This is one of those recipes that when you see it, your interest is immediately piqued and you set about bookmarking it in your mind to make some time. I then saw it floating around the interwebs last week and knew it was a sign. I was already buying cauliflower to make the best ever whole roasted cauliflower recipe, so added another to my basket for this.
I was recently given a stunning wedge one of my favourite South African cheeses, The Dalewood Fromage Huguenot. It’s a 12-month-old mature cheese that recently won The South African Dairy Product of the year award and I knew I wanted to use it in a beautiful recipe. It has a distinctly nutty flavour and creamy texture, but sadly can only be procured at the Dalewood farm shop on the Franschhoek-Simondium Road in the Winelands. You may of course also find it on the menu in a top local restaurant. Rumour has it that Peter Templehoff from the Greenhouse buys up most of the stock each year and it was there that I tasted it for the first time.
This recipe comes from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks Plenty More by Ottolenghi and is filled to the brim with the most delicious vegetarian recipes. This – along with Plenty, are two must-have cookbooks for your collection. Whether you are a vegetarian or not.
There is a little effort required to making this cauliflower cake, but it’s well worth every minute you spend. As is typical with many Ottolenghi recipes, the list of ingredients seems long but are so carefully orchestrated. I would never have thought to use rosemary the way he did here, but that small amount adds a certain earthy depth rather than overtaking the flavour as rosemary often can. The basil gives this freshness and the hint of turmeric a lovely vibrant colour. I used half the Dalewood Huguenot and half Parmesan to make up the cheese quotient and it was delicious. I loved how the sprinkled nigella and sesame seeds created some crunch on the bottom of the cake. It was such a special recipe, I rushed it over to my family to share for dinner and they were in raptures over it. This one is a keeper and I can’t wait to make it again. It’s soft and fluffy but firm enough to hold well together so this is also the perfect picnic food. Utterly delicious.
This is the perfect dish to make if you are looking for a fancy vegetarian main course but would sit very comfortably on a brunch table.
~Cooks notes – in the book the recipe indicates 200c / 180c – so I’m not entirely sure why there are 2 temperatures mentioned. I baked my cake at 180C as I tend to do most of my baking. I found it needed a little longer than 45 minutes to cook right through the middle. I also covered it loosely with foil about 3/4 of the way through the baking time as I wanted to ensure there was no over-browning. I do this for photography purposes mainly, but also because I generally I prefer my baked things golden rather than over browned.
Recipe – from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
- 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 3 cm (1 1/4-inch) florets - 450g (about 4 cups)
- 1 medium red onion, peeled - 170g (6 ounces)
- 75ml / 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
- 7 large free-range eggs
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
- 120g (1 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 150g / 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese (or a mix of cheeses as I did)
- Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (also known as black caraway)
- Salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 400°F.
- Cook the cauliflower either whole or in florets in a large pot of boiling salted water. Simmer for 15 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Drain in a colander. (I made this the day before).
- Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch/5-mm thick, off one end of the red onion and set aside. Chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Beat the eggs - either in a stand mixer, or using an electric whisk or by hand using a whisk until light and fluffy. Add the basil, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and tumeric, and mix until you have a smooth batter.
- By hand fold through the onion and olive oil mix and the cheese.
- When that is well combined, add the cooked and cooled cauliflower florets and mix lightly to thoroughly coat. Be careulf not to break up the flortes too much.
- Line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch /24-cm springform cake pan with baking paper and brush the sides with melted butter. Mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and sprinkle them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 - 50 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.
- I baked this recipe at 180C for 45 minutes and it was a tiny bit underdone. I would say 50 - 55 minutes at that temperature
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