â€œIt seemed like it would be a top romantic gesture at the time,â€ explained the man I sat next to at an especially lovely dinner party in Soho the other week.
â€œI heard that the groom is supposed to give the bride a present on the wedding day, and I really wanted it to be a surprise. So I put a lot of thought into it, and this is what I came up with.â€
The idea was pretty simple â€“ release live doves. Take pictures.
â€œSo the first problem was it couldnâ€™t be a total surprise at the wedding itself, because we had to practice holding the doves to make sure we didnâ€™t kill them. If you hold them too low down, you can break their wings and suffocate them, too high up, and you can press on their hearts and send them into cardio arrest. Basically it was more pressure than I was expecting.
â€œSo itâ€™s the morning of the wedding, sheâ€™s having her make up done, and Iâ€™m all SURPRISE! DOVES! And she gives me a look and says; That really IS a surprise â€¦
â€œSo we get to the end of the ceremony, and the photographerâ€™s in place, ready for the dovesâ€™ big moment. And Iâ€™m holding the dove and suddenly I realize, the dove is not moving. I start to really panic â€“ did I break it? Is my first symbolic act of marriage going to be throwing up a dove only for it to plummet back to earth, stone dead?
â€œUltimately, it was fine. It flew away.Â But as wedding day romantic gestures go, it might not have been my best thought out plan. Basically, I wish Iâ€™d gone with jewelry.â€
I am no big fan of surprises. I like the build up, the anticipation, the planning, almost as much as I like the event. So for my birthday, which is this weekend, I stick to a formula. Duck and pancakes. Champagne and cheesecake. No messing around.
This is the cheesecake.
If you are a Pinterest person, youâ€™ve probably already seen a multitude of Nutella Cheesecake recipes out there. Nutella is to Pinterest what Bacon is to Brooklyn. Anyway, this recipe is mostly adapted from a Nigella Lawson one â€“ I think itâ€™s probably in her new Italian cookbook, which Iâ€™m going to buy myself for my birthday â€“ with a little bit of added Pinterest inspiration. Itâ€™s really easy to cook â€“ an assembly job really – and got raves from my friends when I made it back in the summer.10 oz Graham crackers â€“ which is about two thirds of a pack (or 250g digestives) 3 oz room temperature unsalted butter 16 oz (2 packets) cream cheese 1 jar Nutella (13 oz) 2 oz icing sugar / confectionersâ€™ sugar coco, hazelnuts, Bacci chocolates to decorate Â
- Process the graham crackers (or digestives) to rubble. Add the butter and a tablespoon of nutella and blitz again until the mixture looks like wet sand
- Pour this mixture into a 23 cm springform pan and press it down to form a base. Use a jar or a cup â€“ something with a smooth curved edge â€“ to press the crackers into the sides of the tin. Chill
- Make sure the cream cheese really is at room temp â€“ otherwise it never really blends. Whip it in the mixer until itâ€™s smooth, then add the confectionersâ€™ sugar (icing sugar) and the rest of the Nutella (which also really needs to be at room temp)
- Dollup this mixture into the spring form tin and smooth. Chill over night in the fridge
- Serve straight from the fridge with a fresh dusting of coco powder, or crushed hazelnuts, or Bacci chocolates ground in the processor (and birthday candles)