Stilton, shallots and balsamic vinegar are great bed-fellows, and they come together beautifully in this savoury cheesecake in which creaminess, sharpness, sweetness and sourness all come into play.
I first had a version of this cheesecake many years ago in a little Afternoon Tea shop in the Midlands: it was one of the savoury items, made in miniature form, as is befitting Afternoon Tea, with a small caramelised shallot perched on top as the crowning glory. To say I fell in love with the flavours would be an understatement!
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 wonderful supper dish.
The cheesecake, which is my adaptation of a fairly standard baked savoury cheesecake recipe, 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!
The base of a dish, especially for a cheesecake, 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 herbs and crushed walnuts do the trick.
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 sweetness of the gently cooked shallots and garlic with the sharpness of the balsamic vinegar is, I think, a perfect foil for the rich lusciousness of the filling. The whole shallots on top are not essential but I think they look good – they certainly taste good!
Recipe: Stilton & balsamic shallot cheesecake – makes a large 8″ cheesecake
- 130g savoury biscuits or crackers, crushed well
- 50g walnuts or pine nuts, crushed fairly well (not quite to a powder)
- 80g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
- pinch of sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 200g full-fat soft cheese*
- 200g ricotta cheese*
- 100g soured cream or crème fraîche
- 120g Stilton, crumbled
- 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 400g
- about 10 large shallots, peeled and sliced thickly
- several whole shallots, peeled, with the roots on (to keep them intact as they cook) – optional
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
- a whole garlic bulb, separated into cloves and peeled
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
- the leaves from a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
- balsamic syrup (see above)
- few sprigs of fresh thyme
- chopped fresh chives
- 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: small lumps of the Stilton 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, and the edge will have risen, be slightly cracked and be golden brown. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or so more 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 until ready to serve: it will sit fine in the fridge for a couple of days.
NB: if serving the cheesecake the same day, it ideally needs to cool down first so that it sets further, but re-heat it gently with the topping on.
(6) While the cheesecake is cooling, make the topping: reduce the oven temperature to 150C(fan). Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic, shallots and salt and fry over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until they start to soften and take on a little colour. Add the thyme, balsamic vinegar and honey and give everything a stir so that the everything gets well coated.
(7) Place the frying pan into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring them after about 25 minutes. Cool and chill until ready to serve. If using whole shallots, cook in the same way for up to an hour: they are ready when a sharp knife instered into the them goes in easily. Cut off the roots of the whole shallots once they have cooked.
(8) 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.
(9) Place the garlic and chopped shallots on top of the cheesecake, and pile the whole shallots in the centre, if using. Scatter over some fresh chives, thyme and a drizzle of balsamic syrup.