The Aubergine Cheesecake was my first Yotam Ottolenghi recipe to make from his cookbook Plenty More. Part of the reason for buying the cookbook was for a cookbook club gathering at Words Bookstore and Cafe. Apparently the recipe for the aubergine cheesecake was almost excluded from his cookbook due to space issues… in the end it was included and in my house we are eternally grateful. Although it’s called a cheesecake, it’s similar to quiche without the pastry case. A fan of quiche, za’atar and anything aubergine, this was the dish I prepared for the cookbook club.
Once you have roasted the sliced aubergines, the rest of the dish is quick and easy to prepare. You can enjoy this savory dish anytime throughout the day and Yotam Ottolenghi suggests it could also be cut into smaller pieces and served as nibbles. When making this dish try not to omit the za’atar, a Middle Eastern blend of dried thyme, oregano, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac. I have tasted blends of za’atar that have been quite tasteless, so buy the freshest you can find. This is an interesting read by David Lebovitz’s visit to a za’atar farm in Lebanon. Brushing the Aubergine Cheesecake with the za’atar adds a wonderful herby punch, elevating the flavor of the dish and making it very moorish indeed. Za’atar may not be everyone’s taste and a Basil Pesto brushed over the top of the aubergine cheesecake would be a tasty alternative.
This time when making the aubergine cheesecake I added some of my Oven Dried Tomatoes, which works well with this recipe. I prepared this dish as a late breakfast for hubby coming in after a long training session (New Zealand Ironman coming up very soon), 5 hours on a bike followed by a 1 hour run. Needless to say hubby was very grateful (and hungry), so I can’t say it served four on this occasion.
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi Cookbook Plenty More.
60ml olive oil
700g aubergines, cut width-ways into 2cm thick slices
150g feta cheese, cut or crumbled into chunks
150g cream cheese
60ml whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten together with a fork
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
25g home-dried tomatoes in olive oil (optional)
10g fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
To season, salt and freshly ground back pepper
For brushing over the baked dish
1 and 1/2 teaspoons za’atar
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
For garnish, fresh oregano leaves, (optional)
You will need a 19cm square baking tin or a round 20cm ovenproof dish, lined with aluminum foil (base and sides) and brushed with a little olive oil.
Note: I used a square 23cm shallow baking tin with a removable base as it was easier to remove the baked aubergine cheesecake, rather than using a deep baking tin as suggested. As a result baking time was reduced to around 25 minutes and when cut the slices were not as thick.
How to make:
Preheat the oven to 410F/ 210C/190C Fan/Gas Mark 6 and 1/2. Lay the aubergines slices on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper and brush over the tops with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or, until the aubergines are soft and golden. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F/170C/150C Fan/Gas Mark 3 and 1/2.
Place the feta cheese and cream cheese into a mixing bowl, beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the cream and beat once again, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Gradually add the eggs and beat until smooth. Add a few generous twists of freshly ground back pepper.
Lean the aubergine slices against each other as you cover the base of the tin. Fill the gaps between the slices of aubergine with the cherry tomatoes. Pat the dried tomatoes (if using) with some kitchen paper to remove excess oil and using kitchen scissors, snip pieces of dried tomatoes evenly over the aubergine and tomatoes. Scatter over the oregano.
Pour over the cream mixture leaving some aubergine and tomatoes exposed. Bake in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard sets and is light golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the aubergine cheesecake from the tin and cut into desired sized squares or wedges. Just before serving, mix the za’atar with olive oil and brush over top and sides of the cheesecake. Garnish with fresh oregano, if using.