Roast cau­li­flower with muham­mara

The Guardian - Weekend - - Content - Thomasina Miers @thomasi­namiers

While ex­plor­ing life­style mag­a­zines for re­dec­o­rat­ing in­spi­ra­tion re­cently, I no­ticed that there are trends in taps, wall­pa­pers and even in the style of win­dows, much as there are in clothes. In cook­ing, too, we get ob­sessed with ingredients that just a few years ear­lier were con­signed to ob­scu­rity. Take the once-hum­ble cau­li­flower: it wasn’t long ago that pro­duc­ers were la­ment­ing how sel­dom peo­ple bought one, and now look – ev­ery chic restau­rant worth its salt has cau­li­flower on the menu, from Lon­don and Manch­ester to Mex­ico City and New York.

To tell the truth, this unas­sum­ing veg­etable is so adapt­able, and so adept at tak­ing on ro­bust flavours, that you can dress it up any which way and guar­an­tee great re­sults. Roasted, the flo­rets go dark and caramelised, and take on a rich sweet­ness, but they’re just as good shaved raw into sal­ads for a crunchy, tex­tu­ral el­e­ment that com­ple­ments cit­rus and dried fruits in­cred­i­bly well.

A case in point is a lovely dish we’ve been de­vel­op­ing for a new open­ing in east Lon­don, in which roast cau­li­flower sits on a charred tomato sauce and is then dressed with a cashew-nut mole. It’s such an eye-opener, I reckon even the Aztecs and Zapotecs would have got down with this trend.

Whole roast cau­li­flower with muham­mara

Muham­mara is a gor­geous, crim­son dip with ori­gins in Aleppo, Syria. It can be pro­cessed into a hum­mus-like paste, but I much pre­fer a coarser tex­ture. Serves two. ½ tsp smoked pa­prika

1 tsp thyme leaves

20g but­ter, at room tem­per­a­ture Sea salt and freshly ground black pep­per 1 medium cau­li­flower For the muham­mara 3 red pep­pers (or 4 ro­mano pep­pers) 100g wal­nuts

1 gar­lic clove, peeled and finely chopped 1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground ½ tsp Turk­ish red pep­per flakes (or other mild dried chilli)

100ml olive oil

2 tsp pome­gran­ate mo­lasses

30ml red-wine vine­gar

Heat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. Pierce the pep­pers a few times with the tip of a knife, then place on a bak­ing tray and roast for 25-30 min­utes, turn­ing once, un­til slightly black­ened and very soft. Trans­fer to a bowl, cover with cling-film and leave to steam while they cool (this makes them eas­ier to peel later).

Mean­while, com­bine the pa­prika, thyme and but­ter, and sea­son gen­er­ously. Trim the cau­li­flower stem so it will sit flat, and pull back the leaves a lit­tle to ex­pose the head. Rub the head all over with the pa­prika but­ter, then put the cau­li­flower in a casse­role into which it fits snugly. Pour 75ml wa­ter into the bot­tom of the pan (not over the cau­li­flower, or you’ll wash off the but­ter), cover the pot and roast for 35-40 min­utes. Take off the lid and roast for an­other 15 min­utes, by which time the tip of a sharp knife should go in eas­ily.

While the cauli is bak­ing, make the muham­mara. Re­move and dis­card the pep­per skins, stems and seeds. In a food pro­ces­sor, blitz the wal­nuts, gar­lic, salt, cumin and chilli to coarse crumbs, add the pep­pers and blitz briefly. Com­bine the oil, mo­lasses and vine­gar, then add to the mix in a steady stream with the mo­tor still run­ning. Don’t over-process, be­cause you want some tex­ture.

Cut the cau­li­flower in half ver­ti­cally and serve on top of the muham­mara with a green salad.

And for the rest of the week… Cau­li­flower, whether raw or roasted, loves bold flavours. In my most re­cent book, Home Cook, I shave raw flo­rets into a salad of or­ange flesh, toasted buck­wheat, car­rots and olives, and top with a gutsy cumin and za’atar dress­ing, to make a fill­ing salad that just hap­pens to be meat- and dairy-free. One of the most pop­u­lar cur­rent dishes at Wa­haca is cau­li­flower cheese that’s had a husky makeover with the smoky, sul­try touch of the chipo­tle chilli. Or just chop a whole head into flo­rets and roast in but­ter, olive oil, gar­lic and bal­samic vine­gar (rub it all over) – that’s de­li­cious with grilled sausages or hal­loumi.

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