This savory cake from Yotam Ottolenghi's newest cookbook, Plenty More, is as beautiful as it is unusual: cauliflower florets are suspended in a golden cake with green flecks of basil and a load of Parmesan cheese, with an orbit of onion rings on top and crunchy, aromatic seeds gilding the edges.
And, as with most of Ottolenghi's out-of-the-box creations, it's just delicious. The cake is eggy with very little flour, just enough to take it out of the running for being a frittata, really. It's strewn throughout with rosemary-scented onions that are somewhere between being confit and fried (cooked in oil over medium heat for 10 minutes). The nigella and sesame seeds that line the sides are not just for show—they lend crunch as well as a nutty, spicy flavor that actually adds a lot of character to the cake. The aroma of the toasty cake with the cheese, basil, and onion is decidedly pizza-like and incredibly appetizing. Then you bite into it, and your teeth slip through a sweet chunk of cauliflower, and you're reminded why Ottolenghi's books have cult followings.
Why I picked this recipe: It's such an attractive cake, and you can't have too many options for easy brunch dishes.
What worked: Super tasty and comparatively simple to make.
What didn't: I think in my effort to "whisk until smooth," I over-mixed the batter a little—the cake was a touch tough.
Suggested tweaks: Go easy on the whisking. Also, when lining the base and sides of the pan with parchment, I found it helpful to brush the unlined pan with butter first to help the parchment adhere. As to serving, I'll let Ottolenghi speak for himself: "Serve this cake as a light supper alongside a makeshift salad of sliced cucumber, dill, mint, a little sugar, cider vinegar, and canola oil. Wrapped well, this cake will taste even better the next day."
Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch/3-cm florets (1 lb/450 g)
- 1 medium red onion, peeled (6 oz/170 g)
- 5 tbsp/75 ml olive oil
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
- 7 eggs
- ½ cup/15 g basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup/120 g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 tsp ground turmeric
- 5 oz/150 g coarsely grated Parmesan or another mature cheese
- Melted unsalted butter, for br ushing
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400oF/200oC.
Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are quite soft. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4 inch/5 mm thick, off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely 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. Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth before adding the cauliflower and stirring gently, trying not to break up the florets.
Line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm springform cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreadingit evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. 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.