Yet another installment of my quest to find more recipes that work with lychees, and make up for the relatively little attention that has been paid to cooking with this wonderful fruit. It seems right to pair them with familiar exotic and tropical flavours, as I did with the lychee and coconut panna cotta a week or so ago, so I went for a lime cheesecake, perched quiveringly atop a crumbly ginger and coconut base, and garnished with slivers of lychee.
Given that this is a recipe I invented in my head on a whim, I was pleasantly surprised. More than that - this is actually one of the most delicious cheesecakes I have ever eaten. It's incredibly simple to make, too, requiring very little actual cooking effort - the fridge does all the hard work in setting it for you. There are definite merits of both baked cheesecakes and the unbaked variety, but every now and again it's nice to have the latter for its refreshing lightness. It's almost mousse-like in texture, yet still incredibly luxurious-tasting, and the balance of tangy lime and sweet sugar is perfect. The ginger biscuit base is - well, I want to say the icing on the cake, but it's more the crust on the cheesecake; essentially, it completes what is a really excellent dessert, and something ideal for serving after a rich, heavy meal.
The actual cheesecake is so creamy and delicious that it's hard to believe it consists predominantly of evaporated milk. Milk in a can is just plain wrong in my opinion, but it actually makes a wonderful cheesecake: it's a bit like cream, but healthier, and mixed with some cream cheese it gives you a lovely light texture, almost more of a mousse than a cheesecake. I flavoured it simply with lime juice and lime zest, and used gelatine to set it. It didn't set too stiffly, so was still soft and creamy. The ratio of milk to cream cheese achieves just the right texture; soft and smooth, with a slight grainy creaminess from the cheese that is reminiscent of baked cheesecake. The best of both worlds, really.
The base is just a crumb mixture made of ginger nut biscuits broken up in a blender, along with some desiccated coconut. It really is that simple. After the individual cheesecakes had set in the fridge, I inverted them on top of a pile of gingery crumbs. Much easier than faffing around baking a base or crust with butter, and just as delicious. The overall effect of this is very light and zesty, yet it somehow feels marvellously indulgent. The lychees' sweet perfume is a perfect match for the tangy lime.
Lime, ginger and lychee cheesecakes (serves 4):
For the cheesecake, pour a third of a can (around 130g) of light evaporated milk into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until thickened and doubled in volume - rather like runny whipped cream. Add half a tub of cream cheese (or a bit more if you like your cheesecake quite thick and creamy). Mix together, and add 100g caster sugar - I didn't measure the exact quantity, so I'm guessing it was around that much, but it's easy to just keep tasting the mixture until it's sweet enough for your liking. Remember that cold things taste less sweet, so err on the side of sweetness. Add the grated zest of two limes.
Lightly oil four dariole moulds or ramekins with a flavourless oil.
Juice a lime into a small bowl, and microwave for a few seconds until hot. Sprinkle over 1.5 tbsp powdered gelatine, leave for a few seconds, then vigorously stir into the lime juice until it has all dissolved - if it clumps, heat it a bit more and keep stirring. Then, whisk this into the milk and cream cheese mixture. Do this quickly, and stir energetically to make sure it is evenly dispersed. The mixture will start to thicken and set as you whisk. Divide it between the moulds, but don't fill them quite to the top (you want to leave some space for the crumb base). Put in the fridge and chill for a few hours.
For the base, put some ginger nut biscuits and desiccated coconut (quantities are up to you - depends how much you like the base - I believe it's the best part of the cheesecake) in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs. Remove the set cheesecakes from the fridge, run a knife around the moulds to loosen, then spoon the crumbs into the mould. Invert them onto a plate, and with a few shakes and the tap of a spoon they should come out. You might have to coax them a bit with a knife, but it doesn't matter if they're not perfect, as the taste will more than make up for it.
Garnish with peeled, stoned, sliced lychees, and maybe some lime zest or pieces of desiccated coconut.
You could double the quantities and make a whole cheesecake in an 18cm springform cake tin, rather than four individual dariole moulds, if you didn't have the latter or had more people to feed.