I’ve recently discovered Yotam Ottolenghi’s innovative and inventive take on vegetarian food. The chef’s exciting approach to Mediterranean cooking is experimental with bold flavours and pure ingredients. Finding new ways to make vegetarian food interesting is always good so I’ll definitely be buying his book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.
Some of his dishes include white and yellow Iranian rice with barberry, cumin seeds, almonds and pistachios; Poached leeks with hard-boiled eggs, parsley and tarragon vinaigrette; Mashed beetroot with yoghurt, za’atar and chilli, topped with hazelnut and goat’s cheese; Braised monkfish with fresh fennel, fennel seeds, potato and Parmesan; Roasted saffron chicken with Jerusalem artichoke, lemon, basil and pine nuts and Fish pie with soured cream, lemon zest and basil.
I’m cooking for at least ten this weekend so his Aubergine Cheesecake recipe looks straight forward to make and absolutely delicious – different too.
- 90ml olive oil
- 2 small aubergines, cut into 2cm thick slices
- Salt and black pepper
- 150g feta
- 150g cream cheese
- 60ml double cream
- 3 eggs
- 150g baby plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthways
- 2 tbsp picked oregano leaves, torn
- ¾ tsp za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mix: optional)
- Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Line with foil the base and sides of a deep, square baking tin, then brush lightly with oil.
- Lay the aubergine slices on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and brush all over with four tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the hot oven for 40 minutes – the aubergines need to go soft and golden. When cooked, remove, set aside to cool, and lower the oven to 150C/gas mark 2.
- Put the feta, cream cheese, cream, eggs and some pepper in a bowl and whisk until smooth and thick.
- Arrange the aubergine neatly in the baking tin – the slices should fill up the tray as they lean against each other, almost standing on their sides. Fill the gaps with tomatoes and sprinkle over half the oregano.
- Pour in just enough of the cheese mix to leave some aubergine and tomatoes exposed, sprinkle over the remaining oregano and bake for 30 minutes, or until the “custard” sets. Leave the cake to cool down to room temperature, then remove it from the tin and cut into four squares (or into wedges, if using a round dish). Before serving, gently brush all over with za’atar mixed with a teaspoon of olive oil, or just olive oil.