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!
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.