It’s taken me most of my life to appreciate cauliflower; it’s not that I disliked it when I was younger, more than I thought it was a bit boring. I grew up at a time when cauliflower was only eaten two ways: boiled with white sauce poured over the top to accompany a Sunday roast; or boiled and then a thick cheese sauce poured over and baked – i.e. cauliflower cheese. And the cauliflower was always overcooked. Of course, a cauliflower with white sauce or a well made cauliflower cheese can be fine things. But … well, there’s still an awful lot more to cauliflower than these!
I first discovered the alternative delight of a cauliflower when I made Antonio Carluccio’s Cavolfiore Affogato – translated from the Italian as ‘drowned cauliflower’ (click here for recipe). In this gorgeous recipe the cauliflower is cooked in olive oil with saffron, raisins and pine kernels. l often make cauliflower soup and flavour it with cumin (click here), it’s great in curries and I’ve discovered it’s nice eaten raw, chopped into a salad, or the florets used to scoop up some delicious dip. At Honey & Smoke I had a fabulous roasted cauliflower, flavoured with spices and in the Honey & Co Cookbook I discovered a similar recipe for roasted cauliflower flavouring it with baharat, a peppery middle eastern spice mix.
Cauliflower’s bland appearance with its white florets belies its wonderful nutritional qualities as well as its great taste. Rich in calcium, magnesium, folic acid, potassium, boron, beta-carotene and vitamin C (ref: Ian Marber’s The Food Doctor), it’s really very good for you. But let’s get back to taste …
I’ve been reading a lot about ‘cauliflower steaks’, which I thought an interesting take on cooking this vegetable. So when I saw a perfect-looking creamy cauliflower sitting atop a shelf in Waitrose, I couldn’t resist buying it and knew steak – cauliflower style – was going to be on this week’s supper menu.
I decided to incorporate the baharat idea to spice it up a bit. I’d lay it on a bed of creamy mash and make a tahini sauce to dress it with, then sprinkle over some toasted pine nuts.
Grilled Cauliflower Steak on Creamy Mash with Tahini Sauce
- 1 cauliflower
- extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon baharat
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large potato
- about 10g butter
- a little milk
- a little cream (optional)
- about 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 dessertspoon tahini
- juice of about ½ lemon
- a little water
Trim the cauliflower: take off the leaves and cut away the bottom part of the stem. Stand the cauliflower upright and then cut 2 slices (about 2cm thick) from the middle. (This is for one serving but if cooking for 2 cut more of the cauliflower; 1 cauliflower = 2 portions.) I used the leftover cauliflower to make a soup.
Mix the baharat (found in supermarkets) with a little olive oil and seasoning in a shallow dish. Brush it over both sides of the cauliflower ‘steaks’ and put aside.
Peel the potato, cut into smallish pieces and boil in salted water until tender. Drain and mash well with the butter and a little milk. Add a dash of cream if you have some to make it extra creamy and grate over a little nutmeg and mix in. Keep warm. Dry roast the pine nuts in a small pan until golden brown.
Put the tahini in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and a little water and start whisking. Add more water as necessary and keep whisking until you have a smooth, quite runny sauce. Check seasoning and add more lemon juice if necessary.
Now grill the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower steaks on some foil, tip over any oil left in the dish. Place under a hot grill – at a fairly low level so they cook slowly. When the first side is nicely brown, turn over and cook the other side. It should be just tender when tested with the tip of a sharp knife, but retain a bit of a bite (al dente).
Spread the creamy mash over the bottom of a serving plate. Lay the cauliflower steaks on top.
Drizzle over some of the tahini sauce. Sprinkle over the roasted pine nuts. Drizzle over any remaining oil from the grilling of the cauliflower and/or a little extra virgin olive oil
Serve with a crisp green salad on the side.
It was really good; gorgeous flavours. And the cauliflower ‘steak’ really does have a texture that justifies the description. I’m wary of saying ‘like meat’ as this is such a great dish for vegetarians, but it has a substantial feel; this really is a meal. I loved it and if you’ve ever thought cauliflower is boring, then I promise you that after eating this you will completely rethink the way you cook and eat it. Cauliflower is great and can be wonderfully exciting!