December really is the month for communal eating parties – I have already baked for three potlucks this month, and we’re barely halfway through! In order to get prepped for the festivities that were coming up this week, I spent my Sunday elbow deep in flour, chocolate and cauliflower. That’s right, I said cauliflower. But worry not, I am not in the process of creating a new cruciferous chocolate flavour, I was simply baking a cauliflower cake.
What is a cauliflower cake one may ask (and trust me, people have been asking!) . Well, it is a genius recipe created by the one and only Yottam Ottolenghi, the master of all things vegetables. When I was living in London, (and was still a practicing vegetarian) I had the pleasure of eating at the Ottolenghi Islington outpost, and was blown away by the unique flavours that he was able to create with vegetables. This cauliflower cake is one such example – using ingredients you wouldn`t usually think of working together (turmeric and basil, sesame seeds and rosemary), he creates a beautiful, fragrant cake worthy of an office pot-luck. The best part is this cake is meant to be served at room temperature, taking the worry of reheating at the office out of the picture.
Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake (recipe adapted from from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)
Recipe Notes: Ottolenghi suggests serving this “cake” (think: sturdy baked omelet) as a light dinner with a “makeshift salad of sliced cucumber, dill, mint, a little sugar, cider vinegar and grapeseed oil”. Having also read the reviews on this cake, I upped the recommended amount of herbs and spices to make the cake less `bland`- I do have an Indian spice palate after all!
My main changes were to change the weights in the recipe into “American” with cup measurements where I could. He calls for 100 grams of olive oil, which works out to about half a cup, which seemed like a lot to me. I used a generous quarter-cup in the end. Should you use the whole amount, I am sure your cake will just be that much more moist. I also balked at using nearly half a pound of Parmesan (he calls for 220 grams, which is about 2 1/4 cup grated), and used about a quarter instead (1 heaped cup, grated). I might have enjoyed a stronger Parmesan presence so will be less stingy with the good stuff next time.
1 medium cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds or 650 to 700grams)
1 large red onion, peeled
6 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp finely chopped fresh savoury (optional- see note up top)
10 medium or 8 large eggs
Big bunch (40 grams) basil, chopped
Scant 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 1/4 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and black pepper
Butter, for greasing pan
2 TBSP black sesame seeds
2 TBSP black caraway seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) degrees. Break cauliflower into medium florets (this will cause less mess than chopping it). Place floret in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover them with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until quite soft. Strain and let drip in the colander for a few minutes so they dry and cool.
- Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Halve your red onion and cut a few thin rings off the end of one side; set them aside. Coarsely chop the remainder of your onion. Heat all of your olive oil in a saucepan and saute the chopped red onion, rosemary and savoury together until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool (this is important so you do not scramble your eggs).
- Whisk eggs and olive oil and onion mixture together. Stir in basil.
- In a seperate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, turmeric, paprika, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, many, many grinds of black pepper together and add to egg mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in cauliflower gently, so most pieces remain intact.
- Line the bottom of a 9-inch (24cm) round springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides generously. Put the sesame and caraway seeds in the pan and toss them around so that they stick to the sides. Pour in the cauliflower batter, arrange the reserved onion rings on top in a pretty pattern.
- Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.