Spiced Crab Cakes

Cavalo nero and mushroom meat-free balls with a rich tomato sauce

Mar 19, 2019 | Lunch / Supper / Mains

Cavalo nero might not be the obvious choice for a meat-free ball but believe me when I say these are absolutely delicious! Mixed with the mushrooms, they are earthy, wholesome and totally satisfying. 

Serve with this rich tomato sauce and, perhaps, some wholemeal spaghetti.

This recipe was developed with Kitchen Titbits. Photography by Jed Alder

Ingredients: For the balls (makes 18):

  • 100g cavalo nero or kale, stalks removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 250g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5g dried porcini soaked in 100ml hot water for 15 minutes then roughly chopped
  • 400g tin of black beans, drained
  • 4tbsp oats
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredients: For the tomato sauce (serves 2):

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus a drizzle
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2tsp dried oregano
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g can tinned tomatoes
  • 1/2 can water
  • Liquor from soaking the porcini
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Approx. 1/2 a 25g pack basil, leaves and stalks chopped plus a few leaves left whole for serving


  1. In a large frying pan, steam the cavalo nero/kale in 50ml water on a low heat until soft and the water has gone. Transfer to the food processor.
  2. Heat the oil in the frying pan and, on a low heat, cook the onion until translucent. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the water has been released from the mushrooms and then cooked away. Transfer to the food processor.
  3. Leave the cavalo nero and mushroom mixture to cool before tipping in the porcini, black beans, oats, chilli powder, nutritional yeast and a small pinch of salt.
  4. Blitz using the pulse function until the mixture is broken down but not turned into a paste and is starting to come together into a ball.
  5. With wet hands, form tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and greased with a tiny drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Put the balls in the fridge to set for 15 mins, or as long as possible.
  7. Heat the oven to 180c fan.
  8. Bake the balls in the oven for 30-40 mins, turning after 20 mins.
  9. To make the tomato sauce, heat the oil in the same frying pan you used for the balls and, over a low heat, cook the onion until soft and translucent.
  10. Add the garlic and cook, whilst stirring, for a minute or so until the raw smell of garlic has gone.
  11. Next add the salt and pepper, oregano and red wine vinegar. Allow the vinegar to mostly evaporate before adding the tomato puree. Stir well and cook out for a couple of minutes.
  12. Tip in the tomatoes, water and liquor from soaking the porcini (leaving the last drop which has dirt in it).
  13. Stir in the sugar and basil and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes until reduced and rich.