As my regular readers will know, last month was the end of our peafowl cull for 2015. In a couple of weeks we will be having a BBQ for our volunteers, to thank them for the work they have done for us over the year. I love these kinds of celebrations, since I get to pull out all the stops to create a feast. Part of the feast will be the first run of my UFO steamer; I will be making a sort of contemporary hangi. Dave will be chained to his BBQ, cooking many different wild meats. It is going to be a great day. When people first arrive, I will have prepared all sorts of treats to nibble on while we wait for the meat. One of these is the single most requested thing I make and it is so popular, I cannot work out why I have not shared it before. It is a savoury Fiesta Cheesecake, finished with tomato, black olives, capsicum and spring onions – something for everyone.
Before we get into the recipe, here are a few facts about cheesecakes. Cheesecakes have been recorded in history since the times of the ancient Greeks. It is written about in Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura – the oldest surviving work of Latin prose, dated around 160 BC. So, for well over 2000 years, people have been eating them.
Cheesecakes have survived the test of time in many forms. As the years have gone by, little has changed in the basic way it is made. The recipe for Cato the Elder’s cheesecake contained what was called “tender cheese” and we now call Ricotta. It also contained bay leaves, eggs, honey, orange and lemon zest and flour.
Around the world now, in 2015 those same ingredients are still used to make cheesecakes. Variations can be the use or type of flour, the type of cheese (generally Ricotta or Cream Cheese), and the flavours. Cato the Elder’s cheesecake was baked; ours can be baked or contain gelatine for a set cheesecake. Sweetness can come from honey, or from any other available sweetener. Unless you are making the cheesecake we are looking at today, which happens to be a savoury cheesecake.
Savoury cheesecakes are not very common. They are absolutely delicious and everyone likes them a lot. You will see in my recipe that I generally use ground corn chips for the base. Lately I have been testing ground crackers for the base and I am getting some good results. Feel free to test your own base and let me know how you get on.
Thanks for the feedback from those who heard me on the National Radio last week; they have asked me to come back again. I will let you know when.
Mawera Karetai – The Wild Cook
1 1/2 cups finely crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
550 gms cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups grated Tasty cheese, or other aged cheddar
1 small can chopped green chillies, well drained
1/4 teaspoon ground red chilli pepper
225gms sour cream
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
2 bunches fresh coriander or parsley (optional)
· Combine tortilla chips and butter; press onto bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch spring-form pan.
· Beat all of the cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until fluffy; add eggs,one at a time, beating after each addition.
· Stir in cheese, chillies and ground red pepper.
· Pour into prepared pan, and bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
· Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Gently run a knife around edge of pan to release sides,
· Spread sour cream evenly over top; cover, chill and let cool completely.
· Remove cake to a plate. Serve on a bed of fresh coriander or parsley, if desired.
· Arrange capsicums, tomato, olives and spring onion on top as desired. The spring onion section is my favourite. Serve with corn chips on the side.