This week’s recipe is something I’ve hitherto not cooked for a reason. I’m not keen. Well, I wasn’t. Not completely.

Oh, let me elucidate – I’m not keen on baked cheesecake. There, I said it. Dozens of you must now be saying “what’s he got against the humble cheesecake?” So allow me to explain further: I like ‘proper’ cheesecake. Old-fashioned, British non-cooked cheesecake. I can’t begin to count the amount of gloopy, supermarket-bought cherry and blackcurrant cheesecakes I ate growing up. Now, they were lovely; thick tart fruit, cool creamy filling, and the best bit beneath, all that buttery crunched-up digestive biscuit. Ah, memory! No, the one I have a problem with is the classic New York-style baked cheesecake. People go absolutely nuts about it, and I, like a continental European trying to fathom out a game of test cricket, am utterly nonplussed.

Almost every deli and bakery in the US will have its “famous” or “world’s best” baked cheesecake, and customers will swoon over its lightness or creamy texture. For creamy and light I read: bland.

Every single slice, and believe me, I’ve tried many (I don’t like to feel ‘beaten’ by any dish!) has been the equivalent of eating a vaguely vanilla-scented hollowfill pillow. Mouthful after mouthful of relentlessly same-y, almost-there flavours.

For me, anything made with that much dairy simply MUST have something as counterbalance. And that something, almost without fail, is FRUIT. At the very least, a good whack of fresh lemon would help proceedings; both zest and juice folded into the mixture would help alleviate the relentless stodge.

If you don’t want to sully the purity of the sacrosanct recipe, at least pop a sharp fruit compote alongside. Tart blackcurrants, gently simmered until popping in a little lemon juice and a hint of sugar. Perhaps some fresh, early-season strawberries, just rolled in a little lemon juice. Or the sharpness of maincrop rhubarb, now in full flourish, and crying out for the creamy, biscuitiness of such a dish.

This recipe, with a few of my own tweaks (largely to make the thing a bit less sweet), is based on one in the Peyton & Byrne book, British Baking, a great read with some terrific classic recipes.

I’ve been leafing through it over the last few weeks, noting down the recipes I’d like to try out, and this one was the page to which I kept returning. And, as luck would have it, in clearing out the freezer we found a big bag of raspberries, picked last year, and we decided to put them to good use, before I went and made yet another gallon of raspberry vinegar, which is sitting (translation: me = maturing, wife = taking up space) in the fridge at home.

It’s terrific stuff, especially drizzled over a Yorkshire Pudding (try it!) or with some sharp goat’s cheese, but I had already made enough for an army and was forbidden from making more, thankfully. So, the cheesecake recipe was sorted, and we had room in the freezer for the fish fingers at long last.

A freezer requisite, the fish finger. Makes an incredibly satisfying post-pub sandwich.

Back to the cheesecake. You could, of course, make a curd with any fruit you fancy; citrus fruit, berries, cherries and stonefruit make the best. Or indeed, a thick fruit purée would work just as well. Pineapple, perhaps, with a hefty slug of lime juice.

But let’s not forget the simple mantra of banishing the bland, and firing up the fruit. Keep it sharp as well as creamy. I’d eat any cheesecake that adhered to these strict but necessary rules, and I may just get over my hang-up.

Rant over. Aprons on!

For the Raspberry Curd

250g fresh raspberries

80g butter

80g unrefined golden caster sugar

2 fresh, free-range eggs

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

For the Biscuit Base

300g digestive biscuits

1 tsp ground ginger

90g butter

For the Cheesecake

750g fresh cream cheese

110g unrefined golden caster sugar

100g sour cream

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

3 fresh, free-range eggs


20cm loose-bottomed cake tin, baking tray, plastic sieve

First, let’s make the raspberry curd. Gently push the raspberries through the plastic sieve with a wooden spoon, until only the pips remain.

Melt the butter gently in a pan, then, just off the heat, whisk in the sugar and the eggs, one by one.

Add the lemon juice and zest, and finally the raspberry purée.

Return to the heat and bring to a bubbling boil, whisking constantly. It should thicken to a nice gloopy pink paste.

Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and chill.

To make the biscuit base, melt the butter gently in a pan.

Crush the biscuits in a food processor, or by bashing them in a freezer bag with a rolling pin. Add the ground ginger. Pour in the butter and mix thoroughly.

While it’s still warm, press and smooth the biscuit mixture into the base of your tin.

Chill the tin while you make the cheesecake filling.

Beat the cream cheese, caster sugar, lemon juice and zest until smooth and creamy, add the sour cream, and then the eggs, one by one.

Heat the oven to 170ºC / Gas 3. Put half of the cream cheese mixture into the tin, and smooth it flat.

Add half of the raspberry curd, then top with the remaining cream cheese.

Pour the rest of the raspberry on in dollops, and swirl with a table knife to make a nice ripple effect.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the cheese is just set and slightly wobbly.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before unmoulding and serving.