The inspiration for this cheesecake recipe came from the unmistakable scent of ripe quince. These wobbly, bobbly fruit have a fragrance like no other. Pop a bowl of these golden orbs in a bowl and your room will smell like musk, ripe pear, violet and milky coconut – think of heady Arabian oud. I wanted a recipe which nodded towards the fruit’s Middle Eastern roots and perfume.
Quince are part of the rose family and native to Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Turkey and Syria where it’s still commonly used in both sweet and savoury dishes. With their distinctive tartness which mellows to a fragrant sweetness when poached, quince are the ideal fruit to balance a rich, creamy dessert such as a cheesecake.
Baked cheesecake recipes are often intimidating, with the inclusion of water baths, sour cream toppings and long, slow cooking times which often result in sunken centres. This is a no-fuss baked cheesecake recipe which has all of the same richness as a New York-style cheesecake.
I use labneh as part of the filling in this recipe as it is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine so compliments the roots of quince fruit. Labneh is a perfect substitute for cream cheese which is more traditionally used in cheesecake recipes. Labneh has a very similar consistency to cream cheese, but with a little more tang, flavour complexity and probiotic value!
This isn’t a difficult dessert to make, but requires time and forward planning. You could use shop-bought labneh or make your own which is a lot cheaper. I would suggest making the labneh the day before or better still, prepare it just before bed so that it’s ready for you to use the following morning. To get the 250g of labneh required, you’ll need to start with 425g of Greek-style yoghurt, mixed with 1/3 teaspoon of salt. Get the recipe and read more on labneh here.
I’ve used shop-bought Speculoos biscuits as the base as the caremlised, slightly spiced flavour compliments the flavours of rosewater and spiced-poached quince incredibly. You could substitute Speculoos biscuits with ginger nut biscuits or digestives.
Rosewater is used, as well as vanilla and ground cardamom to flavour the cheesecake filling but you could use orange blossom water instead of the rosewater or omit it completely if you want the flavour of vanilla to shine more. I like using rosewater as it is a nod to quince being part of the rose family and is so synonymous to the tastes and smells of the Middle East.