Cauliflower Chameleon

Whole Baked Cauliflower: The New Sunday Roast

By Nikita Singh 22 March 2019

Firecracker Caiuliflower. Styling: Nikita Singh. Photo: Daria Higgins

In the age of Banting and superfoods, cauliflower has received an extreme makeover. Previously boiled and smothered in cheese sauce to make it virtually unrecognisable, this ugly duckling has transformed into a headlining act.

By Nikita Singh

Cauliflower – the chameleon of vegetables – has the power to transform into anything: grated into “rice”, mashed into a pizza base, or even puréed into a creamy Alfredo sauce.

Lexi Monzeglio, owner of trendy Sandton hotspot Lexi’s Healthy Eatery, knows all about cauliflower.

Cauliflower is an interesting one because a lot of people don’t like it; but what I found with cauliflower is that it’s very versatile,” Lexi says.

It’s quite plain, and if you season it in an interesting way, it can take on different lives quite easily; which is not true for many other veggies. Brinjal has a very strong taste, sweet potato is quite sweet, broccoli tastes like broccoli no matter how you dress it. Cauliflower is very neutral, especially if it’s cooked.”

Monzeglio’s menu presents cauliflower in a variety of forms, including a slow-roasted cauli-steak and spiced and charred buffalo cauliflower.

In 2018, Matt Preston created a Middle Eastern-inspired cauli-roast on Masterchef Australia. The alluring whole baked cauliflower, served on a bed of almond tarator (Lebanese tahini-based) sauce, showed the world that cauliflower is a versatile, easy-to-cook ingredient worth eating. Move over leg of lamb – cauliflower is the new centrepiece for Sunday roast lunch.

Tahini-Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Yoghurt Sauce

Tahini-roasted cauliflower with lemon yoghurt sauce. Styling: Nikita Singh. Photo: Daria Higgins
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Tahini Basting

  • 3 tbs tahini
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Lemon Yoghurt sauce

  • 1 cup Greek or full fat yoghurt
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Good olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook cauliflower for 7 minutes.
  2. Drain in a colander and let stand until cauliflower has cooled slightly and is dry to the touch.
  3. Preheat oven to 200°C and coat a baking dish or skillet with non-stick spray.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together all basting ingredients.
  5. Spread tahini mixture all over the cauliflower until completely coated. Roast cauliflower for 30-35 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the core.
  6. Spread the lemon yogurt sauce on a large plate or serving dish. Place your cauliflower in the centre and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Firecracker Cauliflower

(Main photo)

Cauliflower is a staple in Indian and Asian cooking: Think Aloo Gobi or Indo-Chinese Gobi Manchurian. Cauliflower (and broccoli) have particular significance in Chinese culture. The cruciferous vegetables are often eaten during Chinese New Year because they symbolise riches and prosperity. The cauliflower head, with its numerous stalks and florets, resemembles blossoming flowers to symbolise a blossoming and prosperous new year.

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced

Firecracker Sauce

  • 3 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter (or dairy free butter to make this recipe vegan)
  • 6 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch + 1 tsp water
  1. Remove the green leaves on the bottom of the cauliflower head*
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook cauliflower for 7 minutes.
  3. Drain in a colander and let stand until cauliflower has cooled slightly and is dry to the touch.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C and coat a baking dish or skillet with non-stick spray.
  5. In the meantime, make the sauce. Put the Sriracha, butter, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and chili flakes into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until incorporated, then allow the sauce to simmer until slightly thickened and reduced.
  6. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Pour into the sauce and stir immediately so the cornstarch does not clump. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens again. Reserve and set aside 2 tablespoons of sauce.
  7. In the baking dish or skillet, flip your cauliflower upside down and pour on half of the sauce. Let the sauce pour down the core, shake it around so it infuses the centre, and then flip the cauliflower over and use a brush to spread the leftover sauce.
  8. Place cauliflower core-side down and roast for 30 – 35 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the core.
  9. Pour reserved sauce over cauliflower right before serving. Garnish with spring onions. DM

* These leaves are perfectly edible so don’t throw them away. Roast them with olive oil and salt – it makes a delicious soup topping.

Food Stylist: Nikita Singh

Photographer: Daria Higgins

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