Café Route

Happy fifth birthday to Café Route, and long may they continue to bring stylish Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cooking to Hackney. Their food has the Ottolenghi effect – you say to yourself 'it's just a salad', albeit a pretty one, and then they hit you with subtly gorgeous and unusual flavour combinations. The chic industrial space on Dalston Square is warmed up with super-friendly staff, a long food-laden counter, crammed noticeboards and tables packed with brunching, lunching and dining Hackney people.

At the counter.jpg


Café Route have shared two of their original recipes with Eat Hackney: one for butternut squash salad ('so fulfilling, I'm ready to die now' said a friend when I cooked it) and a vegan beetroot and avocado cake that is a chocolatey pillow of cakey happiness, topped with shimmering ganache. Words fail us – you just have to try these recipes for yourselves.

Café Route, Gaumont Tower, London E8 3BQ, 020 7249

Butternut squash and sage salad


Serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tbsp of mixed spice
  • red onion sliced 
  • 1tsp honey
  • 15 individual leaves of fresh sage
  • small bunch of fresh parsley
  • small bunch of fresh mint
  • white pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • zest of 1 whole orange
  • juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 30g feta, crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220°C fan/gas mark 7.

Start with preparing the butternut squash. Wash, and cut the squash lengthwise in 8 pieces to create wedges, keeping the skin on but removing the seeds. (The seeds can be roasted with a little olive oil for ten minutes and are good to snack on as you’re cooking.)

Put the wedges in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt and the smoked paprika. Mix together making sure all the squash is covered with the mixture. Place on a baking tray skin side down and put in the oven for 25 minutes until tender. Put aside to cool down.

Meanwhile make the garnish by placing the drained chickpeas in a bowl with half the mixed spice. Slice the onion and mix with the honey and the rest of the mixed spice, then fry in a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil until it becomes golden crisp. Place on kitchen paper or a tea towel to absorb the excess oil.

Fry the sage until crisp in a little olive oil.

For the mint parsley sauce, blitz the parsley and mint leaves together with salt, pepper, garlic, orange zest and lemon juice in a blender.

Get a large serving dish and place the butternut squash wedges, spreading them evenly around the whole dish. Spoon some of the mint and parsley sauce on the wedges. Sprinkle the chickpeas, fried onion and sage on top, and finish off with the crumbled feta.

Avocado, beetroot and  chocolate vegan cake

Beetroot cake.jpg

Dry ingredients

  • 250g plain flour (gluten free works well)
  • 300g coconut sugar
  • 110g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 3 tbsp soya milk
  • 500 ml of mashed beetroot – you’ll need 3 medium beetroot
  • 250 ml of mashed avocado – you’ll need 2 medium avocados
  • 60ml rapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 160g 70% dark vegan chocolate – either chocolate chips or a smashed up chocolate bar

Chocolate ganache

  • 100g 70% dark vegan chocolate 
  • 50g soya milk
  • 25g vegan butter/olive oil spread
  • blueberries, raspberries or strawberries to top the cake

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Using an electric mixer mash the beetroot and put in a bowl; repeat with the avocado and put in the same bowl as the beetroot. Add the wet ingredients to the same bowl – melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of slightly simmering water – and leave aside.

Measure the dry ingredients and sieve into the wet ingredients bowl and mix using a free standing mixer or a hand mixer, making sure all ingredients are blended together.

Line a 11’ baking tin with parchment paper, pour in the batter and bake for 60min to 90min.

Check if the cake is baked by sticking in a skewer or knife – if the skewer comes out with a few crumbs it's done. If still gooey bake for longer. 

In the meantime prepare the chocolate ganache. Sit a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie). Put all the ingredients in the bowl and stir till melted and combined.

Once the cake has baked and cooled remove from tin and using a spoon or knife spread the ganache over the cake, then top with fruit… Et voilà! Enjoy.