In the summer of 2009 I was asked by the makers of the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 to host a half-hour show on a subject of my choice. Bizarrely, I ended up doing a programme about cauliflower, trying to show how this veg is unjustifiably losing its popularity in recent years, particularly to broccoli. I know that there’s nothing obviously sexy about cauliflower to warrant star status. In fact, it seems - on the face of it - somehow dull and dreary. But as we were working on the show I realised that this isn’t really the case, that cauliflower is actually wonderfully versatile, much more so than broccoli. Both Sami Tamimi, Ottolenghi’s executive head chef, and I agreed that it is one of those singular vegetables, like potato or aubergine, that can take on big flavours without losing its own unique character.
Here’s one example. Serve it as part of a mezze selection or as a side dish with lentils or fish. To upgrade, drizzle with tahini sauce.
|1½ tsp||saffron strands|
|1||medium cauliflower, divided into medium florets|
|1||large red onion, sliced|
|100g||sultanas (if they are very dry, soak them in water for a few minutes, then drain)|
|90g||good-quality green olives, pitted and cut lengthways in half|
|4 tbsp||olive oil|
|4 tbsp||roughly chopped parsley|
|Salt and black pepper|
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Put the saffron strands in a small bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to infuse for a minute, then pour the saffron and water into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley, and mix everything together well with your hands.
Transfer the mix to a medium ovenproof dish, cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender but still a bit firm, not soft. Halfway through the cooking time remove the dish from the oven and stir well, then cover again and return to bake.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, take it out of the oven, remove the foil and allow to cool down slightly before stirring in the parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve warm or at room temperature.