(c R. Devit 2014)
I know that last week, I promised you a recipe, as penance for my confession that I had binned. And to some extent, you will get a guideline to produce a dish but it’s not going to be a traditional recipe. This is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. I often forget to measure amounts when I cook. It took real discipline to get into the habit when I started to publish recipes here. A formula for cookery is a good place to start if you are new to a particular cuisine, technique, or even to the kitchen. But, I find that sticking rigidly to recipes can be limiting when you want to try something new, and especially when using up the contents of your fridge.
Since I decided to launch WNWNW (AKA Waste Not Want Not Wednesday), I have also been trying to reconcile the fact that bunging a bit of this and that into something doesn’t really lend itself to recipe writing in its most common form, but is the best way to use up what you have. In a very timely way, Annie, at Kitchen Counter Culture, posted about how recipes are the antithesis of food waste, since they require exact amounts. She wants to empower people to approach cookery in a freer way. I think this is what cookery really is all about. Let joy (and cooking) be unconfined!
I have always been a visual cook – I start with a picture in my head, and the closer I can get to the picture, the better it works out. Then I rely on taste, and usually don’t measure anything. Cooking with the senses, rather than being bound by weights and measures. I have the confidence to do this, partly because I know what stuff goes together, but mostly through experience. The Big Guy too has learned that mushrooms, bacon, tomato, anchovies and capers should not all appear in the same pasta sauce, but not before we had to munch our way through his salty, tangy, tomato sour creation (of course, we weren’t going to throw it away!). I hope that this series will encourage people to just try stuff. I learned that dill and mandarin are the perfect foil quite by accident, and I’m sure many of us have similarly brilliant discoveries through a make-do-and-mend way with recipes, and a suck-it-and-see attitude to trying new combinations.
So, for WNWNW, there will be no recipes with amounts and measures. Instead, I’d like to present something a lot more freehand, into which I have bunged a bit of this and a bit of that. A “freecipe”, if you will, that liberates us to chuck stuff in, and gives us permission to omit ingredients that we don’t like, or have. I’ll give a few alternative ingredients, and if you try it or similar, please also feel free to let me know what you used or substituted as well. After all, the best way to use up what you have it to use a basic technique, and ad lib a bit. Or a lot. Depending on what you find in the back of your fridge.
This week; an easy freecipe, made from a mountain of yoghurt from work that was past its sell by date, I am happy to chance it, but my more cautious colleagues would probably have thrown it out. I got around this by making it look like something else entirely. And a bonus is that this recipe is gluten-free. The only thing that I had to buy was the rice flour, but you can just as well use plain. And you can top it with any thing you like, or not at all.
Freecipe: Baked Gluten Free Yoghurt Cheesecake
For the Base:
Some nuts (I used almost half a 250 g packet of almonds. pretty much any unsalted nut will be fine)
Some cold butter (about a quarter of a pat), cubed
Some rice flour (a little less in volume than the nuts, other flours if you prefer)
Couple of tbsp demerara sugar (or granulated white)
For the cheesecake:
Some yoghurt (I used most of a 500 ml tub of plain greek yoghurt. I expect that flavoured yoghurt will also work)
Some cream cheese (also most of a tub. Most recipes say to use much more, but the eggs will set it anyway)
Some eggs (I decided upon 3, but adjust to make a thick custardy texture, depending on how much cream cheese and how thick your yoghurt is)
Some Rice Flour (a couple of tbsp, also to add to the consistency, but not so much that it tastes of flour. Again, the choice of flour is yours)
Some sugar (depending what additions you are using and if they are sweet, taste the mix)
Other additions: citrus zest (I always have some in the freezer), citrus juice, cocoa powder (cut back on the flour), dried fruit, fresh berries, chocolate chips, rum soaked raisins, cold espresso, earl grey tea, flavours you like.
Toppings to choose from: frozen berries, chocolate curls, fresh fruit, coffee beans, candied citrus, candied flowers, whatever you fancy
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a springform cake tin with baking paper (or use a loose bottomed one, but also line the outside with tin foil to prevent leaks)
Whizz up the nuts in a food processor, until they are as fine as you like them.
Rub the rice flour and the butter in, until you have a rough breadcrumb texture. Add a little more butter or rice flour until you get it right. Stir in the nuts and the sugar.
Pour the base into the tin, and press with the back of a spoon to compact it and to cover all of the tin. Go up the sides, if you like.
Bake the base for about 15 minutes, or until it is a golden brown colour. Exact times will depend on the nuts you use. Set aside to cool.
To make the cheesecake mix together the yoghurt, cream cheese, eggs, rice flour and sugar. Beat to a smooth batter, about the consistency of thick custard. Add any of the flavourings and mix well.
Pour the cheesecake onto the base and put into the oven for 35-40 mins, or until there is still a slight wobble to the cheesecake. Allow to cool.
Top it with anything you like. Or leave it plain!