Feed me Lebanese food several times a week and I’d be a happy woman. I tend towards the meat-free stuff and go wild for falafels, tabbouleh, baba gahnoush, hommus, and crispy fried cauliflower, yum… crispy fried cauliflower is so good.
I remember tasting fried cauliflower for the first time. My mother had taken me out to dinner, at one of the many Lebanese restaurants that line Cleveland st, on the fringe of Surry Hills. She notified me, even before we sat down, that we’d be ordering the fried cauliflower. I couldn’t believe I was yet to taste it. She’d talked it up. I questioned the idea in my head, would it be soggy? or oily? greasy perhaps? No, no,no. It was crisp, yet soft. It was lemony with a distinct sesame flavour (from the tahini). It was delicious.
If you were to follow tradition, fried cauliflower would be served as part of a meze (this being a selection of small dishes served together). But don’t let tradition stifle your creativity. I like serving this crispy fried cauliflower with grilled white fish, usually flat head, and a simple green salad. I make extra tahini sauce so there’s plenty to drizzle over the fish too, and serve lemon to the side.
Don’t buy pre cut cauliflower, It must be whole, preferably with leaves and stalk still attached. I just can’t bring myself to buy vegetables that have been pre-cut (I know some of the nutrients have already leached out). This recipe is a cracker because it uses the whole cauliflower. There’s no waste. You won’t need to toss out the wilted left over that you find lurking in the fridge three weeks later.
Fried Cauliflower with Hazelnuts and Tahini
1 medium sized, whole cauliflower
4 tbsp roasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley
500ml Grape seed or olive oil for frying
For the tahini sauce
2 tbsp tahini
1 large lemon, juiced
2 tbsp hot water
Cracked black pepper
Place oil in a deep, wide pan (I use my wok) and heat to frying point. Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into small florets. Check the oil is hot enough by dropping a small floret into oil, if it bubbles wildly, the oil is ready.
Fry cauliflower is small batches – so as to not over crowd the pan and ensure the oil stays hot enough to fry – for about 2-3 minutes. Turn during cooking, till all sides are golden. Remove cauliflower from oil with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain. Repeat process till all cauliflower is fried. Lay out fresh paper towel and place all cooked cauliflower on top. This soak up any excess oil hanging around.
For the tahini sauce combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk till well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
To serve, scatter warm cauliflower on a large platter, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle cauliflower with tahini sauce, chopped parsley and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.