A recipe to arouse the taste buds amid the cloying seasonal onslaught of cookies and chocolate, Glühwein and Christmas punch. Cauliflower is a demure vegetable, and this method teases it from fading bystander to zesty leading lady.
I first tasted this elegantly spiced cauliflower at Newman Street Tavern a few weeks ago. It was so good, so unexpectedly addictive, that we asked for the recipe. More precisely, my friend asked, I didn’t exactly dare. What’s more, it wasn’t the first time that evening — the server had just brought from the kitchen the handwritten instructions for an incredible fennel and watercress soup. Asking for another recipe from that delicious meal was pushing it a bit far, surely? Or perhaps not. It was of course, evidence of our appreciation.
Brilliant spiced cauliflower, adapted from Newman Street Tavern, with thanks
I had to extrapolate a little, especially for the spice mix, as there were no measurements. I’ve tested the recipe a couple of times and I believe this version comes close.
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 star anise
2 tsps sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 pinch saffron threads
3 cloves garlic
3-inch piece of fresh ginger
1 medium onion
3 small tender celery stalks
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh dill and/or cilantro leaves
In a small skillet, gently toast the cumin, anise, coriander, fennel. Just enough to coax out the aroma (be careful not to burn the spices!). In a small blender, grind to a fine powder together with the turmeric, paprika, and saffron.
Crush the garlic and grate the ginger and mix into a paste with one teaspoon salt.
Peel and finely dice the onion. Cut the celery stalks into paper thin slices.
Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets.
In a skillet large enough to fit all the cauliflower florets in one layer, heat enough olive oil to generously coat the pan. Throw in the spice mix and stir for a few seconds, then very quickly add the garlic/ginger paste. Cook for barely a minute then add the onion and celery. Add a little oil if necessary. **Again, be very careful not to burn the spices!**
Fry the onion and celery until translucent then add the cauliflower florets with a splash of water.
Cook for just a few minutes, until al dente.
To finish the dish, season with salt and pepper, a splash of sherry vinegar and squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with plenty of dill and/or cilantro leaves.