When I was about 12, my mother made a pumpkin cheesecake. The recipe was by Elisabeth Pedersen, who wrote columns for the New Zealand Herald for years and years, and I can still remember everything about it; how it looked, how it tasted, even how the recipe text looked on the page. It was one of a suite of pumpkin-related recipes - I remember a pumpkin pie that wasn't nearly as good - and although I'm sure Mum cut it out and stuck it in her recipe notebook, I don't think she ever made it again despite my requests.
More than 25 years later, I have finally managed to recreate it. I was looking for something else in my bulging notebook when a recipe by Amanda Laird (who now writes recipes for the Herald) fell out. I was worried my Proustian hopes would be dashed, but it was amazing. I'll never know if Amanda had Elisabeth's original, but this one is close enough for me.
The original cheesecake from my memory bank was topped with a layer of whipped cream and shaved chocolate, but I followed Amanda's suggestion and sprinkled praline on top instead. I've made a few minor changes to her recipe, but you can find the original here. I know pumpkins are out of season for you northern hemisphere readers, but I urge you to bookmark this for October. A big dollop of whipped cream on the side makes this even better. Serves 10.
For the base:
220g malt biscuits (just under a packet, after reserving a few for morning tea)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1tsp mixed spice
100g butter, melted
For the filling:
450g cooked pumpkin (the easy way to do this is to wrap a 600g-ish piece loosely in foil, skin and all, and bake at 200C for about 30 mins. Let cool and the skin will come off easily)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
400g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup mixed nuts - walnuts, pecans, almonds
Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the biscuits, sugar and spice into a food processor and blitz to fine crumbs. Pour in the melted butter and pulse to mix. Press the mixture into a line 24cm springform tin and leave in the fridge while you make the filling.
Put all the filling ingredients in the processor and whiz until well combined. Pour over the prepared ase and bake for 30-40 minutes until just set. It should be slightly wobbly still - I overcooked mine a touch. Leave the oven door ajar and leave the cheesecake to cool. When completely cooled, wrap the whole thing in a teatowel, then a plastic bag, and put in the fridge until about 20 minutes before you're ready to eat it.
For the praline, put the sugar and water into a small saucepan over moderate heat. Leave the sugar to dissolve, then raise the heat slightly and cook until it is a rich caramel colour. It will take AGES to get anywhere at first, but don't wander away as it can turn from golden to burned in seconds. Remove from the heat, add the nuts and then tip out onto a piece of baking paper and leave to set.
Just before you take it to the table, chop the praline roughly and scatter over the cheesecake (this will also camouflage any cracks). Serves 10.
Have a great weekend, everyone. After an exhausting couple of weeks I am hoping to cook, sleep and plant some vegetables. Hope your weekend is suitably restful x