I’m going to start with the bad news. You know that 5 A Day message you’ve been hearing for years when it comes to eating fruit and veg? Well that’s the bare minimum you should be eating – and honestly it’s not really enough. The reality is you should be aiming for 7 to 10 portions – which means in practise eating fruit and vegetables at nearly every meal (and your focus should be on adding more vegetables rather than loads of extra fruit).
And now the good news! Once you have a few key dishes under your belt and some great flavourings in the cupboard, you can quickly up your intake – and in a way that tastes good too. You can start adding vegetables in all sorts of places and this could be in addition to meat or seafood if you eat these too.
Layering up sandwiches with roasted veg, making a salad topped with chargrilled vegetables (and nuts and crumbled feta cheese), or a whipping up a generous vegetable stir fry are all ways to easily add veg. You can even grate some courgette into your porridge if you want some breakfast veg!
There are also some more elaborate ways to cook with vegetables, from vegetable-filled streusel to vegetarian moussaka. I find that weekends tend to be a better time to make these kind of dishes and linger a little longer in the kitchen. You can even batch cook a few meals (if you’re a bit more organised than me) and have them ready to re-heat and eat through the week.
This week’s recipe for a savoury vegetable cake is one of these slightly more involved dishes. It requires a little bit of coordinating with the preparation of the filling, topping and batter, but is actually quite simple to make. The secret is to have all your ingredients ready to go before you start cooking so you’re not rushing around the kitchen trying to find everything you need.
This filling is full of juicy and flavourful mushrooms which add a bit of moisture to the cake. I’ve used brown chestnut mushrooms, but you could use a mix of wild, porcini and oyster mushrooms. And the red onions and spinach add a splash of colour, along with the carrots on top. I’ve mentioned before how it’s important to get lots of colour on your plate – and this savoury vegetable cake definitely does that! Play around with your own combinations of whatever vegetables are in season and have fun with it.
If you’re someone who gets a bit stuck when trying to think of a main to cook for vegetarian friends, hopefully this will be a good option (that meat eaters will like too). And, if we do get a last little burst of warm in September, this cake is a great picnic option too. I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a go.
Savoury Vegetable Cake
Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
150g rice flour
1 tbs nutritional yeast flakes (or see flavour options below recipe)
1 1/2 tspn baking soda
1 tspn rosemary, chopped (the leaves of about 2 x 15cm sprigs)
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn sea salt
1/2 tspn freshly ground black pepper
150ml non-dairy milk (e.g. oat, almond, cashew)
Extra virgin olive oil for greasing tin
1 medium red onion (or 2 small), sliced
Extra virgin olive oil, splash
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
200g mushrooms, sliced
2 generous handfuls of spinach, chopped
1 tspn balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to season
2-3 medium carrots (approx. 200g), thinly sliced at an angle
Extra virgin olive oil, splash
1 tspn maple syrup
Salt & pepper to season
10g green carrot top fronts, roughly chopped (optional)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan). Line the base of a 20cm spring form cake tin with baking parchment. Grease the base and sides of the tin with a little extra virgin olive oil.
2. Start by making the filling. Gently heat a good splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and fry for 5-10 minutes until soft. Season with a little salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms and fry, stirring regularly, for 3 about minutes until they turn lightly golden. Stir through the balsamic vinegar and then add the spinach, stirring until is has wilted down. Check the seasoning (add a little more salt or pepper if needed) and then remove the mix from the pan and leave on the side to cool.
3. Prepare the topping using the same frying pan. Add another splash of oil, then the carrots (and the carrot tops if using). Fry for 3-5 minutes until the carrots are slightly softened and a little browned. Add the maple syrup and some salt and pepper to season. Stir again and then take the pan off the heat, letting the carrot cool a little.
4. Now it’s time to make the cake batter! Put all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix them together. In a separate small bowl whisk together the eggs and milk. Take the mushroom filling and gently squeeze it over the bowl, mixing the liquid that comes out with eggs and milk. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and stir until everything is well combined and there are no lumps left.
5. Place the tin on a baking sheet. Pour half the batter in, making sure it is spread out evenly in the tin, and top with the filling. Pour over the remaining batter and spread it out evenly over the filling. Arrange the carrots on the top of the cake. Place the tin on the bottom shelf of the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, turning half way through. When it’s ready, the top should be lightly golden. Check that the middle is fully cooked by gently inserting a skewer in to the top layer and testing that it’s dry.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and pop it on a write rack (in the tin), leaving for about 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the inside edge of the tin and carefully release the tin. Leave to cool for another 15-20 minutes (the cake will fall apart if you cut it too soon!). Remove the tin and the parchment from the base of the cake (place a plate on top of the cake and turn the cake upside down while holding the rack in place, and then turn back over again).
Serve warm with a side of green salad and a generous drizzle of olive oil and/or tahini. You might also want to add a quick tomato salsa on the side for some extra moisture!
Some other flavour options:
– Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes for some spice
– Use spelt flour instead of rice flour for a lighter cake (it won’t be gluten free!)
– Add 1/2 teaspoon of seaweed flakes in the cake batter instead of salt
– Swap the spinach in the filling for another green, such as kale, rainbow chard or rocket.
– If you don’t need to make this dairy free, add 25g of grated cheese instead of nutritional yeast flakes (cheddar, parmesan or strong flavoured cheese of your choice)
Explore more colours and textures of vegetables through The Joy Of Eating programme!