Hands up if you’re glad that January is almost over. Unlike most people, I don’t mind this less than jolly month (personally, I find November a lot more depressing) and I’m cheered to see that the sun sets later every day. There is light at the end of the tunnel because in just eight weeks, the clocks go forward and British Summertime begins.
The thing about January is that, although it’s marketed as being the time for a brand new you, it’s essentially just a big hangover from Christmas. Most of us feel fat, financially fu**ed and fed up at work. Why do so many of us punish ourselves by going on strict diets that are impossible to maintain?
Some people will tell you that ‘clean’ eating is the answer and, in theory, it might seem like a sensible idea because eating fewer processed foods and more vegetables, wholegrains and healthy fats is no bad thing. But many who follow this diet (because, no matter how much it’s dressed up as ‘wellness’, that’s what it is) also cut out sugar, gluten and most carbohydrates. A balanced diet is all about moderation and certain food groups should never be considered to be ‘bad’ or ‘unclean’ – or as Nigella Lawson puts it: “food is not dirty”.
It seems that ‘clean’ eating has spirall(is)ed out of control and last week, in an episode of the BBC’s Horizon called Clean Eating: The Dirty Truth, Dr Giles Yeo talked to some of the quacks associated with this cult. In the wrong hands, the clean eating phenomenon can be very dangerous and Ruby Tandoh writes a lot more eloquently about the reasons for this here.
The dieting industry is worth £2 billion and two thirds of women will go on a diet this year; pretty depressing, huh? With food assigned to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pile, we’ve forgotten how to enjoy eating. We must be kinder to ourselves: eat your greens by all means, but allow yourself the occasional slice of cake too. No food is a sin and to quote Nigella again, there are no guilty pleasures: “… you should only feel guilty if you don’t take pleasure”. Let’s stop this mean eating.
In the spirit of this, I suggest that you make this cheesecake immediately. It requires no cooking and is ready in no time at all. This recipe uses vegan ingredients but you can use regular cream cheese and butter if you like.
200g vegan digestive biscuits (a lot of the ‘value’ ones are vegan)
75g dairy free margarine
1 tub/225g plain vegan cream cheese
200g soya or coconut yogurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
60g caster sugar
125g plain chocolate
1 tsp vanilla essence
Grease a loose based cake tin. One that is about 6 1/2 or 7 inches will work best.
Crush the digestive biscuits with a rolling pin. Melt the margarine in a pan, and pour over the digestive biscuit crumbs. Mix thoroughly, and pour into the cake tin. Press down evenly with a spoon until the base is very firmly compacted.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.
Put the yogurt, cream cheese, vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla essence in a blender and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, you’ll need to get it as smooth as you can with a whisk or a fork.
Stir in the melted chocolate.
Pour the topping over the biscuit base and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can decorate it with sliced strawberries or sprinkles if you like. Serve and enjoy.