This Cauliflower dish is a take on a classic Israeli and Lebanese recipe in Ottolenghi and Tammi’s book Jerusalam. I have twisted it up just a little to suit us and our friends, but I have to tell you that this is a favourite dish in our circle. I love it partly because it is very quick to make if you roast the cauliflower. Ottolenghi deep fries it (and that is delicious) but often time is a real factor in this household. So the cauliflower is roasted when we need awesome dishes in quick-sticks time. We can get on with other things while the roasting happens. I have to say, though, that deep frying gives the cauli beautiful crispy exteriors and cooks the interior just enough to be amazing.
Tahini features in creative ways in Israel, in both simple eateries and upmarket restaurants. For these types of dishes, grab good tahini from your Middle Eastern grocers – you won’t go back to the supermarket shelves, and they have a smoothness not available in the Greek brands. Choose a light-coloured tahini made from hulled sesame seeds.
The tahini sauce, thick and wonderfully rich, is the focal point of this dish. I use about 3/4 of Ottolenghi’s sauce with the cauliflower, and the rest is put to use as dips and salad dressings. This dish fits perfectly in any mezze selection, makes a great substantial meal when served with fresh tomato salad and a warm pitta, or is an excellent side for many meals.
Browse all of our Cauliflower recipes, and dishes where tahini features. Our dips and sauces are here. Explore our Israeli dishes, all of our wonderful Salads, and check out or Early Spring collection of recipes.
Crispy Cauliflower with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce
Ottolenghi’s recipe serves six, so adjust the amount to your needs. Left overs are exceptionally tasty the next day. I usually make about half if using this dish as mezze or a side.
500ml sunflower or canola oil, for deep frying (less oil, about 120 ml, if roasting the cauliflower
2 medium cauliflower heads, split into small florets
8 spring onions, each cut into three long segments
180g tahini paste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
15g chopped parsley, plus a little more to finish
15g chopped mint, plus more to finish
150g Greek yoghurt
3 Tblspn lemon juice
1 tspn pomegranate molasses, plus more to finish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
approx 180ml water
to deep fry the cauliflower
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Lay in a few cauliflower florets at a time and cook for two to three minutes, turning so they colour evenly. Once golden-brown, transfer to a colander with a slotted spoon, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain. Repeat with the rest of the cauliflower. Next, fry the spring onions, also in batches, for a minute. Add to the cauliflower and leave to cool down.
or to roast the cauliflower
Place the cauliflower florets and spring onions in a large bowl and add enough oil to coat them. Mix well to ensure each floret is coated. Tip the florets onto a baking paper lined oven tray or dish in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast for around 30 mins, depending on your oven, stirring them at about the 20 min mark. Roast till they are very golden-brown.
to make the sauce
Pour the tahini paste into a large mixing bowl and add the garlic, herbs, yoghurt, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and seasoning. Stir with a wooden spoon as you add the water. The tahini sauce will first thicken and then loosen up as you add water. Don’t add too much, just enough to get a thick yet smooth pourable consistency, a bit like honey.
Stir the cauliflower and onion into the tahini bowl, taste and adjust the seasoning. You may also want to add more lemon juice.
To serve, spoon into a serving bowl and finish with a few drops of pomegranate molasses and some mint or parsley.
recipe notes and alternatives
I like to add half a dozen or so garlic cloves to the cauliflower as it roasts. When cool, squeeze the garlic from the cloves and mix with the florets before dressing. Roasted onions, sliced when cool, are a great addition to the salad too. Roast them with the cauliflower.
If it is cumquat season, use cumquat juice and peel in place of lemon juice and zest, and finely slice the rind to add to the sauce in place of lemon zest.
If you have made some quince molasses, use that in place of pomegranate molasses.
Dried mint is also good in the dressing, in place of the fresh mint.
While you are roasting or frying the cauliflower, make extra for a salad for tomorrow. There is a Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad that I will post soon.