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Butternut squash cheesecake



I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there has been a growing trend for desserts, cakes and all things sweet to be flavoured, coloured and generally improved (or at times most certainly not improved) by the addition of vegetables.

I think it’s part of the current drive for healthier eating. I guess the logic is that vegetables are good for you, so if you add them to a pudding, that’s got to be good for you, too, right?

Well, up to a point. It works for some people more than others. I said the other week how my sister and I revolutionised puddings at our father’s restaurant by introducing him to carrot cake. What I didn’t say is that we had much less success with our brother. We tried everything to get him to take just a tiny bite. Eight years later, we are still waiting. “Why would you put vegetables in cake?” he asks.

He’s really missing out, because sometimes the result can be spectacular. I think it’s a mental thing: you have to get beyond the “vegetable equals savoury” mindset. There are a couple of combos that do make me wonder – chocolate and aubergine, for example – but generally I won’t rule out anything until I have tried and tested it.

This week’s cheesecake recipe is a big hit with the family. The cooked butternut squash lends added sweetness and creaminess, as well as a beautiful orange colour. It’s based on that old American favourite pumpkin pie, which I’ve given the baked “New York” cheesecake treatment.

Clearly I’m channelling all my American influences into one pudding. I’ve been doing a lot of that recently, but I’m worried it’s rubbing off on the children. The other day my daughter refused to put on the trousers I’d laid out for her. “I’m going to put these pants in the trash,” she threatened. Where that comes from I just don’t know …

Baked butternut squash cheesecake
Serves 8

250g Lotus Biscoff biscuits
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 1in cubes (350g final weight)
750g full-fat cream cheese
200g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
6 large eggs

1 Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs, either by placing them in a plastic bag and using a rolling pin, or in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix evenly.

2 Press the crumbs into the base of a 9in loose-bottomed tin, using the back of a spoon to make sure it is all compact. Chill for 1 hour.

3 Place the squash into a microwave-safe dish. Cover with clingfilm and heat on the highest setting for 10 minutes. Check if it is cooked and continue to heat in 3-minute bursts until soft. Alternatively, steam in a pan until soft. Blitz in a food processor to a smooth paste. Cool completely.

4 Preheat oven to 170C/Gas 3. Put the squash and cream cheese in a processor and blitz until it comes together. Add the sugar, spices, vanilla paste and eggs. Whizz for a few seconds to combine.

5 Take the tin out of the fridge and cover the underside in foil, making sure it comes to the top edge of the tin. This will stop the water getting in when you cook it. Spoon the pumpkin mixture over the base and place the tin in a large, deep roasting tray.

6 Fill the tray with boiling water halfway up the side of the cake tin. Bake for 1¾ hours. It is cooked when there is a light wobble to the centre. Take it out of the water bath and remove the foil. Cool completely, then place in the fridge overnight.

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