somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
We were in San Sebastián last summer and were planning to go back this summer. Aside from wanting to soak up more of the city’s lovely relaxed atmosphere, beautiful beaches and amazing food culture, we had some unfinished business – there was a dish that everyone kept urging me to try, the burnt cheesecake that has become Insta famous. We didn’t have time; we’d already had ice cream by the time I remembered it, etc etc.
Long story short, we didn’t have it, but I thought grand, we’ll be back next summer, maybe even before – October surf trip: scarves on but Birkenstocks still busting through on warmer afternoons. And here we are; not in San Sebastián for the foreseeable, but wherever we all are, Birkenstocks on but nowhere to go.
And I’m okay with that – London comes into its own from May. First it is florid like something from a Richard Curtis wedding scene: roses tumbling, lush grass, soft breezes, sparkling wine & honeysuckle. Then when it gets hot – really hot – it develops a new feeling. Redolent with new smells. Ripe fruit in plastic bowls outside neighbourhood shops. Music drifting from down the road. A dusty exotic energy. A summer holiday in itself.
But that still didn’t get me to the cheesecake. So I decided to take a punt on a very solid recipe source and what I thought it might taste like and just give it a go. And so I don’t know exactly what the burnt cheesecake tastes like, and whether this is a good stab at it, but this is a lovely recipe, and it feels like it has a bit of ceremony to it. Nice for a little garden gathering. For a little escapism – it’s Basque after all, and I happen to know it tastes great with an ice-cold glass of cava, even if sherry is more traditional. After all, this is not the summer to get hung up on authenticity. This year it’s just important to celebrate the good bits from the places we love, whatever way we can, and what we eat and drink is a big part of that.
So if you are where you are this year, why not make a list of the dishes you’ve loved from holidays past – or the dishes you didn’t get to try – and try making some of them yourself. Or if you were to be going somewhere new to you that’s now no longer happening, research a few of the local dishes and treat yourself to a sun-soaked meal in your own back garden/front door step/local park.
BAKED BASQUE CHEESECAKE
I don’t want to say ‘Serves 10’ , so ‘Makes 10 portions’
4 x 180g packets full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
200g caster sugar (golden if you see it, but regular caster is fine either)
6 large free range eggs
3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt
465 ml double cream
Half a teaspoon of salt
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of a lemon
50g plain flour
You also will need a 25cm spring-form baking tin & baking paper
Preheat your oven to 200ºc. Lightly grease your tin then line with baking parchment. Two overlapping pieces gives a neater result but is harder to lift out so I’d say stick with one big piece even if it doesn’t look quite so perfect. Place the springform tin on a baking sheet.
Beat the cream cheese with the sugar until very smooth and no lumps remain and the sugar has dissolved, around 2 mins. Add each egg one at a time, beating in well before adding the next. Add the cream, salt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.
Sift the flour in and beat to combine. The batter should be silky smooth by now; if it’s not, keep walloping it for a bit longer. Pour the batter into the lined tin (try not to have any bits of parchment overhanging the batter as this will stop it browning evenly) and bake in the centre of your oven for around 55-65 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean – check it after 45 minutes to see how it’s doing. Let it cool a bit then remove it from the tin. Chill it in the fridge before serving then serve with strawberries on the side. Sherry optional. Holiday mindset not.