Spring is springing in our garden and what a joy it is to see the prettiest pink stalks of rhubarb sprouting up through the earth. Our first glimpse of colour after the winter is a refreshing sight. Rhubarb is one of my favourite flavours, it is tart, fresh and full of aromatic sweetness. We have a dedicated rhubarb patch in our garden; growing two varieties. The first is grown using a ‘forced’ method (covered by a large pot) this starves the plant of light, causing it to store up energy to use for growth, which means it is the first to be harvested. It is pale in colour, slender, tall and tender, the taste and texture is a little more delicate and sweeter. The second is grown exposed to the light, it is deeper in colour, stronger in flavour and more fibrous, this is harvested later in the year. Both varieties can be used in this recipe. Rhubarbs sharp flavour allows it to cut through sweet, creamy dishes, it works very well in milky cream desserts. I also like it slightly stewed with sugar, eaten cold for breakfast.
Ginger is a common and delicious partner with rhubarb, however there is a danger of it becoming overpowering. I have chosen vanilla to compliment the rhubarb in this recipe, its subtle sweet and aromatic notes enhancing the rhubarbs delicate flavor. Vanilla is a pod of an orchid (not the ones you buy in Tesco….) Genus Vanilla, the pod from vine is harvested and dried to create the vanilla pod. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice as harvesting the pods is very labour intensive. You can buy vanilla in various forms; whole bean, paste and essence, although I have used the pod for this recipe you can use the paste, but I would avoid the essence as it is not a true replication of the vanilla seed flavour. Although the paste is around £6, you don’t need much and it can be used it all types of baking and will really enhance the flavour. Vanilla is a worthwhile investment I promise!
For the base of the cheese cake I have steered away from the digestive. However, that is not to say it can’t be used in this recipe. I have chosen shortbread to add a rich ‘butteriness’ to the biscuit base (I sound like Greg Wallace here I know.) It is also important to use real butter in the base as oil based spreads can often add a rancid flavour.
If I am honest I have only recently been converted into a lover of cheesecake. I am not a fan of cream cheese; I find that as much as it is disguised it is the overriding flavour in most cheesecakes. However I have discovered that you can substitute it for mascarpone to form a creamy, smooth based for your filling.
A little warning that your cheesecake may split on the top…I have included as many tips as I can to prevent it from happening. Using cornflour helps to stabilise the mix and make sure you allow it to cool in the oven with the door left ajar. If some reason it does crack, do not be disheartened, it will still taste delicious and can be disguised with an extra layer of puree on the top!
100g Caster Sugar
2 Vanilla Pods (scrape out seeds and set aside)
1/2 Lemon Juiced
1 Tbsp Water
200g Shortbread Biscuits
80g Unsalted Butter
100ml Double Cream
Vanilla Seeds/2 Tsp Vanilla Paste
80g Caster Sugar
1 Tbsp Cornflour
- Chop the rhubarb into 2 inch pieces, place in a pan with the sugar, lemon juice, water and vanilla pods.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer until the rhubarb begins to fall apart.
- Remove from the heat and place in a bowl to cool, remove the vanilla pods
- Crush the shortbread in a tightly sealed bag with a rolling pin until it resembles bread crumbs. Place the crumbs in a bowl.
- Melt the butter and pour this over the crumbs.
- Pour into an 8inch spring based tin, pressing down with a spoon. Place in the fridge.
- Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites to soft peaks
- Whip the double cream, until soft
- Mix the mascarpone, egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla in a bowl. Fold in the cream.
- Then fold in the mascarpone mix to the egg whites using a metal spoon
- Pre heat the oven to 170
- Pour the filling into the base, then drizzle over 2/3rds of the rhubarb puree, gently fold in, reserve the rest of the puree to serve.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes. Turn off the oven, leaving the door slightly a jar until completely cool. This will prevent it from cracking on the top.
- Place in the fridge overnight, then enjoy!