01 Sep Nigel Slaterâs baked blueberry cheesecake and devilled cr…
Take the lid from a pot of cream and it smells of a summerâs day, of cool shade and long grass. Cream, the real thing, is thick, fatty and pale yellow with a faint sharpness to it, and slides lazily from its tub. This long summer has seen cream in my kitchen for a brick-coloured crab soup and a hot shellfish pÃ¢tÃ© to spoon on to pieces of toast. It has been beaten with mustard and snipped dill for an impromptu sauce for salmon. There has been cream in which we melted thin slices of camembert for a sauce for steamed courgettes. And there has been cream with sautÃ©ed cucumber and courgettes, for wild mushrooms, and swirled languidly into a dish of baked Victoria plums warm from the oven.
This week I bought a pot or two for a cheesecake and another to make a soft crab pÃ¢tÃ© spiked with mustard and green peppercorns â not one mustard but two. One smooth and yellow for heat, and a second grainy one for its texture and aromatic quality. The cheesecake was unusual in that it had no bottom crust â and I am now sure I prefer it that way. It resembled one of those fashionable cakes with a burned crust, though I pebbled fruits through its soft heart and wimped out on the blackened top.
I like my cream thick enough to stand a spoon up in, which means the stuff from a small independent dairy and a trip to a farmersâ market or specialist food shop. The pouring variety always seems insipid to me, sweet and thin, but it works well enough in the kitchen. Being lower in butterfat it whips without turning to butter, which is useful in the heat of the summer kitchen.
Cream of any hue is not a regular visitor to my kitchen. It is more a rare and gorgeous treat. Something to spoon over a slice of damson pie or to stir into the pan juices left behind by a sautÃ©ed pork chop with a few sliced gherkins the size of sugar dragÃ©es and a splash of lemon. It is the balm that cools the sizzling apple fritter and lifts a slice of rich chocolate cake from its tendency to cloy. It is a treat, nothing less, unctuous, calming and, in my kitchen at least, never to be forgotten.
Baked blueberry cheesecake
A baked cheesecake, less fudgy than the norm and without the usual biscuit base. The cake is soft and giving and its lightness is contrasted by the dark, toffee notes of the browned crust. As it emerges from the oven, the centre of the cake should possess a slight wobble. The texture will thicken as it cools. You might like some cream with this, whipped or in a jug to pour over each slice at the table, or possibly another handful of berries.
full-fat cream cheese 450g
caster sugar 200g
vanilla extract 1 or 2 drops (Â¼ tsp)
double cream 280ml
plain flour 30g
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
Put the cream cheese and caster sugar into the bowl of food mixer and beat for a few seconds until soft and creamy. Grate the lemon zest into the cheese, then add a drop or 2 of vanilla extract.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork or small whisk to combine the yolks and whites. Introduce the eggs to the cream cheese beating at slow speed, then pour in the double cream. At this point the mixture may look too much like liquid but worry not.
Stir in the flour, making sure it is thoroughly combined then pour into the lined cake tin. Scatter in the blueberries, some of which will slide down into the depths, others will stay afloat. Slide carefully into the oven, place on top of the hot stone or baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, until the cake has risen a little, its surface soft yet lightly firm and patchily golden brown.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave to cool before slicing.
A soft, creamy pÃ¢tÃ© to serve hot from the oven, to spread on thin, brown toast or pieces of crisp-crusted bread. Adjust the texture to be as firm or soft as you wish by adding more of less cream as you like.
onions 2, medium
olive oil 1 tbsp
dressed crabmeat 500g, white and brown
soft white breadcrumbs 50g
Dijon mustard 2 tsp
grain mustard 2 tsp
green peppercorns in brine 1 tsp
Worcestershire sauce 2 tsp
double cream 250ml
parmesan 4 tbsp grated
sourdough bread 4-6 slices
Peel and finely chop the onions. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a moderate heat, add the olive oil and then the onions and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and translucent. In a large mixing bowl combine the crabmeat and breadcrumbs then stir in the Dijon and grain mustards, green peppercorns and 1 tbsp of their brine, the Worcester sauce and 200ml of the cream. Check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and more mustard or peppercorns to taste.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. When the onions are soft, stir them into the crab and transfer to a shallow, ovenproof dish, about 20cm in diameter. Smooth the surface then scatter the grated Parmesan over the top. Trickle over the reserved cream and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until the surface is golden.
Toast the bread until golden then serve with the crab.
The Observer aims to publish recipes for fish rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Societyâs Good Fish Guide
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