Gardeners like gardens come in all shapes and sizes, as do strawberries

This weekend I visited a fascinating allotment where precision growing, exacting standards and uniformity were the RULE. The crops were pristine. The plot was pristine. Damn it even the gardener was pristine! Science ruled. Ruled with a tape measure, soil testing kits, feeding and watering regimes and exactness. It felt like I’d wandered into an open air laboratory, at any moment I expected men in white coats to come wandering out from the polytunnel holding test tubes emitting mysterious blue smoke.

The ranks of vegetables standing to order were certainly photogenic in a benign dictator kind of fashion, but for me it lacked character, spirit or charm. Yes I can learn from such exacting gardening skills and pick up a trick or two to take home with me; but I’m happy to leave the geeky gardening wonders of leeks grown in tubes to others and remain content with my slight seconds, wonky paths, uneven beds, peas escaping their netting, beans straying from their canes and soil that could be “improved”. Mind you I could live without my weeds!

New York Style Strawberry Cheesecake (4)

Perhaps my sights are set too low but every year I’m frankly amazed when I get to pick a crop. After all these years of gardening I’m still astounded that something I’ve sown has managed to make it to maturity and generally look and more importantly taste like it’s meant to. Maybe I’m easily pleased or maybe I’m not too fussy about a slightly squished strawberry. It tastes like a strawberry so therefore it is.

Welcome to my world of wonky, slightly nibbled but oh so precious veggies. I can admire scientific precision and I could see how happy the geeky gardeners were to show off their plots and the immense pleasure they took in sharing their knowledge. I take pleasure from their pleasure.

All of which brings me to today’s recipe. Why is it that all the recipes I found for New York style strawberry cheesecake none of them added strawberries into the cheesecake mixture – strawberries were adornments used to top the pud and make the sauce? As I said when you grow your own food the odds are that there will be perfectly edible crops that won’t win any competitions for their looks but will taste absolutely amazing. So I made my own recipe and added the less than perfect looking strawberries into the filling and I’m delighted with the results as I got the taste of strawberries with every bite. That’s my idea of happiness.

Inside and outside New York style strawberry and white chocolate baked cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 200g biscuits – either digestives or ginger nuts
  • 75g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cornflour
  • 800g cream cheese
  • 200ml sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g white chocolate, cut up into tiny pieces or grated
  • 175g strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces

Strawberry Topping

  • Approx. 20 small strawberries to decorate the cheesecake – washed, hulled and halved
  • Strawberry Sauce – 150g chopped strawberries, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a small squeeze of lemon juice

 

Method

  • Pre heat the oven to 175C
  • Line and grease a 23cm / 9” loose bottomed cake tin

For the cheesecake base –

  • Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and then bash them with a rolling pin until they are fine and crumb like
  • Gently heat the butter in a pan until it is melted
  • Turn the heat off and add the biscuits, mix until the biscuits are well coated
  • Pour the biscuit mix into the cake tin, and spread the mixture evenly across the base of the cake tin, level it and place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven

For the cheesecake filling

  • In a large bowl add the sugar, cornflour and cream cheese and sour cream and mix well
  • Add the vanilla essence and then the eggs one at a time and mix well, don’t over mix
  • Add the white chocolate and gently fold into the filling mixture
  • Finally add the chopped strawberries and gently fold them into the filling making sure they are evenly distributed
  • Pour the filling over the baked biscuit mixture and smooth and even the top out
  • Cook at 175C for 45 to 50 minutes. If the top starts getting a bit too brown, cover it lightly with a piece of foil.
  • When cooked there should be a slight wobble when you move the cheesecake (gently!)
  • Take it out of the oven and gently run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake tin, this will help to stop the cheesecake cracking and splitting. Leave to cool thoroughly. When cold store in the fridge but cover carefully with clingfilm so the cheesecake doesn’t absorb any other flavours from food stored in the fridge.

For the strawberry topping

  • Place the halved strawberries (set aside to decorate) on top of the cheesecake
  • In a small pan gently heat the chopped strawberries, 2 teaspoons of sugar and squeeze of lemon juice until the strawberries are softened and the sauce starts to thicken (approx. 5 minutes)
  • Strain the mixture through a small sieve into a bowl. Leave to cool a little and then gently pour the sauce over the top of the cheesecake.
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66 comments

  • Claire, that cheese cakes looks divine, Thank ‘God’, or whoever it was looking after your allotment, that nobody nicked your strawberries.

    • Gelnda that’s one of the things I dread happening, the theft of crops, I’ve lost Brussels Sprouts and celery, but not much. I just keep plodding on!
      Oh and the cheescake is super naughty but super tasty 🙂

  • I am a bit of an OCD freak but don’t think I would like an allotment with such precision – too much pressure if you ask me. Our garden has taught me that nature doesn’t like to be in a box so hopefully I have a good balance, although I too could do without the weeds.
    How lovely it would be to enjoy a slice of your cheesecake with a cup of tea right now.
    Have a wonderful week ahead Claire.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • I know what you mean about the OCD thing Mandy, but like you aits a step too far and I’m happy to see what “nature” gets up to.. There are a couple of left over slices from Saturday night, I think a cup of coffee is in order 🙂

  • Ah no chance of precision gardening for me! I’m all for a bit of wilderness…That cheesecake looks amazing, I’m going to have to give it a go. If I can find the strawberries under the weeds…:)

    • ah a fellow straberry plants under the weeds gardener 🙂 My straberry patch is looking very weedy this year, but I’m planning on moving them to some raised beds this autumn so I’ve been even slacker than usual!
      Hope you enjoy the cheesecake

  • wow! i make cheesecake quite often and will be adding strawberries as you did. Did their inclusion change the texture at all? It didn’t make the cheesechake watery or thin? I like a nice dense result!

    • I was abit worried that as all the other recipes didn’t include fruit there would be problems, but nope it was nice and firm and dense. I’ve seen recipes with up to 9 eggs in them !! but thi sone is more creamy and cheesy. Plus I reduced the sugar as I added the white chocolate……

      • you are such a gourmet cook and I love how you experiment and wind up with good results all the time… I would have been afraid to add fruit for fear of a disastrous outcome!

        hey curiousity…what type of Brit accent do you have?

        Since I’ve been an anglophile for so many years, (watching wayyyyyy too many BBC dramas) I’ve gotten good at discerning where people are from simply by hearing them speak a few sentences.

        One of my other big hobbies (besides growing things) is studying languages and how they’ve been impacted by immigration and social classes in various countries. There are so many regional accents in America, and it’s interesting to see how an influx of certain immigrant groups can soften and sometimes change long held regional pronounciations within a few generations. It’s happening bigtime in Boston where I’m originally from. From the late 1800s to around 1980s a Boston accent meant you had a touch of an Irish lilt, invoked the Saints and said Blessed be to God in between dropping every R in sight. No longer…my boys have been living not far from where I grew up for quite sometime now and on a recent visit back I noticed only small pockets of what people think of as the true Boston accent remain. Is London undergoing a similar transition?

        • Maybe I should write a post on accents! I’m fascinated how some people lose them and others gain them. me, I’m from near Manchester so I can do a great Mancunian accent, I can also do a North Wales accent as that’s where some of my family come from. But I guess I’m a bit of a chamelon, I’ve never had a strong northern accent, so I’m now at a bit of a loss as to describe it, but I do use northern expressions! London is a fascinating one, I lived there for years and could spot the difference between south and north and east London accents, often its the words that are used that are most telling – but London is a real multi cultural society so you hear every accent and language spoken – I love it – just sit on the tube or a bus and play guess the origin game 🙂
          Back to the cheescake – thank you for your kind words, there are days I just “wing” it, and days when that doesn’t work 🙂

  • I do so understand the desire to control the garden. I plot everything out on graph paper, then measure and stake, run strands of yarn or twine from one garden fence to the other until it looks like an obstacle course, plot placement based on growth patterns, color and companion planting literature, and rake, hoe, dig, to get every weed and trailer of weed root. Or, this what I try to do, though it rarely all works out. Some years I barely have time to scratch the weedy ground and put in the seeds! Either way, I am HAPPIEST with my garden once the beans have climbed over their supports, the tomatoes have outgrown their cages and the squash have taken over the place. Organized chaos! Lovely recipe, Claire, what a great idea to add strawberries to the cheesecake! Thanks!

    • Oh Cindy, I’m with you on the plans, they are in my mind. Some years I get to draw them out, sometimes I just scribble a few lines on a piece of paper and then promptly lose it!
      The one thing I’m still uncertain of is how many of x,y,z seeds to sow – what the germination rate will be, whether they’ll survive planting out and my subsequent negelect. It’s a tricky balance, but if I have too many seedlings they either get given away or composted. I see I’m in good company with the organised chaos group 🙂 Hope you have a super week

  • I’ve wondered the same thing about strawberry cheesecake! I’ve been on a strawberry waffle and strawberry muffin kick this season myself.

  • Gardening should be fun too and that much regimentation sounds too strict. Gorgeous strawberry cheesecake. We’ve got strawberries on offer everywhere around here as well. For a minute, I thought you had made a strawberry sponge flan like I did a couple of weeks ago. Cheesecake is a great way to enjoy the strawberries especially when you put them inside too.

      • I have 6 packages of cream cheese in my freezer, bought when I was taking advantage of great sales, which are just waiting for something like this cheesecake. If strawberries are still on sale in July, I’m picking up some. And who knows what will happen. 🙂

  • I have thought the same thing too why no fruit on the inside! Your cake looks absolutely magnificent !!

    • I’m sur ethe purists would be having fits at the thought of fruit inside the cheesecake but I thought what the hell! An dit really did stay nice and firm and kept the texture a cheesecake should have. Phew!

  • Oh, you KNOW of course which side of gardening we fall on – and it’s not the neatly laid out manicured one. We like to think our method of gardening adds to the adventure – we’re never quite sure what will grow, so we’re always thrilled with whatever we can find to eat! 🙂 Your cheesecake looks delish!

  • My approach to gardening is pretty much like yours…I start out with hope, some good plants and seeds and just do it..random, willy-nilly, no perfection but lots of soul!
    I, too, am amazed when I pick a berry or large green basil leaves for pesto, or pluck a tomato red and ripe from a vine…all that I have planted. If there are miracles, this these moments are it for me.
    Your strawberry photos are beautiful and I like the idea of fruit inside a cheesecake…novel idea that I shall try. Happy gardening.

    • Sometimes novel ideas aren’t so good Teresa, but this one worked out. I do feel like I’ve done something naughtly or at least a no-no by adding the fruit to the filling! Oh well, it was delicious so what the heck

  • This looks delicious, Claire. I like the combination of strawberries and white chocolate. I also like unruly gardens where imprecision and nature have a hand.

    • White chocolate and strawberries certainly do make good mates, I’m wondering if I could add more chocolate to the mix…. I guess I’ll have to wait to next summer now! Hope you have a great week Sharyn

  • As years have passed so has my mindset 😀 !! Came from a ‘terribly’ neat family, married a ‘terribly’ neat man [his main interest was growing bonsai!], got yanked out of that by my second husband . . . . love growing things but if the plants tell me they want to grow quirky, they are welcome!! The cake looks lovely . . . . don’t eat anything sweet tho’!!!!

    • I like quirky growing plants too Eha, I do try an dgrow things in rows up at the allotment, but they ar eforever wonky, or have gaps in them…… the straight lines are easier for me to manage so I can net and protect things more easily. But in the garden….. its truly free-flowing

  • Your cheesecake is lovely–and what an inspired idea to put berries into the cheesecake itself! I just made strawberry curd which I will be posting (I hope) tomorrow. Love berry season!

    This year, I may indeed be surprised at any harvest. Everything is getting moved down by probably more than one plant predator (pretty sure it is cutworms getting the tomatoes and peppers, but no idea on the raspberries–rabbits, deer… bear?). Alas…

    • I’ve neve rmade a curd before (other than lemon), the problem I have with jams and curds is that I don’t really eat them!! Love them, but neve rseem to get round to using them up!
      How frustrating about the predators Inger, hopefully later sowings may defeat them….

  • This recipe looks amazing! And I agree with your perspective of gardening. I love watching nature unfold in this way 🙂

  • Oh – my – goodness! That cheesecake looks amazing! And our strawberry season is almost over here…. 😦 Perhaps I’ll find some at the market this weekend. I love the idea of putting them in and on top of the cake! Ingenious! I also agree that fruit and veg does not have to look perfect in order to taste perfect… 🙂

    • I mad ethe cheescake for a dinner round at friends, I don’t really know why I do these things to myself – like creating a recipe that hasn’t been tried and tested before it’s actually needed!

  • Oh that does look tasty. Just the other day I mentioned to a friend that perhaps I should replace all my perennials with weeds, sure would be a lot less work😜!

  • We love wonky veggies! And oh my god – that cheesecake – incredible 🙂 On one of the very few occasions I went to Chelsea (or maybe it was Hampton Court) my favourite garden was sponsored by Age Concern and was an allotment wth a broken down old shed, beans growing up battered old canes and it looked like the “old boy” (who it MUST have belonged to!) had just nipped into his shed for his flask of tea. It impressed me so much more than the formal show gardens!

    • I have a soft spot for formality, think Italian gardens, but I know I lack that kind of precision, besides wonky comedy vegetables are just too good to miss!

  • A perfect garden/gardener? Not here for sure. Whatever grows is welcome, the rest will have to be at home somewhere else. Strawberries are just coming in here so a cheesecake sounds like a perfect way to present them.

  • I’m with you when it comes to gardening, rambling rows and more of a British garden with flowers bumping into each other is my idea of beautiful! I know I would love your garden if it saw it in person! My mom is more like the scientist, researching and stressing out over her plants.. but she is retired now and that’s her passion. Now that cheesecake, wowzer! My friend called me in a panic for a cheesecake recipe just yesterday and I wish I’d known about this one to show her! Who’d have thought to put the strawberries IN the cheesecake?? Only Claire:) xx

  • Wow – on so many levels, wow. Those look so incredibly tasty I can’t even explain how badly I’d love to eat one right now!

    Definitely need to try this recipe out.

  • I hope by this time next year my strawberry patch yields enough strawberries to make this gores cheesecake. It really is special–I love the addition of white chocolate. Your comment about “benign dictator” character made me chuckle. 🙂 I admire well ordered, pristine gardens, but in the end mine grow the way they want to, regardless of my efforts! Your allotment always seems to produce a bounty, so I’m certain it is a beauty, too!

  • I love this post 🙂 “but I’m happy to leave the geeky gardening wonders of leeks grown in tubes to others and remain content with my slight seconds, wonky paths, uneven beds, peas escaping their netting, beans straying from their canes and soil that could be “improved”” — I couldn’t agree with this more + I was thinking the same thing as I walked down the uneven path in my raised bed yesterday. Who needs perfection when you can have contentment + character? 🙂

  • Beautiful post and the pictures make me want to bite my computer screen to sample those gorgeous strawberries.

  • A simply brilliant solution to the imperfection of a too-un-fruity Strawberry Cheesecake meeting up with the imperfection of real, sweet (if slightly wonky), strawberries! I would even consider trying pureeing the strawberries right into the cheesecake batter and making it all silky and pink, but I suppose there might be some danger of textural collapse. Either way, this looks and sounds perfectly delicious, and *that* is a much more useful sort of perfection, in my book, than any sci-fi version of an allotment like the one you visited. 🙂
    xoxo!
    Kathryn

  • Awesome blog! Like cheesecake anytime. Will try this delicious recipe for sure.

    Do check out my blog at ParsiCuisine.com for indian desserts, i recently made aFig Almond Cake check it out.

    Do you have any idea how to make chicken marsala?

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