There are times when I get cravings for certain foods and I feel the need to experiment in my kitchen. Recently I started experimenting with agar agar. This is a seaweed which vegans use to replace gelatine in puddings and desserts. It is sold in powder form in small sachets, generally speaking around 1.5g which will set approximately 200ml of liquid, depending on the brand.
I also wanted to find a cheesecake recipe that was easy as well as sugar free. What I came up with was a coconut milk “cheesecake” on a base made with oats instead of biscuits, and I used pureed fruit as topping to add the sweetness. I had a ripe mango at hand, so this is what I used, however, you could try this with other sweet colourful fruits such as berries, kiwis, cranberries (see notes below on using cranberries), or even melted dark chocolate.
This recipe takes only a few minutes to put together, plus resting time in the fridge, and makes a healthy alternative to all those rich desserts served over the holiday season. You can make it one or two days ahead (just prepare and add the fruit topping at the last moment) and store it in an airtight container in the fridge until needed, so it is perfect when you have guests and you are short of time.
The coconut milk I used (not to be confused with coconut cream, which is much thicker and contains far more calories) comes in small cans and is available also in a “light” version. I opted for the regular one as the absence of any added sugars will compensate for any additional calories without compromising on the flavour.
Since I am alone at home in liking cheesecake, or anything resembling it, I used a small 15cm pastry case. To make a larger one, I suggest you measure out the oats by placing the dry flakes directly at the bottom of the pastry case and see how many you’ll need. Remember that once mixed with the fat and blitzed, they will reduce in volume. Once you’ve done that, increase the amount of the other ingredients proportionally.
Ingredients (makes a small 15cm cheesecake or 3 to 4 small portions)
For the filling:
200ml coconut milk (a small can, with no added sugar)
1,5g agar agar powder
1 to 2 tsp pure vanilla essence
For the base:
12 heaped tbsp small oat flakes
2 to 3 tbsp coconut oil
For the topping:
1 small ripe mango
1. Line the bottom of a pastry case (the one you intend to use to serve it) with some greaseproof paper, this will help you to remove the slices more easily. Alternatively you can use a loose bottomed tin case and move the finished cake to a serving dish.
2. Place the oat flakes and coconut oil in a blender and blitz until the two are well combined. The heat generated by this will, melt the coconut oil, so you do not need to melt it before you start. Do make sure it is all well blended by mixing with a spoon then blitzing again for a few more seconds until you get a smooth homogenous mixture.
3. Take the oat mixture and spoon it into the bottom of your mould. Spread evenly and press firmly with the back of a metal spoon, or with your fingers, so that it becomes flat and compact.
4. Place the base in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to allow it to set while you prepare the filling.
5. Pour the coconut milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla, bring it to a boil for a few minutes then add the agar agar (for best results follow the packet instructions for this step) and mix well.
6. Allow it too cool down a little, then take out the base from the fridge and pour the coconut milk mixture over it. Quickly return it to the fridge for at least 2 hours.
7. Once set and ready to serve, take the ripe mango, peel it, and place the pulp in a blender. Blitz for a few seconds until all large lumps are removed. Pour this over the coconut filling and serve at room temperature.
Alternatives to the mango topping
As I mentioned above, since your base and filling do not contain any added sugar, the best way to get the sweetness is to add a sweet fruit as topping. The key lies in choosing sweet ripe fruits. Depending on the season and availability of fruits in your area, you could try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, orange or even cranberries. If you use cranberries, you will need to cook them in a saucepan with a little water and a little sugar or stevia, just enough to take the edge off. Cover the pan and simmer until softened, then allow them to cool before pouring them over the coconut “cheesecake”. You could, if you wish, complete the topping with some melted dark chocolate drizzled on top.
There you have it, the easy, quick and healthy version of “cheesecake” that won’t put inches on your waistband. Happy holidays!