ight years on from when I left high school and I’m still discovering ways in which the curriculum was utterly nonsensical.
You know how everyone comes out of education and go, Okay, yes, but I don’t have a bloody clue how to file taxes or change a fuse in a plug?
Well, yeah, that’s true for me too. But also, there seems to have been a lot of…half lessons.
Key things you learn at school: solving quadratic equations; how to colour around the outline of countries on a map really accurately; and which parts of your tongue detect certain tastes.
Things that remain a mystery: why on earth the average person needs to be able to solve quadratic equations; where the north/south divide lies really; and how you taste flavours that are more about the tickle at the back of your throat, or the way they linger, seemingly in your nose.
One of these things bothers me more than the others. It isn’t the maths.
We know that the five tastes are sweet, salt, bitter, sour, and umami (savoury!), but it’s more complicated than that because the human body is amazing. The tongue picks up on temperature, pressure, and chemicals that create a range of effects like pain and the tingles, and that’s before you even factor in your nose and influences like memory. When it comes to hot chilis, what we taste and feel is down to capsaicin binding heat-sensing receptors*.
It makes sense, then, that the chili in this cheesecake isn’t a flavour so much as a feeling — at first bite you barely catch it, but by the last mouthful there’s a light tingle on your lips, a sensation created by using both dried chili flakes and Lindt’s dark chili chocolate. I was so excited about developing this recipe, to put a little twist on what’s a fairly straight-up idea. Although chili and chocolate is a pretty classic pairing, this dessert offers a little something different to your standard dinner party fare, and sounds a lot trickier than it actually is.
Chili chocolate cheesecake
Adapted from Nigella
Serves 12, at least.
I used a 9 (maybe 10?) inch springform pan, but the original recipe calls for a smaller one. Smaller means deeper.
300g chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed
500g cream cheese (50% fat works fine!)
Cocoa to dust