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    Low-Fat Rhubarb & Vanilla Cheesecake

    A guilt-free cheesecake recipe that doesn't scrimp on taste!

    Difficulty

    Easy

    Serves

    6-8 people

    Prep Time

    20 minutes

    Cooking Time

    20 minutes plus overnight chilling

    "Isn’t Mother Nature clever? Just as Christmas fizzles tragically into the new year, horrendous weather is battering the country, we’re all fat and broke and hungover and miserable, and we never want to see cheese, meat or dried fruit again in our life…with a flourish, she brings out rhubarb."

    Hot pink, sweet, tart, versatile: new season rhubarb is the complete edible antidote to all the woes of January. Its absurdly vivid colour is a beautifully stark contrast to the grey of the season, bold and daring and a little bit exciting to cook with. Its sweet-sour flavour is guaranteed to perk up the tastebuds after all the rich heaviness of Christmas fare. It takes very little to coax something rewarding out of these perky stalks, so you don’t need to slave away in the kitchen: simply heat it up with a little water or orange juice and sugar, and you have the basis for all sorts of delicious desserts.

    New season rhubarb is a little more special than the kind you can find throughout the summer. It’s grown by being ‘forced’ in dark sheds, which makes the stalks much more slender, brighter, and sweeter-tasting: it’s sometimes called ‘champagne rhubarb’ to denote its superior qualities. Later, naturally grown rhubarb is tougher, woodier, greener and much more sour. Sometimes you don’t even need to sweeten these tender champagne stalks; other times just a couple of spoonfuls of sugar will do. It makes an absolutely beautiful addition to so many sweet things, particularly where dairy is involved, providing a snowy canvas against which to highlight its vivid colours.

    However, it is still January and some of us are likely to be, if not dieting, at least trying to eat a little more healthily. In the spirit of this, here’s a cheesecake that showcases the magnificent colour and flavour of January rhubarb, but is a little lighter on the fat and calories than most. It’s made with quark, a virtually fat-free cream cheese, lifted with vanilla and rippled through with a beautiful hot pink rhubarb puree. This sits on a gorgeous crunchy ginger biscuit base, again made with less butter than your average cheesecake but still retaining that moreish crunch from being baked in the oven. Chilled and set with gelatine rather than baked, this is much fresher-tasting than a baked cheesecake: the perfect dessert for a light new year meal.

    Here's what you'll need...

    • 400g rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
    • 14 gingernut biscuits (use ‘light’ ones to make it even more low-fat)
    • 50g butter
    • 500g quark
    • 150g light cream cheese
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 150g icing sugar
    • 60ml boiling water
    • 1 sachet gelatine
    • A punnet of blackberries

    Here's how it's done... Step 1

    Put the rhubarb in a small saucepan with a drop of water. Cook over a medium heat, covered with a lid and stirring occasionally, until it collapses into a rough puree. Taste: you may want to add 1-3 tbsp caster sugar if your rhubarb is very tart, although some early season rhubarb is sweet enough to have without sugar. Leave to cool for 20 minutes or so, then pour this into a sieve and set it over a bowl to drain a little.

     

    Step 2

    Meanwhile, make the biscuit base. Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Put the biscuits in a blender and blitz to fine crumbs. Melt the butter in a small pan, then stir in the biscuits. Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin, then pour the biscuit mixture over the bottom. Use the back of a spoon to press the biscuits evenly over the bottom of the tin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, or until the base is golden brown. Leave to cool.

     

    Step 3

    In a large bowl, mix together the quark, cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar. Put the boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine evenly. Leave for a minute, then stir the gelatine vigorously into the water until it has dissolved (if it’s still a bit lumpy, heat the water for 10 seconds in the microwave then stir again).

     

    Step 4

    Quickly whisk the gelatine mixture into the cream cheese mixture until evenly incorporated, then pour into the prepared cake tin. Spoon the rhubarb puree over the top, then roughly swirl it through the cheese mix using a knife or spoon.

     

    Step 5

    Put the cake in the fridge and chill for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight. Decorate with the blackberries and serve.

     

     

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