Eyal Shani’s humble whole roasted cauliflower, sparked a cult that has spread throughout the world. This wonderfully simple yet ridiculously tasty delicacy is now one of the defining dishes in modern Israeli cooking- and rightfully so.

Cauliflowers come in all shapes and sizes, each lending themselves to being roasted whole. Classic white cauliflower heads and the more unusual Romanesco variation, make for show-stopping spectacles. Behaving in similar fashion to a roasted rib, in the oven and carved at the table, this dish creates an unbeatable visual impression. Baby brassica heads are no less impressive and a perfect side for a meatier main.

Not only aesthetically appetising, but dangerously delicious. I have, on more than one occasion, hoovered an entire whole head in one sitting. A whole large head that is. Countless flavourings and sauces marry with the cauliflower head, from the simplest – olive oil and lemon juice to the more, exotic harissa and zhoug. My recipe, leaning towards the middle-east is zesty, fresh and allows the cauliflower to shine.

Top Tips…     

Chickpeas: Canned or dried?

Dried and soaked chickpeas are worth the premeditated planning. Forgetting the preservatives for a second, they undoubtedly have the best flavour and texture. Creamier & less grainy, it’s worth the soak. However, don’t beat yourself up, I’m an avid can user and am not ashamed. Weekday dinners are not planned in my house, so if there isn’t a frozen batch of the good stuff, I will happily chuck in a pre-soaked can.

Hate planning and after something less tinny? My latest, yet albeit expensive solution, the pre-cooked Spanish chickpeas found in jars. The closest thing to soaking yourself, lazy and want to splash out, El Navaricco make a brilliant batch.

The Cooking

Firstly, having tested and re-tested the numerous techniques, following Shani, boiling before is best.  Secondly, be careful – mushy is massacre and raw is regretful. This recipe may be effortless but it is not fool-proof. Keep an eye on your timer.

  • LEVEL: Easy
  • Prep: 20 Mins
  • Cook: 45 Mins (plus overnight soaking)
  • SERVES: 4
  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan

INGREDIENTS

for the Cauliflower

4 baby cauliflowers
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 garlic bulb, halved
fine salt, for boiling
sea salt

for the Chickpeas  

225g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or 1 can, rinsed and dried)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
black pepper

for the Sauce

2 preserved lemons, seeded
2 shallots
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
zest and juice 1 lemon
sea salt
black pepper

Method

1.  First, preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with parchment and set aside.

2. Start with the chickpeas. In a bowl, toss the chickpeas with cumin, coriander, olive oil, lemon juice, zest and seasoning. Tip onto a lined baking tray and roast for 35 minutes. Once cooked, leave to one side.

3. Now the cauliflower. First, raise the oven temperature, to 220C.

4. Rinse the heads, leaving the outer leaves intact. Then, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Lower in the cauliflower heads, stem first, and add the bay leaves and garlic halves. Turning once, simmer for 10 -12 minutes. My trick for readiness – lightly press, the florets should have lost its firmness but not be entirely soft. Remove the cauliflower heads from the pan and leave in a colander (floret—side down) to dry for a further 10 minutes

5. Place the baby cauliflowers onto a baking tray, rub with olive oil, dispersing it evenly. Scatter over sea salt and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until well browned, basting occasionally.

6. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Finely chop the seeded preserved lemons leaving to one side. Do the same with the shallots. To a small pan, on a medium heat, add 1 tsp. unsalted butter. Sweat the shallots for 4-5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the remaining ingredients, lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Reheat when ready to serve.

7. To serve, fill small bowls with a generous helping of chickpeas, place an individual baby cauliflower on top and drizzle over the heated, preserved lemon butter.