‘Purple Sun’ carrot cheesecake

‘Purple Sun’ carrot cheesecake

This fluorescent purple cheesecake takes the best bits of carrot cake (the creamy frosting and spices) and ditches the worst (the baking and fuss). It’s coloured entirely by the natural hue of the carrots, but if you don’t like the purple there are plenty of other shades to pick from. Miss the walnuts? Just shove a handful of chopped ones into the base mix.

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Serves: 6

150g young nettle tops

125g packed lemon jelly crystals

2 ‘Purple Sun’ carrots, about 20cm long

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

250g cream cheese

225g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp mixed spice

410g evaporated milk, chilled in the fridge for at least 6 hours

  1. Seal the biscuits in a plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin until they are crushed, then mix with the melted butter.
  2. Press the biscuits/butter rubble onto the base of a 25cm spring-form cake tin. Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 150°C / gas mark 2 oven and leave to cool.
  3. Dissolve the jelly crystals in 200ml hot water.
  4. Grate the carrots and ginger using a microplane (extremely fine grater). The goal is a fluffy confetti, not chunky shards.
  5. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, mixed spice, carrots and ginger in a mixing bowl until well combined,
  6. Whisk the chilled evaporated milk in a large mixing bowl until it thickens like whipped cream. This only works if it is well chilled, so make sure it is icy cold before you start.
  7. Fold in the cheese/carrot mixture and, last of all, stir through the lemon jelly liquid.
  8. Pour the mixture over the cooled base and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
  9. Serve decorated with carrot leaves (which are edible, by the way) and slices of carrot.

Sceptical about new-fangled coloured varieties?
Then you will love purple carrots, which actually predate the ‘proper’ orange varieties by centuries. They are also sweeter, contain fewer bitter chemicals and come packed with up to twice the nutritious carotene and a hefty dose of anthocyanins. Not a bad trade-off, in my opinion. They are incredible roasted, grated in salads or stir-fried. Do not boil them, though, as these purple pigments are water-soluble, meaning much of the colour and nutritional value will leach out if cooked this way.

I prefer to sidestep the commonly available ‘Purple Haze’ (which is actually just plain orange at its core) and go for the almost black ‘Purple Sun’, which is inked with maroon through and through, getting increasingly dark as the carrot matures. Hunt out seeds online and thank me come harvest time.

Over the last few years ethnobotanist James Wong’s scientific and labour-saving approach to edible gardening has garnered critical acclaim, landing him his own BBC series Grow Your Own Drugs and publishing contracts for several books. Here we showcase James’ flair for combining the unusual with three of our favourite recipes with a difference from the book...

RHS Grow For Flavour by James Wong is published by Mitchell Beazley and is available, for £20, from www.octopusbooks.co.uk

Photographs: Jason Ingram
Recipes Type: Salads

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