Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Nigella, I apologise. I've been unfair. 

Everytime R and I sit down to watch a Nigella Lawson cooking show, I end up rolling my eyes half-way through. You know which part, right? When she's licking her fingers or a spoon midway through making a dessert or a curry ... or as she tucks into her food in her satin robe at the end of a show. Those were my cues to groan in protest. You see, I always thought she was milking her good looks a little too much.     .

I take it back. I take it all back. After trying out her Rhubarb Cheesecake tonight, I think the licking of fingers is warranted. Heck, by the time I was done with of a piece of her cake,  I was licking my fingers, my plate, my fork in ecstasy.

So Nigella, I am sorry. And thank you for the cake.

I've never cooked with rhubarb before. It isn't easy to find here, and if you do find it in the supermarket, its usually very, very expensive. I've been dying to use it in a cake or pie for the longest time, having read about it in recipe books or seen cooks use it on TV. So, last weekend when I spotted some in the supermarket, I grabbed a stalk. Yes, just one measly stalk (think celery but a lovely crimson) because it was expensive and I wasn't sure if it was worth all the hype.

Meet Rhubarb, the cousin of celery.

Rhubarb is sometimes called the "pie plant" because, yup you guessed it, its most commonly used in pies and tarts. Originally, the stalk of the plant was used for medicinal purposes: as a laxative. THe leaves aren't used as they're believed to be toxic. 

Eaten on its own, rhubarb is sour.  But when its cooked and sweetened, it makes a delicious compote that is perfect jams or fillings for pied and tarts. The Rhubarb is also used to give the famous red colour of the all-too-popular Red Velvet Cake. 

So anyway, I looked through my books and I looked online and found recipes for rhubarb crumble, rhubarb  jam, rhubarb pies and rhubarb tarts ... they all looked delicious but nothing popped. Until I saw Nigella's recipe for Rhubarb Cheesecake. I had a fresh tube of cream cheese in my chiller and a small tub of sour cream too (he tops the cake with sour cream) so this was a recipe waiting to be made. Although I'd never been a fan of  Nigella, I've heard friends of mine and fans of hers oooohing and aaahing about her food so I was pretty confident she wouldn't let me down. 

After all her desserts always, always look so good on TV.

I had to halve the recipe as I only had 250 gms of cream cheese (the recipe calls for double that) and slightly more than 1 cup worth of chopped rhubarb (the recipe calls for 3). Why couldn't I go out and get some? Well, I always start my baking projects well into the night; this project began around 9pm. 

No worries. I decided to make mine into a cheese slice instead of a cake. 

The result was a yummy cheese cake. The four layers (crust, rhubarb, cheese and sour cream) worked  harmoiously together. The tartn rhubarb, the sweet and  creamy cheese centre and the tangy sour cream topping was just amazing. Not too sweet, not too sharp.

Nigella's Rhubarb Cheesecake.

For the crust

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled

3 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

The cheese cake
550g cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs

The topping
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crust. Mix with your finger tips until crumbly. Pat into the bottom of a 23cm (9 in) springform pan.

In another bowl,  toss together the chopped rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp flour. Pour onto the crust and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 175C.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Beat with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat till well incorporated.
Pour over hot rhubarb in the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until filling is set.

Make the sour cream topping while waiting. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well.

Spread on top of the cake while its hot.

1 comment:

  1. The first time I messed with rhubarb here (CH) R told me, as a kid, he used to peel a stalk and snack on it by dipping it in castor sugar first. Don't know whether he was kidding me - but it was good facial exercise reacting to the tartness (only mildly tamed by the sugar).


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