Stilton & Watercress Cheesecake - 'From Tunnel to Table' recipe for December

Stilton & Watercress Cheesecake - surrounded by a Christmas wreath of parsley & watercress Stilton & Watercress Cheesecake - served with mixed leaf salad, pickled red cabbage & Oriental radishes
Stilton & Watercress Cheesecake - surrounded by a Christmas wreath of parsley & watercress Stilton & Watercress Cheesecake - served with mixed leaf salad, pickled red cabbage & Oriental radishes
This month's recipe is a totally new one I've recently invented!  It would be a real show-stopper as a vegetarian centre-piece for a buffet, or an easy make-ahead starter for Christmas dinner - garnished with red tomatoes and green watercress or parsley to make it look festive! Or it would also make a nice light lunch in summer. For both options I would serve with a crisp green salad.
 
From the polytunnel it uses watercress, spring onions, garlic and parsley. It also uses eggs from our hens which are fed on tunnel produce (& they of course help to produce compost which feeds my garden)! It's garnished with semi-dehydrated Rosada baby plum tomatoes grown in the summer, semi-dehydrated and frozen, and it's accompanied by tunnel-grown mixed leaf salads, pickled red cabbage and pickled Oriental radishes - which cut nicely through the rich flavours. You could alternatively garnish it elegantly with half walnuts - but I thought tomatoes looked a bit more 'Christmassy' as it's that time of year!
 
It's quite a rich but deliciously creamy, savoury cheesecake which is rather unusual. Even though it's vegetarian I promise you that no meat eater will turn their nose up at it if they like cheese!
It's incredibly easy to make!
Although most of the ingredients are seasonal at the moment - they're also available everywhere for most of the year - both organic and non-organic. I naturally use all organic - that goes without saying. 
It's a very versatile - if you bake it in a round cake tin it looks lovely on the plate with some garnishes. If baked in a square tin and then served cold and cut into small squares it makes delicious cocktail nibbles to accompany drinks. If you have any left over you can just crumble it into a saucepan with some cream, heat gently and it can become a pasta sauce, a quick risotto with some pre-cooked rice, or you can just pour it over some cooked vegetables and make a gratin! As I've only just invented the recipe I'm sure lots more uses will occur to me!
 
It can also be quite a frugal recipe, as it can use up any odds and ends of cheese left over from the Christmas cheeseboard! I love inventing versatile basic recipes that have lots of different uses - particularly ones that use up any odds and ends lying around in the fridge. We never have any food waste here - every scrap is precious!
It's suitable suitable for vegetarians.
 
It's a very healthy recipe! It's filling as it's full of protein and healthy fats from the cheese, watercress which is high in vitamins, minerals and beneficial phyto-nutrients -  and the base is even made from crushed walnuts - rather than the more usual cheesecake base of carb-rich crushed biscuits. A small slice accompanied by a nice crisp green salad makes a very healthy, low-carbohydrate, balanced meal.
 
It freezes incredibly well - It's perfect for dividing up into single portions and wrapping individually if you're just cooking for one. Or you can freeze it whole, for decanting later onto a plate and garnishing prettily just before it's served.
 
Equipment:
 
You'll need a wide, heavy-based saucepan or frying pan for wilting the watercress, spring onions and garlic. (I use a wide & deep ceramic frying pan which is a totally safe non-stick option - rather than a 'Teflon' non-stick one which can release toxic PFCs.)  
 
Also a food processor for easily blitzing the nuts and combining the cheese mixture (you could do it by hand but it's jolly hard work!). Some parchment baking paper. A 20cm/8in. spring-form loose-bottomed cake tin or similar sized square tin
 
 
Ingredients : 
Makes about 8 portions, as it's quite rich.
 
Butter for greasing
 
4 oz Walnut pieces (broken ones are cheaper) plus a few nice walnut halves for garnishing if liked.
 
1 tablespoon organic extra-virgin olive oil.
 
3 large garlic cloves chopped or crushed
 
2 large or 3 small spring onions/scallions (white parts & green tops) chopped
 
6 oz  Watercress - roughly chopped - plus a few sprigs to garnish if liked (or you could use a mixture of watercress & rocket)
 
3 heaped tablespoons of freshly chopped or frozen crushed parsley
 
3 organic eggs
 
300g of 'Philadedelphia' - type soft cream cheese (I use organic soft cheese from Sainsbury's)
 
200g of Stilton, Danish Blue or Gorgonzola - If you don't like blue cheese you could make this with all cream cheese or ricotta instead - you could also use other cheeses to add to the cream cheese - whatever bits & pieces you have left on the cheeseboard after Christmas. Cashel Blue or Shropshire Blue would also be nice. As this is a new recipe - I haven't tried it with Brie or other soft cheeses yet but it would probably work with those too.
 
5 loosely heaped tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan (again - I can't stress enough that ready-grated is foul tasting - & at best is 'gone off'!)
 
Black pepper - freshly ground. (As the blue cheese is already salty enough it doesn't need any more)
 
Cherry tomatoes as a garnish if liked - not essential, but looks nice & 'Christmassy' ! Also some extra watercress looks nice around it and adds more healthy greenstuff. At other times some half walnuts on the top and some crispy bacon lardons in the salad for non-vegetarians would be nice too.
 
 
Method:
 
Couldn't be easier - just what you want when you're busy in the run up to Christmas!
Preheat the oven to 150 deg C
1. Assemble and prepare all the ingredients. Cut a disc of parchment paper to line the bottom & straight pieces to line the sides of the tin to prevent burning. Generously butter all the paper.
2. Blitz the walnut pieces to a fine powder in the food processor - use them dust the sides a little and then press rest firmly into the lined base. (Handy tip - a flat bottomed potato masher or flat mug base does this easily)
3. Heat the oil in the heavy based pan and cook garlic and onions gently for 1 minute until starting to release their fragrance.
4. Add the chopped watercress and parsley. Stir gently, turning over for 1 - 2 minutes until the watercress is just wilted. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.
 
5. Put the cheese mixture, the eggs, Parmesan and the watercress mixture into the food processor and season well with black pepper.
 
6. Process the ingredients until evenly mixed with no lumps - and pour into the prepared tin. (At this stage - the mixture could be used as a 'Carbonara' -style pasta sauce, stirred into pre-cooked rice for a quick risotto, or even poured over cooked veg & browned in the oven for a quick gratin. Lovely on left over sprouts!)
 
7. Bake for about one hour, until it's firm in the middle and golden brown on top. 
*Ovens can vary quite a lot - so if the top seems to be browning a little too much after about 45-50 mins - cover it loosely with some more parchment paper for the last 10-15 mins. Don't take it out of oven to do this, just slip it on top quickly. It will crack around the edge at the top as it cooks - don't worry about this - all baked cheesecakes do this! It will sink back gradually as it cools and this will mostly disappear. If perfection worries you - your garnishes can hide this easily!
I prefer to serve this cool, or chilled. You could if you prefer serve it with just a 'hint of warmth' in it at room temperature. I don't think the flavours are as good hot.
If you want to freeze it - after cooling, chill the cheesecake in the fridge, and either cut into portions or freeze whole. Wrap well as cheese tends to absorb flavours very easily from other sources in the fridge or the freezer!
 
1a. Stilton & Watercress cheesecake ingredients 1b. Line bottom & sides of the spring form cake tin with parchment paper & butter it generously
1a. Stilton & Watercress cheesecake ingredients 1b. Line bottom & sides of the spring form cake tin with parchment paper & butter it generously
2. Blitz walnut pieces finely in  food processor, dust sides first then press remainder into base of tin 3. Heat the oil in the pan, cook spring onion & garlic gently for 1 minute
2. Blitz walnut pieces finely in  food processor, dust sides first then press remainder into base of tin 3. Heat the oil in the pan, cook spring onion & garlic gently for 1 minute
4a. Add chopped watercress & parsley to pan 4b. Stir, turning  over gently for 1-2 mins. until just wilted, allow to cool
4a. Add chopped watercress & parsley to pan 4b. Stir, turning  over gently for 1-2 mins. until just wilted, allow to cool
 5. Put cheese, eggs, Parmesan, watercress mixture & black pepper into food processor  6. Process ingredients until evenly mixed with no lumps & pour into prepared tin
 5. Put cheese, eggs, Parmesan, watercress mixture & black pepper into food processor  6. Process ingredients until evenly mixed with no lumps & pour into prepared tin
 7. Bake for 1 hour until firm in middle & golden brown on top  
 7. Bake for 1 hour until firm in middle & golden brown on top  

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