Throughout Provence, especially in the colder months, you often encounter stalls at the markets selling golden loaves of goodness called Cake Provençal. They look just like pound cakes or what we might call in the U.S. ‘quickbreads’, but they are made with savory ingredients. They usually contain cheese, olives, sautéed vegetables, ham, sausage, herbs and so on. They are great at dinnertime,for picnics and of course (since it’s on this site) for not-Japanese bento lunches. Here are some that were on sale at a market in Nyons (in the Drôme Provençal) last December.
They are made exactly like sweet cakes, but this being the land of olive oil they use that instead of butter. My version here is a bit light on the olive oil (some cakes that I’ve tried are almost dripping with oil). I’ve added a very non-Provencal ingredient, kinako (toasted soy bean flour), to add nuttiness as well as protein. You could use chickpea flour instead of the kinako. A piece or two, or three or four, of this cake makes a great vegetarian bento, on its own or with a salad or raw vegetables packed along. You can also make very interesting sandwiches with it. (Try Boursin cream cheese with watercress.)
I made mine in a square baking or brownie pan instead of the traditional loaf pan, since I like to cut it into little squares, but you could make it in a loaf pan too. It freezes very well, which makes it a great ‘freezer stash’ item.
Makes 8 inch / approx. 20 cm square cake (you could make it in a slightly large square cake pan too, or in a loaf pan). Cut into 12 squares, each square is about 100 calories each.
The vegetable mix:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 355°F. Line a square baking or brownie pan with parchment paper, and grease the paper with olive oil lightly.
Chop up the vegetables into rough dice. Sauté them in a pan with the 2 Tbs. olive oil until limp. Add a little salt and pepper, and the herbs. Set aside to cool.
Sift the flour, kinako or chickpea flour, salt and baking powder together. Beat the eggs, buttermilk and olive oil together. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in batches, beating until it forms a fairly smooth batter.
Add the sautéed vegetables, cheese, and sundried tomatoes to the batter and mix. Swirl in the pesto.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, well wrapped. It will keep in the freezer for about a month; I wrap the individual pieces separately, so I can take out as many as I want at a time.
You can add all kinds of sautéed vegetables, cubed ham, bacon, other kinds of cheese, olives, and so on to this. You could leave out the cheese to make it lighter, add chopped nuts or seeds, and so on.