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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Turnip Cake

Yotam Ottolenghi

by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR

Inspired by the traditional Chinese dim sum dish, this sweet, salty, umami-rich Turnip Cake from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR is a vegan Christmas centrepiece with style.

From the book

Ixta Belfrage, Yotam Ottolenghi


A mild obsession and a pet peeve came together here, in a dish which we are especially proud of. The obsession is turnip cake – which isn’t really a cake and isn’t made of turnips but of daikon – served as part of Chinese dim sum. The pet peeve is nut roast, the traditional centrepiece offered to vegans and vegetarians at Christmas when no one can think of anything better to serve them. The challenge was to combine both, to create a festive vegan dish which is both special and truly satisfying. We like to think that our cake, in which the traditional Chinese sausage and dried shrimp are replaced with sweet and salty clusters of shiitake mushrooms, pine nuts, chestnuts and sesame seeds, can sit respectfully both at the centre of any holiday feast and on the tables of the best restaurants in Chinatown.

If you don’t have a 30cm x 23cm high-sided tin, use another dish or tin with a similar surface area; the main objective is that the cake is 2cm thick. The dish or tin needs to be high-sided as it needs to sit in a water bath, and you don’t want the water spilling over the sides.

Make the cake the day before, to get ahead, and keep refrigerated, ready to be fried just before serving. Keep the soy-maple-nut mixture loosely covered at room temperature, if you’ve made it the day before as well. The cake is best pan-fried on both sides but, to save time, you can brush the slices with oil and grill them in a very hot oven for about 7 minutes, or until golden-brown on top.

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For the soy maple nuts:
15g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes
30g pine nuts, roughly chopped
50g ready-cooked and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp white or black sesame seeds, or a mixture of both
1 small garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 tbsp soy sauce
60ml maple syrup
For the turnip cake:
130g Thai white rice flour (not interchangeable with the glutinous variety, or with regular rice flour)
1 tbsp cornflour
2½tsp caster sugar
1 small garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp sesame oil
1–2 large daikon, trimmed, peeled and roughly grated (600g)
105ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
To serve:
40ml soy sauce
20ml maple syrup
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1½ tbsp finely chopped chives

Essential kit

You will need: a 30cm x 23cm high-sided tin, or another dish or tin with a similar surface area.

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1. First, make the soy maple nuts. Drain the mushrooms, squeezing them until dry, then finely chop and set aside.

2. Put the pine nuts and chestnuts into a large, non-stick frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Toast for 3–4 minutes, stirring, until golden and fragrant, then add the sesame seeds for 1 minute, followed by the chopped mushrooms, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup and ⅛ teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook, stirring, until the liquid bubbles, reduces and coats the nuts and mushrooms, 4–5 minutes. Spread out on a parchment-lined tray and set aside.

3. For the turnip cake, whisk together the first six ingredients with 240ml of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl until smooth, then set aside while you prepare the rest.

4. Place a large saut. pan on a medium heat with the 600g of grated daikon and 2 tablespoons of water and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until all the liquid has evaporated (take care not to brown the daikon). Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 220°C fan. Line and grease a 30cm x 23cm highsided baking tin or baking dish and set aside.

6. Transfer the daikon to the bowl of rice flour mixture, along with 80g of the soy maple nuts, and stir together. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top as you go, then seal tightly with foil and place the tin in a high-sided baking tray that is slightly larger than the tin. Pour enough boiling water into the baking tray to rise three-quarters of the way up the sides of the tin of turnip cake – and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the tin from the water bath, discard the foil and set aside to cool. Transfer to the fridge for 40 minutes, or overnight, until completely chilled.

7. Turn the cake out on to a chopping board, then cut into eight even slices. Brush the turnip cakes on each side with 4 tablespoons (total) of the oil.

8. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat, then add 1. tablespoons of sunflower oil. Fry the slices in two batches (or more batches, if you can’t fit four slices into the pan), spread apart, for 2–3 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Keep the first batch warm while you fry the rest with the remaining 1½ tablespoons of sunflower oil.

9. Put all the serving ingredients (except the chives) and 80ml of water into a small saucepan on a medium-high heat and warm through, about 3 minutes.

10. Arrange the turnip cake slices on a large platter, overlapping each other. Pour over half the sauce, then sprinkle over the chives and the rest of the nuts and seeds. Serve at once, with the remaining sauce on the side.

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From the book: Ottolenghi FLAVOUR

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