There is one vegetable I have always had an aversion to… it’s the cauliflower. I’m not quite sure why I don’t like it, but when my aversions to yoghurt, avocado and chilli turned from dislike into addiction, my distaste of cauliflower has always remained.
There has only ever been two dishes featuring cauliflower that I’ve always loved eating. The first is mum’s Italian cauliflower fritters and the second is Cauliflower au Gratin. But let’s face it, anything slathered in butter, flour, milk, and cheese is always bound to taste good!
Recently, I visited Abdul’s Restaurant with my new boss and her family (a Sydney Lebanese restaurant institution). We ordered the banquet but they had decided that they wanted to replace the vine leaves with the fried cauliflower. Now, this was a double blow for me because while I dislike cauliflower, vine leaves are one of my most favourite foods. But, given this was my new boss and I wanted to make a good impression, I was determined to enjoy the cauliflower – even if it killed me.
What I hadn’t expected was that I would absolutely love this dish. It shocked me. I’ve gone over the flavours in my mind for the past couple of weeks and have finally decided that it was likely the combination of the middle eastern spices with the cauliflower that had me hooked.
This weekend I decided I would buy a head of cauliflower (the first I have ever bought) and try a dish I had been formulating in my mind ever since my visit to Abdul’s. With the nostalgia of my mum’s cauliflower fritters firmly implanted in my psyche, and the new sensation of the fried spiced cauliflower top of mind, I realised I could combine the two concepts and perhaps create something special.
Armed with the idea of the recipe in my mind, a head of cauliflower and a full pantry, I gave it a crack (as they say in Australia). The flavour profile worked in my mind, but I hadn’t realised how great it would taste in real life. The balance of spices worked well in the roasted cauliflower (and to be honest, you could roast the cauliflower and serve it up as a side dish without the extra step of making the fritters). The important thing was not to overpower the roasted cauliflower in the fritters so that you couldn’t taste the spices. For this reason, the choice of cheese was vital and I chose provolone dolce for two reasons, firstly it is a semi-hard Italian cheese that has a mild taste and would hold its shape well in cooking, and secondly, it is one of my mother’s favourite cheeses – perfect for a variation on her trademark cauliflower fritters.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND PROVOLONE FRITTERS
1 sml head of cauliflower, cut into very small florets
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lime zested and juiced
Salt and pepper
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup milk
2 shallots, thinly sliced
150g provolone dolce cheese, in small cubes
continental parsley, finely chopped
1/2 long red chilli, finely chopped
Vegetable oil for shallow frying
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
In a large bowl combine cauliflower, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper, and mix well until the cauliflower florets are evenly coated.
On a large baking tray lined with baking paper, place the cauliflower florets evenly in one layer and bake for 20 minutes turning the cauliflower over halfway through. After 20 minutes the cauliflower will be tender but still with bite. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl combine roasted cauliflower, flour, eggs, shallots, provolone cheese, parsley and chilli and mix until a thick batter forms (if the batter is too thick, add another egg or a touch more milk).
Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and then slowly drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides (about 4 mins each side). Cook 4 – 6 at a time, depending on the size of your pan, adding extra oil when needed. Repeat with remaining batter and serve with crisp lettuce leaves.