Monday, February 27, 2012

Ottolenghi's Savoury Cauliflower Cake

Inspired by a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's food column, The New Vegetarian in Britain's Guardian newspaper, this spectacular dish is part of his ongoing campaign to give cauliflower some well-earned glory. Ottolenghi's light and wonderfully flavourful Cauliflower Cake is similar to a Spanish tortilla, but what makes it unusual is the addition of almost a dozen eggs, baking powder and the quantity of flour. The finished dish is rather like a firm omelet that slices like a cake, but instead of being humdrum, as baked egg dishes can often be, the addition of a whole head of cooked cauliflower, sautéed red onion, grated parmesan cheese, ground turmeric, minced rosemary, fresh basil — and Ottolenghi's ever-so-clever touch of baking it all in a springform pan lined with black sesame seeds — makes this a deliciously unique and completely addictive dish. Kept chilled, Ottolenghi's saffron-hued onion-speckled Cauliflower Cake tastes even better the next day. That is, if it lasts that long!

Cauliflower Cake Ottolenghi
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi

1 medium cauliflower, about 1.5 lb
1 large red onion, peeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary

10 medium or 8 large eggs

2 tbsp chopped basil

3/4 cup plain flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

2 cups grated parmesan or pecorino
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tbsp butter, melted for greasing

2 tbsp black sesame seeds 

Heat the oven to 350°F. Break the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and put them in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes until quite soft. Strain, and leave in the colander for a few minutes to cool and get rid of all the water.

While the cauliflower's cooking, prepare the batter. Halve the red onion and cut a few thin rings off the end of one side and set aside — these will go on top of the cake — coarsely chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a low heat, sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for eight minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down. Once cool, whisk in the eggs then stir in the basil.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, turmeric, cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and many grinds of black pepper, then add it to the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly to remove any lumps. Stir in the cauliflower very gently, so that most pieces remain whole.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper, and brush the sides generously with butter. Pour the sesame seeds into the pan and roll them around so that they stick to the sides, tipping out those that don't adhere. Pour in the cauliflower batter, arranging the reserved onion rings on top, and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

To remove the cake, gently release the springform pan so that the seeded crust remains intact. Serve warm or at room temperature with a light salad.