A couple of years ago, I was visiting a friend in London and rummaging through her cookbooks when I found this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi. I wanted to make it as soon as I saw it, especially after eating at one of his restaurants there. But it’s like the book that’s sitting on the shelf you never read; or the bolt of fabric in the closet you never get around to sewing into a dress. I forgot about it. The recipe didn’t appear in any of his cookbooks published for the U.S. market. Until now, that is, when I saw it in “Plenty More” – his latest cookbook and one that was gifted to me this week by my niece Keri. My interest in making this delightful recipe was renewed.
Aside from the visual appeal, it tastes terrific, somewhat like a frittata, but with a little more heft from the cup of flour and baking powder in the recipe. It’s got tons of flavor from the turmeric, rosemary and basil too, so don’t leave those out. I would however, add another egg or two next time I make it, (or use less of the vegetable). As you can see from the photo below, I didn’t use cauliflower, but instead used broccoli romano, or broccoli romanesco – my favorite vegetable, another gift I received this week – this time from my son.. It tastes very similar to cauliflower, but you can’t top it for distinct appearance. I’ve posted recipes using it before, so if you’re interested, go to the white search box at the top of the blog and type in the words “broccoli romano.” I can see making this with lots of other vegetables too, including with artichoke hearts – which I’m planning to try next week. Stay tuned.
The first step is to carefully separate the florets and bring them to a boil for about five minutes, then drain.
Line a springform pan with parchment paper, then smear with butter and sesame seeds. The recipe calls for nigella seeds, but I couldn’t find them and used black and white sesame seeds instead.
The batter is on the thick side, so be careful not to break up the florets when mixing everything together. Next time, I plan to use eight or nine eggs instead of the seven called for. I think it will make a little lighter “cake” and give more space between the vegetables.
Still, I loved the way it looked and tasted – not quite a quiche, not quite a frittata, not quite an omelet – but a savory “cake” instead. Ottolenghi says to serve warm, rather than hot. I think it would be good either way (first hand knowledge from having reheated in the microwave). It would also be delicious at room temperature, making it ideal for taking to a picnic or dinner at someone’s house. Serve in medium slices as a side dish, or in large slices with a salad as a main course. Try baking it in a square pan and slice in squares for an hors d’oeuvre.
Either way, it won’t last long and it’ll be one of those recipes you’ll make over and over again and adapt to your liking.
Serves 4 to 6 (I think it serves 8 or more, even as a main course, with a salad on the side- CCL)
• 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1¼-inch florets (1 lb/450 g)
• 1 medium red onion, peeled (6 oz/170 g)
• 5 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
• 7 eggs (scant 1 lb/440 g)
• 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
• 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/3 teaspoons round turmeric
• 5 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan or another mature cheese
• Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
• 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
• 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 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 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.