I assume everybody has one or another favourite subatomic particle, whether it be the humble electron, muon, tau-particle, photon or ever-popular Higgs-Boson. Mine is, of course, the quark, simply because it was first theorised the year I was born and confirmed by scientific observations shortly after. Higgs-Boson particles were, of course, also theorised the same year, but they took half-a-century and billions of pounds, dollars and euros in expense to prove their existence.
The man who first theorised quarks, Professor Murray Gell-Mann, is now 88 and still an active individual persuing such interests as archaeology, linguistics, birdwatching, art and communicating his love of physics. He originally named his particles ‘quarks’ after a word he’d seen in a nonsense rhyme by James Joyce.
James Joyce was referring to the name used for a kind of light, soft, saltless cheese, made from curdled and strained milk with no other added ingredients. It was seen as a simple, everyday product or even by-product of other processes – it was probably in this sense that Joyce was using the word as slang for ‘rubbish’ or ‘leftovers’.
Quark has been produced in Europe since at least medieval times. It was probably what Little Miss Muffet was eating, sitting on her tuffet, her curds-and-whey being milk curdled by the natural acids to the consistency of soft cheese.
This ultra-simple cheesecake recipe is sloppier than convential cheesecakes, so replace with Philadelphia or supermarket soft cheese if you wish, but I wanted to retain the natural lightness of fresh quark.
- 250g digestive biscuits
- 350g plain quark
- 100g sugar (I used icing sugar here, but with hindsight I think castor or even ordinary sugar is better as it is not so overpowerfully sweet. All down to personal taste though.)
- 50g butter or marg.
- Some extra flavouring of some sort – whatever is about. Vanilla essence in the quark mix, chocolate or cocoa in the biscuit mix (mixed with extra sugar if using cocoa), lemon juice. I use a few drops of lemon essence in both the base and quark mix. A sprinkle of raspberries on top would also be very nice.
Crush the biscuits thoroughly and mix with the butter/marg. There are various clever ways of doing this, such as in a bag or rolled up inside a tea towel, but I simply whacked away at them in a bowl with the end of a rolling-pin. Useful therapy after a stressful day at work if you need one.
Press this mixture into the bottom of a cake tin – the kind with a removable bottom if you have one.
Mix the quark with the sugar thoroughly and spoon it over the top of the biscuit base.
Add any toppings such as raspberries or chocolate chips at this point, then put it in the fridge for at least half-an-hour – it’s best cold.
A bit of a challenge to get out of the container on to a plate, but it can be done, or just serve straight from the container. £1.60 to make and theoretically serves six at 27p a portion, but I managed to personally eat half of the one I made within a very short time.