Pumpkin and Rice Cakes with Lemon Sauce

It’s that time of year again where food writers go pumpkin crazy. It’s suddenly in every recipe out there, from soups to drinks and anything in between (I swear I even made a pumpkin and mango mousse yesterday – not kidding!). I’m sorry to say that I’m no exception. I know why we do it, why these enormous squashes fill our every waking thought during October: it’s because we’re starved of it throughout the rest of the year, and because it really is versatile enough to go in so many different things. Brussel sprouts only come out for a short time of the year, but I’ve yet to make a sweet pie out of them. The pumpkin is also big and orange which, in my view, is a real selling point.
So, while you working your way through the myriad of pumpkin recipes out there, and tripping over the ever-increasing number of giant squashes lying around your kitchen, you might want to add this one to the repertoire. This is very similar to a potato cake.

The pumpkin is grated, and the excess moisture is squeezed out in a tea towel prior to cooking. It’s then mixed with cooked rice and sweet potato (which needs no squeezing), as well as other things, pressed into a patty and shallow fried. If you haven’t tried making potato cakes before, they can be a little daunting. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem like it’s going to work when you put it in the pan, and you can imagine them falling apart the moment you try to turn them. This, of course, can happen, but it’s easily avoidable if you turn them gently and with confidence. Also, as the cakes cook, the grated vegetables soften and stick together better, so they are not as fragile as when you first put them in to fry.

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 8 minutes per batch, plus 10-15 minutes in the oven.

Makes about 16 cakes.

Gluten Free.

For the Pumpkin Cakes:

500g pumpkin flesh, grated, the excess moisture squeezed out in a tea towel
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
250g cooked rice (I used a pre-cooked packet)
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 tsp dark, mild chilli powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
6 tbsp gram flour
Generous pinch black pepper
150g frozen peas
50ml tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
3 tbsp natural vegan yoghurt
Generous pinch salt
Oil for shallow frying

For the Lemon Sauce:

50g vegan margarine
2 tbsp gram flour
250ml dairy-free milk
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp salt
Pinch white pepper

Avocado slices to serve

Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/400F.
Put all the pumpkin cake ingredients, up to and including the frozen peas, into a large bowl and mix together. Now add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the oil, and use either a spoon or your hands to fully combine.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan, until quite hot, and mould about 1 ½ tablespoons of the mixture in your hands to form a round, flat shape. Gently put it into the pan and repeat until you have 4 patties frying. Cook for 4 minutes each side on a medium heat, pressing down occasionally with your spatula to help them brown and hold their shape.
Once the four cakes are browned on each side, transfer them to a baking sheet, then continue shaping and frying the others. Do this until all the mixture is gone, or you baking tray is full, then put the tray in the middle of the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes to finish off.
While the cakes are in the oven, you can make the sauce. Melt the margarine in a saucepan and whisk in the gram flour to make a roux. Add the dairy-free milk, a little at a time, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming. As the sauce gets hotter it will thicken. Bring to a gentle simmer and then add the lemon zest and juice, plus the salt, pepper and maple syrup. Simmer gently for about 3 minutes, whisking often.
To serve, put some avocado slices on a plate, stack the pumpkin cakes three high on top of the avocado, then pour over a little of the lemon sauce.

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