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Cheesecake. When I was a kid I always thought this term was one of the biggest lies that adults perpetrated on their children.
I don't see any cheese (I don't count cream cheese as cheese – it's a spread! Cheese is yellow with a red waxy rind!); and if it's a cake, where are the icing and the crumbs, huh?
And yet, and yet… even as a child, for me there was always something more alluring about cheesecake than almost any other baked goods. I suspect it was a combination of the lack of sugary sweetness, the creamy texture, and my unnatural love for digestive biscuit (graham cracker) crusts. And from a young age, I was a total cheesecake snob – anything containing gelatine and set in a fridge rather than an oven simply did not cut the mustard. I remember going to restaurants, aged about 12, seeing cheesecake on the menu, and asking the waiter haughtily: "Is it baked? I don't want to order it if it's not baked."
I have to say that I'm still no fan of gelatine fridge tarts, but some days you simply do not have the time to bake a cheesecake and leave it to cool in the oven long enough for it to set (and let me assure you that removing it from the oven warmish and hoping for the best is not the way forward. I know: I've tried!). So what do you do on these days when you have a craving for the flavours of cheesecake?
When Mowie and Bruce came over for lunch a few weeks ago, we went blackberry picking. Well, to be technically correct, Nick and Bruce picked blackberries and Mowie and I stood on the path, safely out of the way of the thorns, taking photos and shouting encouragement ;-). We ended up with a haul of rather spectacularly large and fat blackberries, and these were in my fridge, tempting me, when I was trying to decide what to make for a quick dessert when a friend came for dinner on a weeknight. When I saw this recipe on the BBC Good Food website, I knew I was hooked. All the flavours of a cheesecake, in pretty individual servings, and no baking: you had me at hello…
The end result was quite spectacularly good – like a small portion of deconstructed cheesecake, retaining all the tangy flavours and the buttery biscuity base, but with almost no effort at all. You could just as easily make this with blueberries, strawberries or even mixed berries, and frozen berries would work as well as fresh, making this an all-year treat.
BLACKBERRY CHEESECAKE IN A GLASS (serves 4)
300g punnet blackberries
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 large lemon , finely grated zest and juice
8 gingernut biscuits , crushed
2 Tbap butter , melted
4 Tbsp icing sugar
250g tub mascarpone (or ricotta)
Toss the blackberries together with the caster sugar and 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice in a small pan. Heat gently for 3-4 mins or until the berries start to burst. Leave to cool.
In a clean bowl, mix together the crushed biscuits and melted butter. Spoon the mixture into 4 glasses of your choice (I went for pretty cut glass whisky tumblers).
Gently fold the rest of the lemon juice, the lemon zest (reserving some for garnish) and caster sugar into the mascarpone. Divide the mascarpone mix between the glasses, then spoon over the blackberries and their syrupy juices. Garnish with curls of lemon zest.
Don't forget to get your barbecue and braai recipes to me by 23 September for the Braai, the Beloved Country event to celebrate South Africa's Heritage Day this month!