12 December, 2013
Rusbhari Malai Handi (Gooseberry Cheesecake Pot)
It did’nt matter whether we ordered Filet de truite fraiche aux, Bouillabaisse, or Tarte Normande, all the dishes in this exquisite French restaurant L’Heritage came with a final touch, a crowning glory so to speak, an orange berry on top. This is no ordinary berry though. Just like a candy in its wrap, this little orange berry has a dainty strawlike calyx .I held the little stem with my finger and dug my teeth in, to pluck the berry. A little sweet a little tart, I was always intrigued by this fruit. Such was my attachment with this berry , that my friends and family have more than once given up their share to me.
On a recent visit to my SIL in India, I had a de ja vue. Devi my SIL, herself an award winning cook, always looks for ways to include local and seasonal veggies and fruits in her cooking. ‘Kisher chutney banali?’, What did you make the chutney with, I ask her, after giving up on the guessing game. Surely the sweet and tart taste with the familiar chutney spices, were all pointing towards a fruit. But which one? ‘Rusbhari’ she said matter-of-factly. She dose’nt mean Raspberry, does she? The colour was far from ‘ Raspberry.’ Try saying Rusbhari a few times, dose’nt it sound like Raspberry? In as much as I was itching to find out about the mystery ingredient, anymore discussion at that point would only undermine her knowledge about Raspberry.
After a brief break, I see my brother -in-law returning with a small packet in his hand. ‘There you go, more Rusbharis for you’ he said. As he put the shopping on the table, imagine my surprise when I see the little orange berries right in front of me. A few of them were tied together with an elastic band. The calyxes were pulled behind, as if sporting a pony tail ! I was like a kid in a candy store. No, I didnt gobble them down, but held them very softly, turned them over, opened the elastic bands, tried to put the calyxes back, as if to relieve them of the pain from a tight ponytail. Then came the camera, I tried them in landscape and portrait mode, single and in bunches, flat on the table and in glass containers. Not sure what to make out of this Rusbhari-love of mine, my brother-in-law, pointed his finger to the open window, as if even uttering a word would dilute the situation. As I look out of the window, I see a man with a wooden cart selling something. A closer look, I see a sea of Rusbharis spread out on the cart. Here was the berry that we got one per plate in the restaurant. It is being sold in kilos! I can surely justify Devi’s decision of making chutney with this berry.
‘Juicefilled ‘ would be the literal translation in English. Cape gooseberry or Physalis peruviana were some of the other names.
Very recently, I saw them in small plastic bushels holding about ten or twelve gooseberries in them, in my local grocery store. After doing the happy dance, I bought a couple bushels. I knew I was not making chutney, I wanted to relish them as they were with minimum cooking. I liked this idea of strawberry cheesecake pot that I saw in Kirstie Allsupp’s video. Why dont I recreate the same using the gooseberries?
I can safely say you won’t be disappointed. As you dig the spoon in the cheesecake pot, to include a bit of the cut berries, the layer of cheese, the crunchy biscuit pieces with a bite or two of the almond sliver, there is a medley of tastes. The sweet and soft cheese layer melts in the mouth, giving way to the little berry pieces, and finally the chewy bits of the nuts , berry seeds and biscuits. . I must admit my spoon did not leave any evidence of the cheesecake being in the pot.
Light Digestive biscuits. Peek Freans 12
Low fat Greek yoghurt. 150 gms
Extra light soft cheese, 150 gms
Light condensed milk .Carnation. Half tin. 200 gms
Lemon juice From one lemon
Fresh gooseberries 250 gms.
Almond slivers Handful
Crumble the biscuits with your finger. I put two biscuits in each tumbler.I had six tumblers in all.
Place the condensed milk into a bowl and add lemon juice. Stir together untill the mixture has thickened. Whisk the cream cheese and yoghurt in a small bowl untill smooth then fold in the thickened condensed milk. Spoon the creamy mixture over the biscuits. Chill for atleast 30 minutes to an hour.
Chop the berries. Add about two tablespoon of the cut berries to the cheesecake. Throw in a few slivers of almonds and garnish with a whole berry on top to serve.
I was left with some of the cheese mixture, You can be generous with portioning this.