Savoury cakes

I find savoury cakes are perfect for a picnic, potluck dinner, or when you need a meal you can prepare in advance. My favourites are vegetarian, require a 20cm cake tin, and can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. The recipes have been requested a few times and here they are: a rice pie, a tortilla cake and a cauliflower cake.

Rice cake

This is a very flexible recipe – I’ve made a version with fresh peas and asparagus, another with the sorry-looking veg from the fridge and jars from the pantry, and even one with left-over steamed broccoli and half a jar of jalfrezi sauce. It is easy to hold a slice in your hand, with no need for a plate. I don’t know the origin of this recipe.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • A total of 2 cups of finely diced vegetables depending on your taste or supplies: hard raw (carrot, zucchini), soft raw (frozen peas, broccoli), cooked (left over roast veggies), preserved (sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes). See method for when to add each type.
  • 1 cup Arborio rice 
  • 375ml vegetable stock 
  • Olive oil, to grease 
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan 
  • 3 eggs lightly whisked 
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil 
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh continental parsley 

Heat oil in a large heavy-­based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stock, and any hard raw vegetables (eg. carrot). Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and add any soft raw vegetables (e.g. broccoli) on top and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Use a fork to separate the grain and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes to cool. Preheat the oven to 180 oC. Brush a 20cm cake tin with oil and lightly grease. Line the base and sides with non-stick paper. Add the parmesan, egg, basil, parsley plus any preserved or cooked vegetables to the rice mixture and stir until well combined. Season with pepper. Spoon the mixture into the lined pan. Smooth the top. Bake in oven for 40-­45 minutes until the pie is set and light golden. Cool for 10 minutes before turning out. Cut into wedges and serve topped with baby rocket drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Tortilla cake

A very tasty cake, that needs a plate and a fork. I find there is usually a tortilla and some ingredients left over for me to have lunch. I don’t know the origin of this recipe.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 yellow capsicum, diced
  • 1 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 3 small fresh green chillies, minced
  • 600 ml prepared tomato based pasta sauce
  • 600 g cooked cannellini beans (or two tins, drained)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 600 g cooked brown lentils (or two tins, drained)
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • ½ cup grated tasty cheese
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 8 x 20cm flour tortillas (see note below)
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • extra coriander leaves 

Heat the olive oil and cumin and chilli powder and sauté for one minute until fragrant. Add the red and yellow diced capsicum, chopped Spanish onion and minced chillies and sauté for 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Add the tomato based pasta sauce and simmer for 10 minutes until the mixture has reduced slightly.

Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls. Add the cannellini beans and chives to one bowl of sauce and add the lentils and coriander to the remaining bowl of sauce.

Combine all the cheeses in a bowl with the parsley and mix well. Line a 20cm spring-­form cake tin with baking paper then lightly grease the foil with butter or oil.

Place one tortilla on the base of the lines cake tin and top with ¼ of the lentil/coriander tomato sauce and a generous sprinkle of the cheese mix. Top with another tortilla and top with ¼ of the bean/chive tomato sauce and another generous sprinkle of cheese. Continue with the layers in this fashion until all the tortillas, sauces and cheese have been used, ending with a sprinkle of cheese and gently pressing down to compact the layers.

Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 10. Allow the cake to cool in the tin then remove the tin and place on a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with yoghurt and coriander sprigs.

Cauliflower cake

The original recipe was by Yotham Ottolenghi and can be found here. This one too, is robust enough to hold in your hand, but is nice on a plate with salad.

  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 600 g
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons (75 ml) olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 7 medium free-range eggs
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 120 g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 150 g grated parmesan, or other mature cheese 
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted butter, for greasing
  • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp nigella seeds

Heat the oven to 180oC. Break the cauliflower into medium florets, 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 get rid of all the water.

While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the batter. Cut four 0.5 cm rings off one end of the onion 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 until the onion is soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Whisk the eggs then stir through the basil and cooled onions and rosemary.

Sift the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl, then add the parmesan, one and a half teaspoons of salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the egg mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

Line the bottom of a 20 cm round cake tin with a loose base, with baking paper. Brush the sides with butter, put in the sesame seeds and toss them around so they stick to the sides. Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the onion rings on top.

Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set (a skewer inserted comes out clean). Serve just warm or at room temperature.