There is something grand and celebratory about roasting a vegetable whole. It becomes a centrepiece, which is something I think people look for in vegetable-centred cooking. The food I make most nights celebrates vegetables in some way, but cooking them whole like this takes a cauliflower one step further: golden and crackled, its colour intensified, in all its glory as nature intended.
Whole roasted cauliflower is something that has been finding its way on to restaurant menus the last couple of years, partly due to the cauliflower renaissance spearheaded by vegetable magician Yotam Ottolenghi. Burnished and browned, a whole cauliflower is such a pleasing thing to put in the middle of the table, with a sharp knife for everyone to cut brave wedges for themselves and uncover the buttery clean white inside, a sharp contrast to the crisp and highly flavoured outside.
This is my favourite way to eat cauliflower: the sweet note of coconut milk, the punch of ginger and green chilli, the earthiness of mustard seeds and the clean spiced note of turmeric are perfect sidekicks to the neutral-flavoured, buttery roasted cauliflower. I add some halved potatoes to the pan to absorb the coconut and lemon goodness. There are few things which are as friendly in the way they soak up flavour as a cauliflower.
– 1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones
– 600g potatoes
– 4 tbsp. coconut oil
– A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
– 4 green chillies
– 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
– 1 tbsp. black mustard seeds
– 2 tsp. ground turmeric
– 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
– 1 unwaxed lemon, cut in half
– Thick Greek or coconut yoghurt
– A small bunch of coriander, leaves picked
1. Using a pair of scissors cut the large leaves and stalks away from the cauliflower. You can leave the little leaves close to the florets – they will go nice and crispy when roasted. Turn the cauliflower upside down and, using a small paring knife, carefully cut a hollow in the middle of the stalk, so that it cooks evenly. Take a pan big enough to hold the cauliflower, half fill it with water from the kettle and bring it to the boil. Season the water with salt, then immerse the cauliflower and simmer for 6 minutes. Drain the water away, put the lid back on and leave the cauliflower to steam in the residual heat for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 2cm pieces, leaving the skin on.
2. Take an ovenproof dish or pan (that can go on the hob as well) large enough to take the cauliflower. Spoon in the coconut oil, and grate the ginger into the oil. Finely chop the chillies, discarding the seeds if you wish, then add them to the pan. Add the garlic, then place over a medium heat and let the spices and aromatics cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the mustard seeds and continue cooking until the garlic has softened, then add the turmeric and a big pinch of salt.
3. Pour the coconut milk into the spice mixture, stir well and season with a little black pepper. When the milk starts to bubble gently, turn off the heat, place the drained cauliflower in the dish, then baste it with the coconut-spice mixture. Throw the lemon halves into the side of the dish too, then scatter the potatoes around; they will sit in the coconut milk.
4. Bake the cauliflower, basting it occasionally with the spiced sauce in the dish, for 40–45 minutes. You want it to catch a little on top. To test if the cauliflower is cooked, insert a small sharp knife into the middle – it should be really tender and the potatoes and cauliflower should have soaked up most of the sauce. Once it’s perfect, take it out of the oven and transfer to a serving dish, then squeeze over the roasted lemons. Serve in the middle of the table, with little bowls of yoghurt, almonds and coriander for sprinkling on top.
An essential addition to every bookshelf, The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones is bursting with over 250 vibrant vegetable recipes to see you through the seasons.
Her third book, Anna Jones believes in putting vegetables at the centre of her table and also in the unbridled joy of cooking and eating.