Tag Archives: vegetarian cooking

cauliflower and cake in the same sentence?

It’s my first cookie-foodie post. Is this how it begins? You see a recipe you think is awesome, you try it out then get addicted to trying out other recipes and before you know it, you can cook?

Here’s hoping.

I didn’t used to cook much but in the last two months, that’s changed a fair bit. No mean feat when you share a kitchen with a psycho Asian mother who seems hellbent on cooking everything with meat.

As with most lifestyle changes, recently my father was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic though (and I’m no stranger to chronic illness so please don’t think this means I am not taking my father’s health seriously) this has been a mixed blessing of sorts. It means more vegies in meals!

So that’s given me a little bit of rein in the kitchen. Where previously my parents would wrinkle their noses at the things I chose to cook and preferred to eat ‘their own food’ (ouch), they’re now more accepting. Meatless Mondays, I’m looking at you!

Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake I’d made one time before but felt that it had far too many eggs so I altered the recipe ever so slightly. The recipe I obtained in Ottolenghi’s column for The Guardian, ‘The New Vegetarian’. And no, of course it didn’t look anything like the photo in the recipe but it was well-received: I made it when my friends Jourdan and Klara had a barbeque at their place and it was pronounced “cheesy, eggy, cauliflowery goodness”.

Onto the recipe – you will need:

  • 1 medium cauliflower, 650g-700g (anything up to 1kg works though)
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 100g olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary (I use a fair few branches as it grows in my garden)
  • 10 medium free-range eggs (I reduced this down to 8 and it’s still fine)
  • 20g chopped basil (I tend to use a lot more)
  • 180g plain flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric (I reduce this to 1/4tsp because I found initial quantity made it too ‘musty’)
  • 220g grated parmesan, or other mature cheese (make sure to use non-animal rennet cheese)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted butter, for greasing
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds (or black onion seeds or plain sesame seeds; I used these much more liberally than the recipe calls for!)

Preheat the oven to around 180C/350F. Thoroughly wash the cauliflower and cut florets off it – it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit too big because you will need to boil them for about 15 minutes or so until soft. I cut fairly big florets as they break up a little when they’re boiled.


Time to prepare the mixture for the cauliflower to go into. Chop the onions roughly, but reserve some rings before you go hack on it. Of course, I totally didn’t do that the first time around. The rings go on the cake at the end to make it all pretty-like. Please excuse my appalling chopping utensil. I have something better now, honest…


Gently saute the chopped red onion and rosemary for about eight or so minutes. I like to go overboard with the rosemary because it smells wonderful! When that’s finished, set it aside to cool – you must let it cool sufficiently so it doesn’t ‘cook’ the egg mixture to which you will add it.


Whip up your eggs (remember, I’ve gone from 10 to 8 eggs) and basil. When you think the above mixture is cool enough, add that too.


Sift the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl. Gradually add the parmesan to this mixture then a generous amount of cracked black pepper and just a little bit of salt (I tend to favour little salt and used 1/2 tsp but you can use up to 1 1/2 tsps).


Combine the egg & onion mixture with the flour & cheese one gently and mix well to eliminate lumps. I added the dry stuff to the wet stuff in small amounts and mixed through and kept repeating till it was all mixed through.


Gradually add your well-drained cooked cauliflower florets into the above mixture and stir with care. At this point you should see that some of the florets will break, as they’re nice and soft from being boiled. This is why I recommend that you break your florets up into big-arse florets!


Grab a nice quiche-like dish and liberally line with butter. Very generously sprinkle black sesame seeds to coat the butter as if your life depended on it. On my first attempt, I did use baking paper as the recipe said, but it was really difficult to get the bloody stuff off the finished cooked cake. I was adamant that I wouldn’t make that same mistake again!


Spoon your cauliflower cake mix into prepared dish and smoosh it in to fill it up. Yep, ‘smoosh’ is the official word here.


Remember those pretty Spanish onion rings you set aside? Arrange them on your mix all pretty-like.


It’s ready to go into the oven! The recipe says 45 minutes, but I’ve found anywhere from 45-75 minutes has been needed. When it’s done, it should look like this:


I covered it up with a teatowel and set about to our destination, where I eventually cut it up like so:


Share with friends and/or family. When I make it at home, I serve it with a mixed leaf salad dressed with seeded mustard, balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.

Seriously, even my father who is a ravenous carnivore couldn’t stop going on about how nice it looked and how good it tasted. He was pretty sure someone else had made it!

I’m learning. Many thanks to my Sydney bestie L for the photos.