Sweet and sticky

 

TASTE:Sesame chicken thighs and a variation of Ottolenghi's toffee cheesecake: pure, delicious evil, writes Domini Kemp.

IF YOU'VE BEEN a dutiful reader, then at this stage you should know all about Ottolenghi, the fab food emporium in London, from Louise East's recent confession to her fetish. I am a big fan, and on a recent visit, I forced reluctant man and child to accompany me to the Kensington branch, straight off the plane from Heathrow. In typical fashion, I dragged them both to the wrong branch, and ended up in the delicatessen rather than the restaurant. I spent about 10 minutes peering inside from the street with my face pressed up against the window, desperately looking for seats and waiters. Alas, all I saw were beautiful food displays and giant cakes, for take-away consumption only.

Determined to taste their wares, I traipsed in and bought loads of cakes and sweet treats, which we munched on the Tube, much to the annoyance of fellow passengers. Anyway, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook rocks and the caramel cheesecake looked so gorgeous we decided to give it a go, skip out a few steps and rename it. The result may not be as fabulous as theirs, but it still tastes great and is easier to make. With regard to the nut topping, we bought salted nuts by mistake. They were perfectly tasty, but the salt police will kill me, so get unsalted ones if you can. Also, we kept eating them while making the cake, so you probably need to use only 200g in the recipe.

The sticky chicken recipe below is our own pure, unadulterated evil, often served at parties we cater. You have been warned.

Toffee and macadamia nut cheesecake

600g cream chees

60ml sour cream

120g caster sugar

Half a vanilla pod (don't worry if you don't have one)

4 eggs, beaten

160g Digestives or Hob-Nobs (about half a packet)

40g butter, melted

Nut topping

250g macadamia nuts

90g sugar

Toffee sauce

65g butter

160g soft brown sugar

100ml cream or crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 1400. In a mixing bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sour cream. Add the sugar and the vanilla seeds. Gradually add the eggs and whisk well. You can do this with an electric beater or a plain old whisk.

Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or whizz in a food processor until they've turned into coarse crumbs. Add the melted butter and mix well.

Press the crumbs into the base of a 25cm (ish) spring-back cake tin and make an even layer of biscuit base. Place the cake-tin on a baking tray, so that it's easy to put in the oven and to stop any leakage. Pour the liquid cream cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base and place the tray in the oven and cook for about an hour. It should feel pretty solid and shouldn't wobble.

While the cheesecake is cooking, put the nuts on another baking tray and cook in the oven at the same temperature for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Place in a bowl, add the sugar and vaguely crush with the end of a rolling pin. Rustic is the word.

Then make the toffee sauce. Melt the butter and sugar over a gentle heat in a non-stick saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved, mix in the cream, or crème fraiche. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When you're ready to serve, unclip the side of the tin and leave it off. I wouldn't bother trying to get it off the cake-tin base, as you can hardly see it if you serve it on a nice plate. Top with the nuts, drizzle over the toffee sauce and dig in.

Makes one cheesecake, which would easily serve eight.

Sticky sesame chicken

1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil

8 chicken thigh fillets, skin removed

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

Black pepper

50g butter

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

100g brown sugar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

Small handful sesame seeds

You can make this with drumsticks or chicken breasts, if you like. It's best to remove the skin. Allow one large or two small thighs per person.

Preheat oven to 2000. There is no subtle way to remove the skin from chicken thighs. Just find a gap and gently rip it off.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken really well on all sides. Chuck in the garlic just before you transfer the chook to a casserole/ovenproof dish. Season with loads of black pepper.

Heat the butter in a small non-stick saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk well and pour the sauce over the chicken. It may seem like you don't have much sauce, but it'll get quite liquidey when it cooks.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and sticky. You can turn the chicken pieces over about halfway through cooking and baste with the sauce. Serve with rice and loads of chopped spring onions and coriander. Serves four to six.