UTAH, the 45th state, is known for various things – the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, copper, gold and silver mining, the 2002 Winter Olympics, a staggering collection of dinosaur bone finds, Jell-O, particularly of the green variety and our destination (Sundance) and the talented Robert Redford.
When we arrived at the airport at Salt Lake City, a mere five hour hop from New York City, it was dark and so our journey towards the Sundance resort in the mountains was filled with …
“Ooh, I bet there are some fantastic views from here”
“You can imagine the mountains that must be in the distance”
“We must be driving down one of those incredibly impressive rocky valleys”
In reality, of course, we could see nothing besides pitch black and the endless industrial lights that lined the massive road we were heading along. It wasn’t until the morning that we got our first glimpse of our surroundings, which were indeed spectacular.
Foodwise, Utah is famous for a few culinary delights. There is the scone, nothing to do with our West Country variety. In true American fashion, it is a doughy deep-fried feast, the size of a dinner plate. And there’s Jell-O, or jelly, weirdly served as a salad with fruit and occasionally vegetables set into it, raspberries from Bear Lake and honey.
Our group had travelled to Utah to celebrate a 40th birthday – well, actually six 40th birthdays, but we decided that 240 candles on the cake would have probably burnt our lovely lodge down. With various activities in what is a ski resort in winter but a brilliant place for hiking, riding, relaxing, water sports and more in summer, helping to feed the crowd of 25 was quite a feat.
Shopping meant a trip down the mountain. I think the supermarket managers thought I was a bit crazy the first few days, while trying to stock up, pushing in total about five trolleys overflowing with stuff. I have become hardened to the quizzical looks from others and tutts from fellow shoppers behind me in the queue. I have to say that Harmon’s, where I did most of my shopping, was one of the friendliest supermarkets I have ever used. By day four they were opening checkouts for me and practically welcoming me with a brass band and flags. So with sales targets more than reached for that month the manager can rest easy. It also has one of the most impressive car park views I am ever likely to come across.
There was a good selection of vegetables and some tasty beef. Fish I tended to avoid as didn’t look great, although this is no surprise as the nearest ocean or sea was a few states away.
I was also fascinated to visit what many consider the home of the Mormons in Salt Lake City and learn more about their history. Having been drummed out of New York and various other places along the way they began to settle in Utah around 1847. They have strong family beliefs and so one of the best libraries of family records in the world. They are anti taking addictive substances including caffeine and alcohol and due to their hardworking ethos originally adopted the beehive as a symbol, which is now also a state symbol.
There are more than 15 million Mormons in the world and roughly 50 per cent of the population of Utah belongs to the church. However, after the Winter Olympics in 2002 and an increase in immigration into Salt Lake City, their population is now much more diluted.
For this recipe, I wanted to include a few of the state’s food icons including raspberries, honey and Jell-O. I couldn’t do the Utah scone – being a West Country girl I had to disown the deep-fried monster.
So here I give you a raspberry, honey Jell-O baked cheesecake that we served at the birthday dinner (and were made to promise to save some for the Sundance kids whom had to go to bed before the party started.)
Raspberry Jell-O Cheesecake
You will need a 10 inch spring form cake tin. Pre heat the oven to 170 °C.
For the base:
180 g graham crackers or ginger nut biscuits
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs honey
110g salted butter
Finely grind the crackers or biscuits and mix in the cinnamon. Melt the honey and the butter in a saucepan on a low heat. Stir the ground crackers into the melted butter then press firmly into the tin. Bake for ten minutes then take out and cool. Increase the oven temperature to 200 °C.
1 kilo cream cheese
150g white sugar
2 tbs runny honey
450g sour cream
3 lime zest
2 tsp vanilla
In a bowl whisk the cream cheese, sugar and honey until light and fluffy (about three minutes). Then whisk in the sour cream, eggs, lime zest and vanilla. Pour into the base and bake for 15 mins then turn down the temperature to 110 ° C and bake for a further 1 hour 20 mins. The cheesecake should have a slight wobble in the middle.
Leave to cool mostly in the oven with the door slightly wedged open (I use a wooden spoon) for about 2 hours. Take out and leave in the fridge to cool fully for at least 3 hours.
Make up ½ pint of jelly – I used fresh raspberry juice, honey and gelatine and followed the packet setting instructions but you can use jelly cubes. Once cool, pour over the set cheesecake. Place back in the fridge to set (approx another 2 hours) . I confess by luck rather than design I got a lovely ring of jelly/Jell-O around the side of the cake where it had cooled and shrunk away from the sides.
Serve in slices with fresh raspberries on top.
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