Pink peppercorns, unrelated to black peppercorns, have distinctive floral, spicy and, yes, peppery notes, but they also have an underlying sweet softness that makes them both a complement and a bright contrast to this rich cheesecake.
250g digestive biscuits
40g unsalted butter, melted
310g castor sugar
500g strawberries, hulled
2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed (at specialist food stores)
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in slivers
1/2 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp plain flour
4 large eggs
100ml sour cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional. Grease and line a 25-centimetre spring-form cake tin.
2. Process the biscuits in a food processor to a fine crumb. Transfer to a bowl, add the melted butter and 40 grams of castor sugar and mix until well combined. Press the mixture into the base of the tin in an even layer. Chill while you make the filling.
3. Put the strawberries, half the peppercorns and the slivers of vanilla bean into an ovenproof ceramic dish. Scatter over 150 grams of sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes - the strawberries should be holding their shape, but softened and sitting in syrup.
4. Reduce the oven to 150C fan-forced or 170C conventional.
5. Place the lemon zest, vanilla extract and remaining 120 grams of castor sugar into a food processor and process until combined. Add the flour, salt and mascarpone cheese and process for a few seconds. Add the eggs and lemon juice and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream and cream, and pulse until combined, but don't overwork.
6. Using a slotted spoon, place half the strawberries on the biscuit base. Pour the mascarpone filling over the top, shaking gently to settle, and bake for 40-50 minutes. Once cooked, the mix should have a firm wobble to it. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
7. To serve, place remaining strawberries on top, spoon over some syrup (reduced if it's too runny) and sprinkle over the remaining crushed peppercorns.