Wild Strawberry Cheesecake

Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are a revelation. If you’ve never tried them before, imagine the very essence of strawberry. They are the real thing, with the flavour of commercially available fruit being a shade, a rumour of the true nature of this berry. 

This is hyperbole, of course. There are plenty of varieties of cultivated strawberry that are delicious and well worth a fork and some whipped cream. What is true is that wild strawberries are tiny capsules of incredible flavour, like a Victorian confectioner’s idea of how these things should taste. They are no bigger than  a fingernail, often smaller, and can be scarce. 

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The plant itself is common, often found in great carpets in forest clearings. They do enjoy a poor soil, and can be found on waste ground and along paths in parks. I have a patch that has colonised the ground along the front wall of my garden, a new resident enjoying my experiments in wild gardening. They do not always produce fruit, and when they do often in small amounts.

The wild strawberry is easy to identify, looking almost exactly like its cultivated cousin. The leaves are divided into three lobes with teeth running along the edges and deeply veined. The flowers, which appear in late spring and throughout the summer, are white and five-petalled. The fruits are, well, tiny strawberries. Frustratingly there is a lookalike called the barren strawberry, which flowers but produces no fruit. (The main difference in appearance is that the petals of the barren strawberry do not touch each other, where those of the fruiting plant overlap very slightly.)

As always don’t eat any wild plants or fungi if you are not 100% sure of identity.

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If you are lucky enough to find some, the best way to eat them is there and then, warm from the sun. If you find more than a handful, and manage to get them back to the kitchen without scoffing the lot, a cheesecake is a fitting tribute to this most perfumed of summer fruits.

This is a set cheesecake rather than a baked one. 

Ingredients

(for the base)

75g salted butter

40g honey

200g Kellogg’s Special K (or generic equivalent)

(for the topping)

500g ricotta

250g cream cheese

50g caster sugar

400g wild strawberries (or cultivated if you have only a few wild), plus extra (wild) for decorating

juice of half a lemon

Method

Very briefly pulse the Special K in a food processor until a rough crumb consistency – you don’t want it too powdery. Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat, add the Special K and the honey, and combine thoroughly. Grease a spring-bottomed cake tin, and press the mixture firmly onto the base using the back of a spoon. Bake in a preheated oven at about 160 for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then pop in the fridge for couple of hours to set firm.

Blitz the strawberries to a rough paste (you want some small chunks of fruit remaining). Whip the ricotta and the cream cheese together until smooth, then stir in the strawberry paste, caster sugar, and lemon juice, until thoroughly combined. Carefully spread over the chilled base, sprinkle over the remaining wild strawberries, and then pop back in the fridge until firmed up – a couple of hours at least. 

To serve, gently remove the ring from the cake tin and cut into slices. It will be quite delicate to care is needed. 

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