Whilst a sweet cheesecake can be a thing of great joy, a savoury one is often even more special for me. The flavours of Gorgonzola, pears and walnuts make a great match at any time and here the sweet juicyness of the pears with the sharp kick of balsamic vinegar work well with the rich tangyness of the cheesecake.
This cheesecake is great served as a starter with a crisp green salad, either served at room temperature or warmed through slightly. It also makes a wonderfully different cheese course in its own right!
The cheesecake is very easy to make, taking moments for the base and for the filling before it gets baked. It can be made a day or two in advance.
The cheesecake also freezes beautifully: I tend to freeze slices of it, taking out what I want earlier in the day.
The base really counts!
I am a firm believer that the base of a dish, such as for a cheesecake or even the pastry for a tart, should not be there just to hold everything in place: it needs to have a good flavour to complement each mouthful.
With a cheesecake, be it sweet or savoury, I like to add extras to the base to perk it up. In this case, a little fresh rosemary, chives and crushed walnuts do the trick, but herbs such as sage or thyme also work very well.
Any savoury biscuits or cheese crackers can be used for the base. I occasionally add a couple of digestives with the savoury biscuits to add just a touch of sweetness.
The Gorgonzola in the filling is certainly both present and piquante, without over-powering.
The garlic and mustard add depth of flavour and enhance the savouryness of the cheesecake.
I sometimes use different blue cheeses (Stilton is terrific), but occasionally go for completely different cheeses. Some of my favourites include:
- Goats’ cheese
An easy pear chutney topping
I have made a very quick and easy pear chutney to go on top. It takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish and can be made while the cheesecake bakes or made well in advance – it will keep for months in a screw-top jar.
The recipe for this pear chutney is here.
Alternatively, chop a few ripe pears and mix with balsamic vinegar, a little honey and some seasoning and use this as the topping.
The sweetness of the pears with the sharpness of the balsamic vinegar is, I think, a perfect foil for the lusciousness of the filling.
A few thin slices of pears, dehydrated or baked at a very low tenperature until they dry out and go crisp make great additions to the cheesecake.
I sometimes lay them flat, slightly overlapping, or vertically, giving the appearance of flames!
Just add them just before serving so they retain their crispness.
Balsamic syrup to counteract the richness
I like to drizzle over some balsamic syrup as the cheesecake is served: sweet, sticky and sharp, it is an ingredient I love to add to all manner of dishes. Not least to dunk some good focaccia into!
Balsamic syrup is simply balsamic vinegar (about 100ml) poured into a small pan, brought to the boil with a teaspoon or so of honey and simmered until reduced by about half.
Recipe: Gorgonzola, pear and walnut cheesecake – serves 12-14
- 120g savoury biscuits or crackers, crushed well
- 60g walnuts, finely crushed well or powdered
- 80g unsalted butter, melted
- a few finely chopped fresh rosemary or sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
- pinch of sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 250g full-fat soft cheese*
- 250g ricotta cheese*
- 100g crème fraîche or soured cream*
- 100g Gorgonzola, crumbled
- 1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
- 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- about 3 tablespoons chopped chives
- a little fine sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
*you can use any mixture of soft cheeses but go for a total of 600g. You can also use the lower-fat versions.
- 4 tablespoons pear chutney, slightly warmed through (see above)
To finish – any of:
- balsamic syrup (see above)
- a few crushed walnuts
- dried pear or apple slices
- chopped fresh chives
You will also need an 8″ springform cake tin, well buttered and then side-lined with baking parchment. Alternatively, use any loose-bottomed tin.
(1) Preheat the oven to 160C(fan).
(2) Mix the base ingredients together until well incorporated and with no dry bits. Press firmly into the cake tin, smoothing it off with the back of a spoon. Chill until you are ready to make the filling (which takes just seconds to make up!).
(3) Whisk the filling ingredients together well to give a fairly smooth mixture: a few small lumps of the cheese in there is fine. Pour into the tin.
(4) Place the tin onto a baking tray and bake for about 50 minutes: as a test, the centre should be slightly wobbly but not runny. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or so if needed but bear in mind the cheesecake will set further as it cools.
(5) Remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave it to cool fully in its tin. Once cool, refrigerate for several hours or overnight. You can, however, serve the cheesecake straight from the oven if you prefer.
(6) To serve: unclip the tin and remove it. If using a loose-bottomed tin, run a knife around the inside (between the greaseproof and the tin) and stand the base on a jar or mug, gently push down on the tin’s rim. Carefully peel off the greaseproof.
(7) Spoon the chutney on top of the cheesecake followed by a scattering of walnuts. Just before serving drizzle over some balsamic syrup and some freshly chopped chives. You can add dried pear or apple slices if you have some.