Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Henna-Patterned Spiced Cream Cheese

A stencil designed for applying henna to hands and feet is what I used to create the pattern on this block of cream cheese, which is spiced with sumac and fragrant curry powder, with a little turmeric and paprika for colour. Doesn't it look beautiful and whimsical?

Cream cheese stencilled with spices.
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.  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.
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17 comments:

Kit said...

Brilliant and beautiful!

Marisa said...

This is ingenious!

Isabella said...

Great idea!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

You are a grazed, evil genius!! I *love* it!!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Aaaargh - of course I meant CRAZED!! Attention to detai, Jeanne :o)

browniegirl said...

So beautiful and delicate. You are brilliant Juno! So inspired xx

Arnold said...

I do not know where you get time for these little details, but it does look great. You are very creative.

Juno said...

Thank you, my friends. Jeanne, I don't mind been a grazed evil genius! Grazing is what I'm really good at.

Nina Timm said...

This is simple a divine idea and definitely not something I would have thought about!!

tryityoumightlikeit said...

What a beautiful result and a great idea! I love the idea with cheesecake. I'll be on the lookout for stencils like that from now on.

Beryl said...

So exquisite. What a wonderful idea. Takes cheese and crackers from mundane to fabulous.

Jane Ko said...

Brilliant!
I would like to invite you to participate in my giveaway at http://atasteofkoko.blogspot.com/2010/05/men-can-cook-feat-classic-spaghetti.html

sam said...

Just Fabulouly awesome

Ishay said...

Beautiful Juno! Going through your recipes is like stumbling into a little treasure trove.

Lisa said...

Jane-Anne, would you be willing to post your chakalaka spice mix recipe? As far as I can find, no one imports chakalaka spices to the US and this recipe looks wonderful. My Joburg born husband misses those flavors and I'd love to make this for him. If the spice mix is in your book, let me know. We have it on order. :)

Thanks,

--Lisa

Jane-Anne said...

Hello Lisa! Thank you for your lovely comment, and apologies for not replying sooner. I hope you see this message.

I don't have a specific chakalaka spice mix. Most times when chakalaka is made in South Africa, a generic mild curry powder (such as Rajah's) is used. I have never come across a chakalaka recipe that involves a blend of individual spices. I am pretty sure you will be able to order Rajah Medium Strength Curry Powder from an online South African food store. It is not a particularly spectacular blend of spices, but it tastes like down-home old-fashioned South African curry, and I am quite sure that is what your husband is craving. All the best, Jane-Anne

PS If you can't find it, let me know and I will post you some spice blends - it's not like they weigh much.



--Lisa said...

Jane-Anne, thank you so much for your timely response and gracious offer. We can indeed get Rajah's curry powder here in the US. I will send him to our local SA import store to pick some up and try a cream cheese with that.

Many thanks. We love your blog and are looking forward to the book. Too bad we don't have Woolys here. :)