Middle Eastern Cheesecake

Baked cheesecakes can be sweet, rich and heavy, but folding in a meringue lightens this version, while citrus accentuates the tartness of the quark and using a filo base gives a unique touch. 

Recipe Ben Barton of Scarecrow, Auckland. Photography Aimee Finlay-Magne


6 sheets filo
½ cup almond meal
1 tablespoon white and black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 tablespoons brown butter


250 grams quark or ricotta 
250 grams mascarpone or cream cheese
seeds of ½ vanilla pod
juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon cornflour
4 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar


½ cup pitted and chopped dates
¼ cup diced dried figs
1 tablespoon currants
½ stick cinnamon
1 star anise
1 clove


¼ cup roasted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
handful of pomegranate seeds

Base Preheat the oven to 150°C. Mix the almond meal, sesame seeds, currants, sugar and zests. Brush a 30cm spring form or similar cake tin with browned butter. (To brown butter, melt in a saucepan over medium heat, swirling gently until it foams). Lay a sheet of filo in the tin and brush with butter. Sprinkle with a handful of the almond meal mixture. Repeat with the remaining filo, butter and mixture, finishing with a final layer of filo. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Filling Preheat the oven to 150°C. Mix the quark and mascarpone with the vanilla, lemon and orange juices, orange blossom water and cornflour. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks into the mix. Whisk whites until soft peaks, add the sugar and beat until glossy. Fold into mix.

Pour into the cooled filo base and bake for an hour, then turn the oven off and leave it in the oven to cool. 

Topping Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to cool. Remove the whole spices and top each slice of cake with a spoonful of topping when serving. Garnish with the pistachio nuts and pomegranate seeds.

Ben Barton of gourmet café and ‘urban farmers’ market’ Scarecrow, in central Auckland, focuses on local, seasonal produce in his dishes. Previously, Barton spent two years creating pop-up dining events in Auckland and before that travelled the world while cooking in the galleys of super yachts. 

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