Give Me Five: Roasted cauliflower with tahini

Rediscover this health-giving vegetable by roasting it with spices

Cauliflower is better roasted than boiled or steamed

Cauliflower is better roasted than boiled or steamed

 

I love a recipe that makes me think differently about an ingredient, or a dish that makes me rediscover a food I’ve shunned in the past. Like Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, “My good opinion once lost is lost forever”, so it took a really great recipe to make me reconsider cauliflower.

I’ve avoided it ever since being served waterlogged mushy “cauli-clouds” in the college canteen.

Once I discovered that cauliflower is better roasted than boiled or steamed, I’ve been eating it much more often. It caramelises beautifully, crisps up and becomes meaty and delicious. I usually cut big, thick slices to make cauliflower steaks. But you can only get so many steaks from one, so when there are more than two people having dinner, I break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. They cook much faster this way too.

Cruciferous vegetables such as this are incredibly nutritious and are renowned for being beneficial to our health. However, they can be difficult to digest raw, so they’re often best fermented or cooked, like this roast cauliflower.

A dish similar to this is served in Sesame, Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest venture in London. Once I spotted it, I knew I had to try and re-create it at home. All of the dishes served in Sesame are very simple but delicious. The menu is inspired by “the vibrant market stalls and the smoking grills of the Middle East”. They aim to serve the best street food there is: pitta breads bursting with flavour, sumptuous salads and exotic desserts. The concept is so simple, and usually the food is as healthy as it is delicious.

Tahini is one of the main ingredients in hummus. It’s a creamy paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds and used in Middle Eastern cuisine. The seeds are usually roasted, but raw sesame paste is also available. Use it to drizzle over cooked meats or vegetables, or as a base for a dip or sauce. Mix in some lemon juice and garlic and add it to stuffed pitta breads. It’s also used to make halva, and can be mixed with honey and spread on bread for a traditional Greek breakfast.

I use a light, creamy tahini to drizzle over the cauliflower. If you can only find the dark, stronger-flavoured tahini, thin it down with a little water.

I’ve used coriander here, as it pairs so well with garam masala. Parsley can be scattered over instead of the coriander, or use a little mint.

Any Middle Eastern spice mix can be used, or simply use cumin or turmeric. Sweet smoked paprika is delicious on it too, but omit the tahini and pomegranate. If you’ve never roasted cauliflower, it’s worth trying it with salt and pepper first. You’ll be surprised at how much lovely flavour it has without adding spices. Once roasted, you can scatter it with finely grated Parmesan and serve as an alternative to cauliflower cheese with a Sunday roast.

This dish is perfect served on its own or as a side dish with roast lamb, koftas or lamb chops. It’s great for get-togethers and can be served warm as part of a larger salad buffet. It will convert your fellow diners to cauliflower.

 

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH TAHINI: SERVES 4

 

The five ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 15g coriander
  • 2tbs light tahini
  • 1tbs garam masala

 

From the pantry

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Peel away the outer leaves of the cauliflower, remove the tough inner stalk and cut in half. Divide into bite-sized florets. Flat surfaces caramelise easier, so use a knife to cut it into florets. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with about two tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of garam masala, along with a generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Gently mix to coat each floret. Spread evenly on a large baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes, until you can pierce a floret easily with a fork.

Tip the cauliflower on to a serving platter, drizzle with the tahini and scatter the coriander over. Finally top with the pomegranate seeds and serve.

  • Every Thursday we’ll tweet the five ingredients from @lillyhiggins and @irishtimeslife so you can have them ready for Friday. Email givemefive@irishtimes.com with your suggestions for recipes
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