Some people have a spirit animal that sums up their personality and beliefs. We here at North/South Food have a spirit ingredient instead in the shape of rhubarb! Preferably the seasonal treat that is forced Rheum rhaponticum from the Rhubarb Triangle of Yorkshire with its perfect perky pink colouring and tangy taste, but ultimately any rhubarb pleases us profoundly. We’ll eat it any which we can and as often as possible!
While waiting for the Pink Champagne variety in my garden to be ready for sampling, I have been welcoming relief parcels from Mister North direct from Yorkshire, but also stocking up on stalks at Marks and Spencer, who sell the forced stuff at this time of year. So when I saw this glorious rhubarb rich recipe by Dan Lepard in last week’s Saturday Weekend supplement with the Guardian, I knew it had to be made when friends came to sample the steak and kidney pudding.
I have never made a baked cheesecake before, sticking to the foolproof fridge versions instead with a buttered biscuit base and a topping of choice. This looked delightfully simple with no slow cooking in a bain marie and other things that might sabotage a first time dessert at a dinner party. I also happened to have all the makings without having to stock up specially.
My fridge tends to look like a shrine to cream cheese. I am inordinately fond of the stuff as a savoury ingredient and I use it a lot in baking, enjoying the sharper taste of a cream cheese frosting over a sickly buttercream. This means I love Sainsbury’s Basics cream cheese. At around 46p per 200 gram pack, it is at least a pound cheaper than the equivalent branded Philadelphia and whether I’m cooking or baking with it or just spreading it on a bagel, I really can’t tell the difference between it and any other full fat cream cheese. I usually buy five or six packs each time I get an online shop and keep them ready and waiting in the fridge.
So a cheesecake is right up my street. I swapped the sour cream for plain yoghurt as I always have that in the house instead and didn’t bother adding sugar to the rhubarb, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. And what an easy recipe it is too. The most taxing bit was getting the electric whisk out to whip up the cheese layer. I cooked the rhubarb a bit in the oven while I was doing this, but in hindsight, I’m not sure that necessary if you’re using the slimmer forced rhubarb since the whole thing is going into the oven for an hour later.
Made cocky by how easy the recipe was, I completely forgot to check the temperature at which this was supposed to be cooked and left the the oven at 200°. This meant the cheese custard was a bit more set than it might have been and the biscuit crumb was bordering on burnt round the edges. This was a minor issue and didn’t spoil what was otherwise a superb pudding.
The custard layer was surprisingly light and deliciously creamy while the hint of ginger worked a treat with the sharp rhubarb. It was almost like a warming rhubarb crumble with a side helping of the lightest freshest custard and would be the perfect end to a meal if your household likes both crumble and cheesecake, but can’t decide which to go for!
It was also delicious with a cup of Earl Grey for breakfast the next morning, so in the unlikely event that you have some left over, it keeps well. Although I’m not a big dessert person, I will definitely be adding this simple, inexpensive and versatile number to my repetoire in future. I might even invest in something pretty to serve it in since it’s so good!