This is a slightly unusual cheesecake in that it has no biscuit base, but it really doesn’t need one; there’s so much delightful flavour and texture going on within the cake. Instead, you have a delicious dense, crumbly filling, rich with emerald chunks of pistachio, studded with golden candied peel and plump, sherry-soaked raisins, fragrant with citrus zest and beautifully light and fluffy from the ricotta cheese.
I find myself using oranges far more when I can get my hands on blood oranges. They add a stunning colour to all sorts of dishes, where their vibrant flavour, sharper and more intense than a normal orange, is a beautiful treat. I use them in salads (delicious with oily fish or chicken), smoothies (delicious with fresh strawberries and a splash of orange flower water), and chopped over muesli or porridge (particularly good with a rhubarb compote).
Blood oranges work best in recipes where their gorgeous colour really gets a chance to shine. This cheesecake is a perfect vehicle to showcase them. Inspired by the home of the blood orange, Sicily, it features many of the typical components of a Sicilian dessert: ricotta cheese, pistachios (Sicily produces some of the best in the world), candied peel and, of course, citrus fruits.
To top it all off, the cake is decorated with dazzling slices of blood orange, providing a lovely sweet-tart foil to the creamy cake beneath. It’s an extremely simple cake to make, but the orange decoration adds a real wow-factor, and makes it the perfect dessert to brighten up those days when it feels like spring has yet to arrive.
here's what you'll need...
For the Cake:
- 2 heaped tbsp sultanas
- 2 tbsp sherry, marsala or orange juice
- 1 tbsp hot water
- 500g ricotta cheese
- 100g icing sugar, sifted
- 3 large eggs
- 40g mixed peel
- 60g pistachios, roughly chopped, plus 1 tbsp for garnish
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2-3 blood oranges, for decoration
For the glaze (optional):
- Juice of 1 blood orange
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp powdered gelatine