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sour smoky grilled cauliflower

November 7, 2011

So cauliflower season has come and gone. Which is a fair pity because it was only the other day that I came across this set of photos from a time long past.

It was Winter then, with a capital W. Way back when cauliflower’s squeaky, crumbly, albino, brain-like florets were in such plentiful supply that our local fruit-and-vegetable-ery sold it by the pre-deconstructed punnet.

Florets! Without the need to hack at a heavy head! Saving your benchtop from a fine smattering of little white granules with every blow!

I came home with more packages than I knew what to do with.

A good amount went into soups. Velvety cauliflower and broccoli. Hearty cauliflower and ham hock. Minestrone.

Another handful still went into gratins. Intermingled with slices of fennel and cheese.

And still there was some leftover.

And when there are ingredients left over, I fall back on long practiced habits.

“What on earth are you doing?” asked the Bean as she wandered into the kitchen.

“Hmgmmgph”

It was a fair question. I didn’t hear it at the time though as I was rib-cage deep in a corner cupboard.

“What. Are. You. Doing?” she repeated. “Did your head turn into a shelf?”

I spun around, almost knocking myself out in the process.

“I was… um… looking for something…” I started.

“Oh! Let me help!” 

And with that my stash of little-used-ingredients was pulled into the light and meticulously examined.

“Were you looking for this?” she asked, pulling out a bag of za’atar.

“Not quite. Maybe…”

“What about this?” she questioned, holding aloft a one kilo tub of chestnut honey.

“Probably not”

A sniff. A cough. A pulled face and a splutter.

“What is this?!” she cried, having inhaled more than a little whiff of sumac.

“That’s what I’m looking for!” I said, as I started hunting for cumin and chilli flakes.

“You didn’t answer my question!”

But it was too late for my cast iron grill had been hauled onto a gas burner.

A glug of oil. A sprinkle of cumin. The sizzle of raw vegetables starting to smoke.

“That smells nice” started the Bean. “Can I have some?”

Fresh lemon, dried chilli and the unfortunately inhaled sumac.

We sat in silence, forks in hand. The food disappeared as quickly as it had been created.

I scribbled the recipe down on the back of an envelope. Which is where I found it, four months later, after spotting a dusty folder of photographs waiting to be smiled at.

sour smoky grilled cauliflower

you will need:

2C cauliflower florets (about 1/4 head of cauliflower)
1tsp cumin powder
3tsp (15ml) olive oil
pinch each of sumac, dried chilli & salt
lemon wedge to serve

how to do it:

1. Chop your cauliflower into florets if you haven’t done that already. Tis hard to eat a cauliflower whole. Or even quartered. It’s hard(!) and crumbly (!)

2. Toss the olive oil and cumin through the florets.

3. Grab a pan and stick it on your biggest burner. Heat it up til it’s nice and hot. I’m talking drops of water evaporating into sizzling plumes of vapour hot. Now (and only now) dump your cauliflower in and leave it there to sizzle. Turn it every now and then, not too frequently (we aren’t stir-frying it. Oh no) because we want that lovely blackened nutty charred flavour to come through.

4. When your cauliflower is tender enough for a fork to slide in with just a little resistance, pop it out of the pan and onto a plate. Dress it with sumac, chilli & salt and serve with a squeeze of lemon. If you’re feeling a little sauce is needed, plop a dollop of natural yoghurt on the top of the steaming pile and stir it through.


  • #1
    November 7th, 2011

    Cauliflower is not my fave veg unless it’s cauliflower soup but this is one recipe I will certainly try. It reminds me of the deep-fried Lebanese style cauliflower which I love too.

  • #2
    November 8th, 2011

    Love the insane nuttiness cauliflower gets when it chars and browns. Such an underrated vegetable. And with sumac! This sounds aromatic and so delicious.

  • #3
    November 8th, 2011

    Better than when I bought heaps of cauliflower in winter, only to burn it slightly whilst transforming it into soup.

    It had a, um, distinct smoky flavour…

  • #4
    November 9th, 2011

    Don’t you hate it when you knock yourself out on a kitchen cabinet. Sadly I seem to not learn and continue to do it. Love the toasty look of this recipe and the spice.

  • #5
    November 9th, 2011

    What a lovely, simple yet flavoursome way to eat cauli! Have bookmarked this for next winter 🙂

  • #6
    November 10th, 2011

    Luurve this cauliflower recipe! Everytime I get some, I end up doing a cheesey bake LOL

  • #7
    November 10th, 2011

    This sounds great. We actually had something similar with Zataar tonight and while I wasn’t sure how Mr Chipconnoisseur would go with our first of 4 vegetarian dinners, he loved it! I will make sure to add some lemon next time – thanks for the tip!

  • #8
    November 11th, 2011

    I love cauliflower. It’s one of those vegetables that can stand on its own or be a wonderful side-dish. Your recipe with sumac looks and sounds delicious.

  • #9
    November 14th, 2011

    A really lovely recipe! I love sumac and cauliflower, and they go well together.

  • #10
    November 14th, 2011

    Oh wooow that sumac sounds HEAVENLY! I have to try it! Sounds like a great ingredient to have ready in my pantry. Thanks for introducing this to me. Still learning and discovering new things each day! =D Btw, nice alternative to soups and gratin. Can’t wait to try!

Shez