Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yotam Ottolenghi's aubergine cheese cake

My bathtub is a death trap for ants.

For the few unfortunate ant-souls who find their way up the legs (it’s a ball & claw) and over the lip, there’s no escape.

In fact, the sight of them scrabbling up the sides, tumbling down, then starting all over again, is so existentially traumatising that I am compelled to rescue each and every one before I open the floodgates at bathtime. (I get the ants to crawl onto a piece of tissue, then airlift their asses out of there — I like to pretend I'm in an episode of Rescue 911.)

Sometimes I’m too late, and there are few lifeless ant corpses scattered about. I picture their families back home, holding vigil (with little ant-sized candles), ant toddlers innocently asking, ‘Mama, where’s Papa?’ To which Mama ant replies, ‘I don’t know baby, I just don’t know…’ before dissolving into tears.

And then I smile to myself, satisfied that — in the lives of those few ants I’m able to rescue — I've made a difference.

Of course, I think nothing of emptying a can of Doom over the thriving N1 ant highway that runs under our kitchen sink.

Life is full of contradictions.

Here is an extremely yummy thing I made last night, which I found here.

Yotam Ottolenghi's aubergine cheese cake
Serves 4

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 (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Line with foil the base and sides of a deep, 19cm square baking tin (or a round, 22cm diameter dish), 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/300F/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.

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