cauliflower cake [v]

serves 4 with leftovers; hands-on time 20 min; oven time 45 min plus 30 min cooling

"I've lived in Britain for more than 16 years and there are certain names and phrases with which I am perfectly familiar: Doctor Who, Ring a Ring o' Roses, Curly Wurly, Blue Peter and cauliflower cheese, to name just a few; but I have no clue as to their meaning. This is mostly a disadvantage because I miss out on all sorts of innuendos and references, but occasionally it works pretty well for me.

Take cauliflower cheese, for example. It sounds to me like the most indulgent and comforting of dishes but, for an alumnus of a certain type of British school, it evokes a stomach-turning memory of drearily soft florets swimming in a puddle of greasy water. So when it comes to cauliflower, and particularly when cheese is involved, I need to work extra hard to convince some readers that this is something they'll want to eat. Well, I think I've got a winner here.

Serve this savoury cake as a light supper alongside a makeshift salad of sliced cucumber, dill, mint, a little sugar, cider vinegar and rapeseed oil. Wrapped well, it will taste even better the next day."

1 small cauliflower (450g), outer leaves removed, broken into 3cm florets
2 tsp salt
1 medium (about 170g) red onion
75m1 olive oil
½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
7 large free-range eggs
15g fresh basil, chopped
120g plain flour, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp ground turmeric
150g parmesan or another mature cheese [or vegetarian alternative), coarsely grated
Melted butter for greasing
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp nigella (also known as kalonji) seeds

Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/ gas 6. Put the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 tsp of the salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes or until the florets are quite soft: they should break when pressed with a spoon. Strain and set aside in a colander to dry.

Cut 4 x 5mm thick slices off one end of the onion, break into rings and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and put in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook, stirring from time to time, over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put the cooled onion and rosemary mixture into a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, then whisk well. Add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, parmesan, the remaining 1 tsp salt and plenty of pepper. Whisk until combined before adding the cauliflower and stirring gently, trying not to break up all the florets.

Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, mix the sesame and nigella seeds, then toss them around the inside of the tin so that they stick to the greased baking paper. Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. 5. Put in the centre of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set: a knife pushed into the centre 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 - but it's also good at room temperature.

per serving 638kcals, 42.7g fat (14.4g saturated), 35.5g protein, 29.8g carbs (5.7g sugars), 1.6g salt, 5.1g fibre

wine editor's choice
A pinot blanc from Alsace, with a creamy finish, works a treat with this.


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