Vegetarians for dinner – aaaaaahhhh! = me. Who knew a cauliflower could save the day?
I’m actually super partial to a veggie meal; before now I’ve even ordered a vegetarian breakfast (with black pudding on the side), and dabbled with quick and dirty veggie throw-togethers (mac’n’cheese anyone?). However, the paranoia sets in when I’m challenged to cook for the V crowd, even when they’re as good company as James’s aunt and uncle 😉. But rise to the challenge I did.
My thought process went: What can I make that is tasty, but not pasta, that is not a meat substitute, that is clearly a main meal which cannot be mistaken for a side dish? A block of cheese, maybe? Do I go Gwen and make an omelette?
Inspired by Blue Honey Night Cafe’s fabulous vegetarian option, I decided to wap out the big guns. A bloody huge cauliflower. Spiced lovingly, smothered and roasted in butter, on a bed of crunchy chickpeas with a salad concocted of coriander, mint, parsley, toasted pine nuts and garlic cherry tomatoes. Drizzled with a lemony feta and Greek yoghurt dressing and a splash of pomegranate molasses. Deliciously moreish and surprisingly healthy.
With this in my back pocket, never again will I worry about having vegetarians for dinner. And it’ll definitely make it onto my own dinner plate on a regular basis.
- 50g butter
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 large cauliflower
- 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 pack of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 pack of mint, chopped
- 1 pack of coriander, chopped
- 1 red onion, very finely chopped
- 200g cherry tomatoes on the vine
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- pomegranate molasses, for drizzling
- 100g good-quality feta
- 100g Greek yogurt
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
How to cook
Heat the butter slowly in a small saucepan until softened. Add the spices and mix in with a spoon, then set aside.
Heat your oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Trim the outer leaves of the cauliflower and remove the very bottom of the root, being careful to keep some of the root attached so the whole cauliflower remains intact. Put the cauliflower in a large pan, big enough so it will be immersed in the water. Boil a kettle of salted water and pour over the cauliflower so it becomes immersed. Cook for 3-4 mins.
While it’s cooking, put the chickpeas on a baking tray in one layer. Then carefully remove the cauliflower from the hot water with two spoons and place on top of the chickpeas. Rub the cauliflower with the spiced butter, and put any excess over the chickpeas. Season. Roast in the oven for 35 mins.
While you’re waiting for it to cook make the salad and the feta dressing. Chop up the mint, onion, parsley, coriander. Toast the pine nuts under the grill for 2-4 minutes (watch them they burn easily!). Then cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and thinly slice the garlic. Wedge a slice of garlic into the centre of each tomato half, drizzle with olive oil, and pop into the oven to bake for about 10 minutes or until they start to char slightly.
Still while the cauliflower is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk the feta and Greek yogurt until the cheese has completely broken up and the mixture is creamy. Add the lemon juice, whisk again, then season to taste. Chill until needed.
Check the cauliflower. It should be a deep golden brown, and a cutlery knife should be able to cut into the middle easily, and the chickpeas should be crispy. Remove the from the oven, along with the tomatoes. Transfer the cauliflower to a plate, then mix the remaining ingredients (tomatoes, herbs, pine nuts etc.) , except the pomegranate molasses, with the warm chickpeas on the tray.
Arrange the herby chickpeas and tomatoes on a large sharing platter and place the whole cauliflower on top. Spoon over the dressing and drizzle with pomegranate molasses to serve.