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(Taken from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson)

This is perhaps one of the most useful puddings you can have in your repertoire. Not that it is the job of a pudding to be useful: a pudding exists merely to delight. Still, dinner does need to be made, even when there’s precious little time for it and that should be a delight, too.

So here’s the deal: there is pitifully little work to be done to make this berry-dazzler of a tart, and enormous pleasure to be derived from its consumption.

All you do is bash a few biscuits a day or so in advance and make the base – getting one course out of the way early is my way of managing – then stir lemon curd and cream cheese together, and use this cream to line the crumb-covered tart tin. I use shop-bought lemon curd here, but even if it comes out of the jar, it must be of good quality. And when it is whipped into the cream cheese, that cream cheese must be at room temperature, as should the lemon curd in its jar. The combination produces a layer of what tastes like cheesecake cream: light, lemony, luscious.

I used to put the berries on top of the cream pretty much last-minute, but then I found that a leftover wedge, after the party, looked inviting after being in the fridge overnight, and so I now finish assembling the tart ahead of time. But if you prefer to add the fruit nearer to serving, I completely understand. Don’t feel you must obey the fruit orders too literally: any mixture of berries (or indeed other fruit) would do, and you could well use a smaller amount and top the tart less extravagantly.

Ingredients

375g digestive biscuits
75g soft unsalted butter
2 x 200g packets cream cheese, at room temperature
1 x 240g jar lemon curd, at room temperature
125g blueberries
125g blackberries
125g raspberries
125g redcurrants or pomegranate seeds
125g small strawberries

Method

Process the biscuits and the butter to a sandy rubble and press into the sides and bottom of a deep-sided fluted tart tin. Place in the freezer (or fridge if that is not possible) for 10-15 minutes.

In a clean processor bowl, process the cream cheese and lemon curd (or just mix by hand) and spread into the bottom of the chilled tart tin, covering the base evenly.

Arrange the fruit gently (so it doesn’t sink in too much) on top of the lemony cream cheese in a decorative manner (see right), leaving some of the strawberries unhulled, with their picturesque stalks attached.

Place the tart in the fridge, preferably overnight, though for at least 4 hours. It does need to get properly cold in order to set enough for the tart to be unsprung and sliced easily.

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From my complete collection of Good Housekeeping cookery cards, here’s another revolting recipe from the 1970s.

Ingredients

1½ lb. new potatoes, peeled
a few chives
¼ pint mayonnaise
8 slices ham
4 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. can pineapple rings, drained
salt and pepper
carton of mustard and cress

Method

Cook potatoes in salted water till nearly tender. Drain and dice. Snip the chives into mayonnaise and mix well. If too thick add a tablespoonful of milk. Toss the potatoes in this while they are still warm. Chill.

Meanwhile, roll ham slices into cone shapes and fill with a mixture of cream cheese and two chopped pineapple rings, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Pile potato salad in the centre of a plate, arrange the cornets around the edge. Place a small bunch of cress behind each cornet and a quarter of a pineapple ring on each cornet. Make a cut in the last pineapple ring, twist and place on top of the potato salad.

This is the perfect end to a midweek dinner party, the kind you didn’t know you were giving until presented with a guest list mid-afternoon. You simply chop strawberries, crush digestive biscuits and whip cream cheese and cream, then layer up quickly in some waiting glasses. Like this, they can stand for about an hour, so you can make them up just before you sit down for supper. If you want to make this in advance – and it’s a versatile recipe that doesn’t need to be made last minute – simply leave the glasses in the fridge, layered up with the digestive crumbs and cream cheese mixture and covered with clingfilm. Top with strawberries on serving. Serves four.

200g strawberries (or 1 big punnet)
1 tsp caster sugar
4 digestive biscuits
100g cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp icing sugar
125ml double cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 small glasses (of about 150ml capacity; I find a small martini glass looks prettiest)

Quarter the strawberries, then cut in half again, to give pretty small dice. Put into a bowl, sprinkle with caster sugar, cover with clingfilm and shake the bowl once or twice.

Leave the berries to macerate while you put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until you have a sandy bag of crumbs.

Measure the cream cheese and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk by hand. Add the cream, lemon juice and vanilla, and whisk gently to combine.

Divide the biscuit crumbs equally between your four glasses, and arrange in the bottom of each one. Spoon the cream cheese mix on top, dividing it equally between the glasses and covering the biscuits.

Divide the sugar-shiny strawberries between the glasses, to give a glossy, red-berried layer on each glass.

Queen of Gastroporn

From my complete collection of Good Housekeeping cookery cards, here’s another revolting recipe from the 1970s.

Ingredients

4 oz. cream cheese
2 grapefruit
1 avocado pear
French dressing
some lettuce

Method

Shape cream cheese into 16 small balls.

Peel the grapefruit, removing membrane as well as skin. Remove sections with a very sharp knife.

Peel avocado and cut in half, lengthwise, through to the stone. Twist halves in opposite directions. Discard stone. Slice avocado.

Marinade the grapefruit and avocado in French dressing.

On individual plates, arrange lettuce, grapefruit segments, sliced avocado and cream cheese balls.



Arts

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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