Cauliflower with cauliflower.
There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, here. I’m not about to produce a vegetarian meal by halves.
This recipe calls for an entire head of cauliflower to be consumed between two people. We are using the whole damn thing. If I was truly innovative, I would have crisped up the leafy fronds encasing the florets, but I’m afraid I was a little busy massaging my kale. Could I be more of a food wanker? Let me just add that this recipe can be easily adapted to be vegan, paleo or even both for good measure. I don’t often cook an entirely vegetarian meal, and so for some reason, making a dish based around vegetables in various disguises and then adding more vegetables to compliment it somehow made a lot of sense to me. Given that I absolutely love celebrating fresh produce, I’m seriously considering challenging myself to one meat free day per week. Once upon a teenage time, I was a vegetarian!
Despite the gruel-like appearance of the cauliflower puree beneath the cauliflower, it is the arguably the star on the plate. Allegedly there is something about the pectin in the cauliflower (or so I have read), that when it is heated and cooked, it provides the substance to create an incredibly fluffy texture without the addition of dairy. In any case, it has an incredibly creamy mouth-feel that is only enhanced by simple seasoning and a little sumac. There really is something vaguely embarrassing about producing an ugly rendition of a healthy substitute – but I can promise that in the case of this puree, it smells good enough to compensate.
Along with using the cauliflower, I think the dish definitely calls for some crunch for texture and acidity to cut through the apparent richness of the thick slice of … cauliflower. Walnuts and a simple kale salad (from the garden!) massaged with parmesan and a vinaigrette were perfect additions, but some roasted balsamic mushrooms would also be incredible on the side.
- 1 medium-sized cauliflower head, trimmed of stems
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying (I used canola)
- 300ml almond milk (or full cream milk)
- 100ml water
- 1 tsp sumac
- 30g parmesan cheese, grated (omit if paleo/vegan)
- Salt and pepper, to season
- 50g walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 170C/375F bake setting. Slice the cauliflower with a large chef’s knife, starting at the very centre, into two 1 inch thick “steaks”.
- Cook the remaining florets in a medium saucepan in the almond milk, water, sumac and plenty of salt and pepper. Bring to simmer, cover and allow to become very soft – about 10 minutes.
- While the puree is being prepared, brush the steaks with extra virgin olive oil (I used a lemon/oregano infused variety) and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- When the cauliflower florets in the saucepan are soft, remove the florets from the cooking liquid. Add the parmesan cheese and use a food processor or handheld stick mixer to blend to a puree, adding the cooking liquid in 50ml increments until the desired texture is achieved. Discard the remaining cooking liquid and set the puree aside in the saucepan to be heated prior to serving.
- To prepare the steaks, bring a large non-stick fry pan to high heat. Toast the walnuts quickly, stirring frequently. Add the canola oil to fry the cauliflower for 3 minutes per side, allowing the edges to caramelise. Transfer to an oven-safe dish to bake for 10 minutes until tender.
- To serve, warm the cauliflower puree over low heat. Serve the steaks on top, along with a sprinkling of the walnuts.