This is one of a handful of dishes which is always on the menu at NOPI. We’ve suggested using Stilton rather than the mix of Gorgonzola and Valdeón that we use at NOPI. Valdeón is a bold and salty Spanish blue with a distinctive strength, spice and complexity. It’s not as easy to come by as Stilton, but do get hold of some if you can.
The pickled beetroot needs to be made the day before. It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so can be made well ahead of time. You’ll make more than you need for this recipe, so keep any leftovers in the fridge to spoon alongside grilled fish or cheese. If you are short on time, dicing some ready-pickled beetroot is a perfectly good substitute.
The thing that gives this dish its initial ‘wow’ at the restaurant is the individual little copper pan each cake arrives in, freshly baked and perfectly formed. You can bake them in wide ramekins or small soufflé tins, but the recipe also works well as one large cheese cake. If you go for one large cake you’ll need to double the base mix quantity and increase the cooking time to 45 minutes. Make sure, also, that you grease and line the whole tin (rather than just the base) before the batter gets poured in. Finally, instead of serving it at once, you’ll need to let it cool for an hour before releasing it from the tin and reheating.
For the pickled beetroot:
3 large beetroots (670g), skin on and scrubbed clean
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
10g sprigs of thyme
½ tsp black peppercorns
50g caster sugar
500ml red wine vinegar
coarse sea salt
For the base:
40g unsalted butter, fridge-cold and cut into 2cm dice, plus 20g extra, melted, for greasing the moulds
50g pumpkin seeds, toasted
5 digestive biscuits (75g), roughly crumbled
40g coarsely grated Parmesan
For the cheese cake:
20g unsalted butter
1 medium leek, trimmed, white and green parts finely sliced (125g)
360g cream cheese
170g creme fraiche
80g double cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
20g chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped basil
100g Stilton (or a mixture of
75g Valdeon and 25g Gorgonzola), roughly crumbled
4 eggs, lightly beaten
40g runny honey (mixed, optionally, with a few drops of truffle oil)
30g hazelnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
15g baby basil or regular basil leaves
- Place all the ingredients for the pickled beetroot in a medium saucepan, for which you have a lid, and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Pour over 800ml of water – all the beetroots should be submerged, so add a little bit more water, if you need to – and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 35–40 minutes, covered, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside until completely cool. Lift out the beetroots, then peel and cut them into 1cm dice. Strain the pickling liquid, discard the bay, thyme and peppercorns, and return the liquid to a medium heat for about 25 minutes, until reduced by half and with about 600ml left in the pan. Set aside to cool, then pour the liquid over the beetroots. Keep in the fridge for 24 hours before using.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly grease eight 12cm wide ramekins or soufflé tins and place a circle of baking parchment in the base of each.
- Place all the ingredients for the cheese cake base in a food processor, with ½ teaspoon of salt. Blitz well to form fine crumbs, then divide between the ramekins, pressing down evenly and firmly. Set aside until ready to use.
- Place the butter for the cheese cake in a small pan and add the leek. Cook on a medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the leek is soft but still retains its colour. Set aside to cool, then transfer to a large mixing bowl along with the cream cheese, crème fraîche, double cream, garlic, chives, basil, ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to form a smooth paste before adding the blue cheese and eggs. Fold gently, then pour the mixture into the individual ramekins. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the mixture is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve at once, in the ramekins or soufflé tins, with a drizzle of the honey and the hazelnuts and basil sprinkled on top. The beetroot, strained, can be spooned on top of the cheese cakes, before the garnishes, or served alongside.