The idea for this came to me in the middle of the night, as I lay awake thinking - as I usually do - about food and recipes. In particular, I was mulling over the Four-Pepper Cream Cheese I posted recently on this blog. It was tasty enough, with its four stripes of different peppers, but it just didn't look as pretty as I'd envisaged. So I set my sleepless mind to this task: how could I create a delicate and interesting design of spices on a cheese? I knew a stencil of some sort was needed, but the only ones I had were big acetate wall stencils from the 1980s - do you recall that era of ragrolling, sponging, stippling and stencilling? - and my treasured stash of old-fashioned paper doilies.
Then I remembered - hallelujah!- that I'd bought a pack of henna stencils, from one of Johannesburg's Chinese markets, a year or so back. They were perfect for the job, being light, flexible, slightly sticky and cut with great precision.
You can use any cream cheese for this, provided that it comes in a block firm enough to be stencilled. I used Lancewood's Superior Cream Cheese; if you can't find this, use Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Likewise, any combination of your favourite spices will do, as long as they are ground finely enough to create even coverage: I used a slightly darker blend of spices on the edges of the cheese. Ask for henna stencils at your local Asian market or spice shop, or order them online.
Before I put the stencils in place, I smoothed the top of the cheese with a warm knife to erase the brand name, which is - annoyingly - embossed on top. The top was stencilled first, and then I turned the cheese on one long edge and stencilled the sides one by one.
I imagine these stencils would be lovely to use, with cinnamon, on top of an unbaked cheesecake.
I served this with salty crackers, crunchy little gherkins and some sweet chilli sauce. Print Friendly