Dashing through the snow

by Sam Bilton on December 14, 2012 4 comments


Two years ago we decided to take Charlie and Alex to Lapland in search of Santa with our good Finnish friends Mitti and Timo and their three boys. Despite the boys not speaking each other’s language they soon became firm friends. Irrespective of your nationality it would appear that boys are the same the world over. The older boys bonded over a mutual annoyance of their irritating little brothers and the younger boys revelled in being bothersome to their older siblings. They all shared a love of hurling snowballs, pelting down icy slopes at frightening speeds on plastic sledges and fighting fearsome battles with improvised swords or wands made from K’nex, (Charlie, the eldest of the five and therefore de facto ring leader, was mildly obsessed with Harry Potter at the time).

The REAL Santa Claus

The REAL Santa Claus

While Charlie inducted the Finnish boys into the spells of Harry Potter (the older boys were shouting ‘Expelliarmus’ and ‘Windgardium Leviosa’ with a flourish of their ‘wands’ by the end of our visit), Mitti and Timo introduced us to gloggi, a fruity version of mulled wine. This warming drink was most welcome after reindeer or husky excursions in sub zero temperatures (even though our friends maintained that at -10°C it was quite mild for Lapland at that time of year!). They served it with a few almonds and raisins in the bottom of the glass which provides a little something extra to look forward to once the gloggi has gone.


A very cold reindeer sleigh ride.

Gordon Ramsay and Silvio Berlusconi may have written off Finnish food but our friends showed us some real culinary gems during our short visit. We particularly enjoyed the blood pancakes served with tart lingonberry jam (lingonberries are similar to cranberries) and the air dried reindeer we ate was as good as any bresaola we’ve tasted. It was also in Lapland that I first came across Anna’s ginger thins. There are so much more to these spicy biscuits (which include cinnamon and cloves as well as ginger) than the ginger nuts we get here in the UK. Over the past 24 months I’ve been mulling over how to combine these flavours (OK, maybe not the blood pancakes or the reindeer), and have come up with this festive dessert, which incidentally makes a great alternative to Christmas Pudding.

This will probably be my last post here this side of Christmas although I will still be tweeting or on Facebook. Watch out for my guest post for another delicious dessert on Eat Balanced’s blog next week.

Merry Christmas and Happy Eating!

Spiced white chocolate cheesecake with a cranberry ‘gloggi’ compote

Serves 8 – 10



  • 225g Anna’s ginger thins or the same quantity of ginger nuts with a pinch of cinnamon and cloves added.
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 300g white chocolate
  • 225g cream cheese e.g. like Philadelphia
  • 150g sour cream
  • 25g caster sugar
  • Seeds from 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • Generous pinch each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 2 egg whites
  • A few drops of lemon juice


  • 300g cranberries
  • Juice and zest of 1 large orange
  • 5cm cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 120g sugar
  • 125ml red wine


  1. Line a 23cm springform cake tin with tin foil. A 20cm tin would also work but you will just have a thicker base and filling for your cheesecake.
  2. Crush the biscuits in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin (the latter is a much better way of relieving the stress of Christmas). Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan. Combine the melted butter and biscuits then put the mixture into the lined tin. Ensure the buttery crumbs are relatively evenly distributed before pressing down firmly with a wooded spoon to form the base of the cheesecake.
  3. Place 200g of the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water to melt the chocolate. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water otherwise your chocolate will go lumpy.
  4. Place the cream cheese, sour cream, caster sugar, crushed cardamom, ground cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the melted white chocolate.
  5. In a separate bowl, place the egg whites with a few drops of lemon juice. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Fold into the cream cheese and chocolate mix then spoon over the base.
  6. Grate the remaining 100g white chocolate and sprinkle this over the cheesecake ‘filling’. Refrigerate for several hours or preferably over night.
  7. For the compote: Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for around 15 minutes until thickened. Leave to cool to allow the spices a chance to infuse the compote. Remove the spices and ginger before serving. I prefer to serve this at room temperature or warm as it makes a nice contrast to the cold cheesecake (it also becomes rather ‘jammy’ when cold because of the high pectin content of cranberries but still tastes as good cold).
Sam BiltonDashing through the snow

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Join the conversation
  • su sullivan - January 22, 2013 reply

    No need to slave so hard in the kitchen! Marks and Spencers do a winter fruit compote that is brilliant – made a winter pavlova with it sooo yummy.

  • Cathy branciaroli - December 22, 2012 reply

    Wonderfully written as always. Makes me feel like I was there – cold and all

  • The Food Sage - December 19, 2012 reply

    What a wonderful winter-time adventure. I love the sound of the mulled wine and air-dried reindeer. It’s great to explore another food culture, isn’t it?
    Cheesecake is on our Christmas Day menu, too. Happy festivities and i look forward to following your blog in the New Year! So lovely to find you.

  • Mona - December 17, 2012 reply

    This is a wonderful glance at a winter wonderland, especially since my Christmases have Palm Trees and warm temperatures. You brought me on your adventure, and the beautiful descriptions made me want to be there. Well done Sam!

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