Spreading my wings in cultural awareness of Middle Eastern Cuisine has taken me to cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi. In partnership with Sami Tamimi he wrote the cookbook Jerusalem, his home city, which reflects the diverse cuisines of the Muslims, Christians and Jewish communities within its borders. Now a well known vegetarian chef and restaurant owner in London, Ottolenghi has received many awards for his innovative cuisine. More cookbooks followed among them Plenty and Plenty More.
From the cookbook Plenty More, I made this savory Cauliflower Cake. Many of Ottolenghi’s recipes require unusual ingredients, but this is a pretty straightforward recipe. The only ingredient that I did not have access to was nigella seeds. As they are only sprinkled on the sides of the cake along with sesame seeds, I did not consider them necessary.
We love this cake. Cauliflower florets are suspended in an eggy cake batter with flecks of rosemary, basil and red onions. To make it even better in my mind, I added cubes of ham. But you could leave it vegetarian and it would still be delicious. There is added richness with lots of Parmesan cheese. I think an aged cheddar would also be good. I will be looking for nigella seeds because some reviewers said the seeds on the edges added a nice crunch.
You can serve this cake along with a salad for a light supper or make it for a brunch with friends. It makes me happy. Enjoy the coming Father’s Day weekend.
Serves 4 to 6
1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 medium red onion, peeled (6 ounces)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
7 large eggs
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese
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 400°F.
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, spreading it 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.