butter, melted
900g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
200g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 large free-range eggs, plus 1 yolk
200 ml (3/4 cup) sour cream
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

200ml (3/4 cup) sour cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Grease a 23 cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper. Place the biscuits and melted butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together. Press the mixture into the base of the tin. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated 180C (160C fan-forced) oven for 12 minutes. Allow to cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 200C (180C fan-forced). Place the cream cheese, sugar and flour in a bench-top electric mixer and beat until creamy and well combined. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, and then beat in the sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Beat for 2–3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Pour the mixture onto the cheesecake base and smooth the top. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 120C (110C fan forced) and bake for a further 25 minutes or until just set in the middle. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven. When cool, combine the topping ingredients and spread over the top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. Serves 8

Pistachio cupcakes

Ground pistachios give the cupcakes a lovely pale-green crumb and a sweet, nutty flavour. They are delicious simply dusted with icing sugar, or ice the cakes with lemon icing and decorate with a few extra pistachios.

50g (1/3 cup) unsalted pistachio kernels
125g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, diced and softened at room temperature
finely grated zest 1 small lemon
125g (1 scant cup) self-raising flour, sifted
2 free-range eggs
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan forced 160C). Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper patty cases.

Place the pistachios and caster sugar in a food processor and pulse until ground. Place the butter, caster sugar mixture, lemon zest, flour, eggs and milk into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes, or until just combined.

Spoon the batter evenly into the patty cases and bake for 15–20 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack, then ice with lemon icing and top with a pistachio nut. Makes 12

Lemon icing
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
30g butter, softened
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the sifted icing sugar, butter, 1-2 tbsp boiling water and lemon juice. Beat until smooth, adding more water or lemon juice if needed to give a spreadable consistency. Spread over the cupcakes. Decorate with a few extra whole and chopped pistachios, if desired.

Autumnal fruit and almond cake

You can use fresh or thawed frozen blackberries (or raspberries) for the autumnal cake; they may sink a little, but don’t worry too much as it is all about the taste. Dust the cake with a little icing sugar to serve, if desired. The success of this cake depends on the butter being nice and soft; leave it out of the fridge for about 6-8 hours for it to soften naturally.

 185g butter, softened at room temperature
150g caster sugar
150g (1 heaped cup) self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 free range eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g fresh blackberries
2 tbsp raw or demerera sugar
2 tbsp flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan forced 160C). Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform or loose bottom cake tin.

Dice the butter and place the butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, almonds, eggs milk and vanilla into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes, or until just combined. Fold in the 3/4 of the fruit.

Spoon into tin. Scatter with the remaining fruit, the raw sugar and the almonds. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until firm and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cook in the tin for 10 minutes, before cooling on a wire rack. Serves 8-10

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Chocolate Brownies

The trick with brownies is not to overcook them – the top should feel firm to the touch, but the centre should still be a little soft when you insert a skewer or toothpick. The chocolate will continue to cook slightly for a few minutes after coming out of the oven.

Best ever brownies

300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
300g unsalted butter, chopped
5 free-range eggs
350g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
40g (1/3 cup) cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan forced 160C). Grease a shallow 20 cm x 30 cm baking tin and line with baking paper (leave a little overhanging the two long sides to help remove the brownies from the tin). Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Allow to cool.

Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat for 3–4 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and a pinch of salt and fold in with a large metal spoon until smooth. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until dark brown and the top has formed a crust. It should be firm to the touch but still a bit fudgy. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Makes 15–18

Chocolate Mousse

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Chocolate mousse 

3 free range eggs, separated
200g (6 1/2oz) dark chocolate, chopped
185ml (6fl oz) double cream, lightly whipped
2 tbsp caster sugar

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and gradually add the beaten yolks, mixing until smooth. Fold through the cream and stir until combined.

Whisk the egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and whisk briefly. Fold a little of the egg white mixture into the mousse to slacken it, then quickly and lightly fold in the remainder. Continue mixing until there are no streaks or pockets of egg white.

Spoon the mixture equally into 6 small cups or glasses, cover with cling film and chill until firm.