Cauliflowers, roasted whole, have become a fashionable item for sometime – perhaps you might say it is going out of fashion, along with cauliflower steaks. But riced cauliflower still makes a regular appearance and I am glad about that – late onto the bandwagon as usual, I tried it for the first time recently and it is quite amazing.
So it is a surprise that Ottolenghi has a roasted whole cauliflower recipe in his new book Simple. And simple it is – par boiled then roasted with butter and oil before serving with a green tahini sauce. Elements of Ottolenghi, without all the hoohaa of his other books.
In a way, though, it is shockingly simple. It almost doesn’t feel quite right, doesn’t feel quite like Ottolenghi. Even the style of the book has changed – the texture is different (different papers used), the layout is different. I am in 2 minds about the style changes – I wanted it to have all the lux of over-the-top Ottolenghi cookbooks, but with simpler recipes.
The book defines simple in 6 different ways (the first letters of which spell out SIMPLE), and each recipe is labelled to indicate which of these various simplicities it belongs to. For me, the most important simplicity is S ie Short on Time. In my household, somewhere between 6 and 8 dishes are made daily, so spending a minimum of 1 hour on an Ottolenghi dish does not make efficiency sense, even though we might adore the dish. HOWEVER, in defence of Ottolenghi’s other books, they contain recipes that can be a whole meal. That is not the case in Simple. TBH, you’d have to make 2 or 3 dishes to make a whole meal from Simple, or pair one dish with other plates of food.
Another first impression is that, reading through Simple, many of the recipes feel like half-recipes. That is not a criticism! It is a comment on the way he layers textures and flavours in his other books, and thus the simplicity of this book shocks! For example, take Whole Roasted Cauli. I might have expected Roasted Cauli, pureed, with cooked and toasted chickpeas, a tahini dressing and herb oil topped with baby falafel with a sumac dust. No, wait! That actually sounds great! (makes note to self). But here in Simple, we have only the cauliflower with a tahini dressing. It does make the recipes very accessible for weeknight cooking. And, for all its simplicity, this dish is a cracker!
Again, the comments on simplicity are not a criticism, it is an emotional response. We all have these when confronted with change. During my project of cooking Plenty More I often lamented the complexity (especially of time) and hankered after some Elizabeth David recipes. I have my wish now, although perhaps the style of Simple is a little like Elizabeth David on a small dose of steroids. She can specify recipes in 2 or 3 lines. Ottolenghi still takes a page or 2 for each dish.
Truthfully, I can’t wait to dive into this book and get to know it as intimately as I know the others.
“I like to serve this in the centre of the table, for people to share with drinks at the start of a meal. We break the cauliflower apart with our hands, dip the individual florets and crisp green leaves into the sauce and sprinkle with salt.”
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking through Plenty More (nearly finished), but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. As we cook more, you will find all of our dishes from Simple here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.
Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Green Tahini Sauce
1 large cauliflower with its leaves intact
45g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tblspn olive oil
wedges of lemon, to serve
coarse sea salt
Using a pair of scissors, lightly trim the leaves at the top of the cauliflower, so that about 5cm of the cauliflower’s head is exposed.
Fill a pan large enough to fit the cauliflower in salty water. Bring to a boil and carefully lower in the cauliflower exposed head down: don’t worry if the base sticks out a little. Bring back to a boil, cook for six minutes, then transfer the cauliflower to a colander, exposed head down. Set aside for 10 minutes, to drain and cool.
Heat the oven to 170C fan. Make the tahini sauce and set aside (optional).
Mix the butter with the oil. Put the cauliflower stem side down in a medium baking tray and spread the butter mix all over the cauliflower. Sprinkle over sea salt, and roast for 1.5 – 2 hours, basting the cauliflower with the buttery juices five or six times during cooking. The cauliflower is done when it’s super-tender and a dark golden-brown, and the leaves are crisp and charred.
Remove from the oven and serve with the green tahini sauce (optional) and a little extra salt for sprinkling on top.
Green Tahini Sauce
3 Tblspn lemon juice
80ml warm water
1 clove of garlic, crushed
15g flat-leaf parsley (if making by hand, it should be finely chopped)
To make by hand, thoroughly whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water and garlic in a bowl – you’re aiming for a creamy, smooth texture. If it’s too thick, add more water. Stir in the chopped parsley and taste; add salt if needed.
If using a food processor or a blender, put the tahini with the garlic and parsley and blitz for about a minute until the sauce is green. Pour in the water, lemon juice and sea salt and blitz until you have a smooth green sauce with the consistency of double cream – add a little more water if it is too thick. This will keep in the fridge for three days.
Other Sauces for Roasted Cauliflower
or use this:
Quick Tomato Sauce
2 Tblspn olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced into rings
1 small green chilli, sliced into rings
4 medium red tomatoes, cubed
6 fresh basil leaves
Put the oil in a skillet and add the chilli. Place over heat and saute until the colour of the chilli pops (looks greener). Add the garlic and a moment or two after, add the tomatoes. Salt lightly, bring to a simmer and continue cooking while stirring over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Add the basil leaves, stir for another minute and remove from the heat.
Dip the roasted florets in the tomato sauce and serve.