I’ve just come back from the hospital where I was referred for an examination of my ribs and chest because I stacked it in a pub over the weekend. Had I been drinking? Alright yes, but goddamn it if people shouldn’t just level out tricksy little steps in pubs, particularly if they’re potentially in front of someone carrying a pint of lager and a slice of coffee and walnut cake (not natural bedfellows, you say? Whatever). I fell onto my chest with a great thwack, the wind left me, the world spun and when I got up I realised I had cake in my hair.
Cue hanging over the sink in the ladies loo washing my barnet, which then had to be dried under the hand dryer until it was just the right level of post-electrocution frizz. I sheepishly returned to the garden to find a fresh slice of cake and a pint gifted by pub because I assume they could tell I was just unlucky and not a terrible drunken heathen.
I am clumsy, though. No denying it. Two weeks earlier I went arse over tit when exiting the tube station at South Wimbledon, not even realising it was happening until I was on the floor watching my shoe spin through the air behind me. A stranger ran out into the road to retrieve it and I dusted myself off and then ten minutes later came over all shaky and had to be placated with at least three ice cold beers in quick succession.
I was going to say it’s a wonder I don’t hurt myself in the kitchen more often (TOUCH WOOD), which would at least have provided some kind of link into this recipe but then I remembered The Great Sprout Water Burn of Christmas 2014 and that was the end of that.
So now this is an unrelated recipe for grilled cauliflower but whatever. It’s very good. Do you remember when cauli was in danger of not being eaten anymore? It was like, ten years ago or something and all the farmers said they weren’t going to grow it because no one was bothered. Along came people like Ottolenghi getting all spicy on its ass and hey presto, cauli problem solved. It does take strong flavours well, and also it likes a bit of grilling. Combine the two and what have you got? Well, just about every side dish in every vaguely Middle Eastern restaurant in London right now is what.
So here’s my two penneth. You can smother the cauli in any spices you want really, so long as they, you know, go with cauliflower. Cumin, paprika, coriander seed, that kind of thing. I kept it simple, then blobbed thick, cool labneh here and there, topping with dukkah – that’s just a mix of nuts, seeds, spices and salt but together = squirrel crack. Eggs give the dish richness and also make it more filling but if you don’t want them then – wait for it – leave them out.
The salad is a herby arrangement with radishes, olive oil and pom molasses squizzled on top. Pitta on the side and plenty of extra dukkah cause you won’t be able to get enough of it. I’d like to take the credit for the dukkah as it’s the best ever but I can’t, Donald made it. I’m scared that if I don’t tell you karma will catch up with me and I’ll accidentally drop a brick on my toe at the next opportunity.
Grilled Cauliflower with Labneh, Dukkah and Eggs
For the dukkah (do not ask me why he did this in cups. It’s probably because we just bought some new ones)
1 cup mixed hazelnuts, pistachios and pine nuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup cumin
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup Maldon salt (or other good sea salt)
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon ras el hanout
Toast the nuts and sesame seeds in a dry pan or oven. Bash up the seeds and nuts a bit until they resemble the picture above. Mix everything together.
For the cauliflower
1 small cauliflower
1 tablespoon vegetable or groundnut oil
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon grape molasses (you could also use date molasses, which is sweeter, or pomegranate molasses, which is more sour)
Hard boiled eggs (however many you want, I did three). I cook mine from cold then when the water starts boiling time 6 minutes – this way you get a slightly squidgy centre.
Labneh (strained yoghurt, I tell you how to make it here or buy it in a shop like the Turkish Food Centre)
Salad and toasted pitta, to serve
Prepare your BBQ for direct grilling.
Trim the cauliflower and cut it into thick ‘steaks’. I had a small cauli which only yielded two steaks – you don’t really want it any thinner as the florets will break apart. Rub them with the oil, paprika and grape molasses and season with salt and pepper. When the BBQ is ready, cook them for around 5 minutes each side or until tender.
Serve the cauliflower steaks with dollops of labneh, dukkah, hard boiled eggs and salad.