So THAT’s what I’ve been doing wrong for the last few decades of my life…it’s been another revealing week at The Mustard Spoon World Headquarters (AKA our tiny Cotswold cottage). It seems that I, along with countless others, have been cooking cauliflower all wrong for a VERY long time. It is so obvious now but somehow it just didn’t occur to me before that the palest of all vegetables is not here to be boiled, or even steamed, it was put on our planet to be roasted. A touch of oil then fired into a hot oven for a short while, results in those lovely little char marks catching on the edges of the florets (great word), and transforms cauliflower into some sort of nutty, meaty vegetable powerhouse! Incredible.
In my opinion, no country in the world is better at celebrating vegetables than India, so it seemed only fitting to pair my new best friend with one of my favourite of Indian dishes, a dal. There are many types of dal but this one is so simple to make that you could pop it on when you get home from work, go get changed and leave it to do its thing for a little bit. When you’re ready, bang the cauliflower in to roast and before you know it, you have a healthy and delicious dinner that is a total bargain and a real treat.
It’s a great combination because as the dal cooks it breaks down and becomes beautifully creamy, coupling that with the crispy, meaty bite of the cauliflower is really special, then finish it all off with some really zingy coriander and a bit of heat from the chilli, it’s got the lot! If you want to pimp up the protein levels, you can always add a fried egg at the last minute, or perhaps a little quails egg if you want to make it a little more celebratory (for a dinner party say). However you decide to serve it, just make sure you cook up plenty of cauliflower…I definitely ate my fair share long before any made it onto plates!
Get ahead – The dal will store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat gently in a pan, adding more water to loosen if necessary. You could even roast the cauliflower just before guests arrive, then fire it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to get it nice and hot.
250g chana dal
1 red or white onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes
2 whole garlic clove, skin removed
1 tsp turmeric
A knob of butter
Salt & pepper
1 small cauliflower, cut into 1” florets (1)
2 tbs vegetable/sunflower oil
1 tsp chilli powder
Coriander stalks & leaves, finely chopped
Red chilli, finely chopped
To make the dal, add chana dal to a small saucepan, cover with water by a couple of inches then bring to boil. Add other dal ingredients (except butter) and reduce to simmer. Leave for 1 – 1 ½ hours until soft but with slight bite. (2). Using a potato masher, squash the dal into the remaining liquid until you have a creamy consistency (3). Season carefully and keep warm.
Preheat oven to 190’C. In a bowl, toss cauliflower in oil and season with chilli powder & salt (to taste). Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes (4) or until crispy around edges.
Stir butter through dal, check seasoning then ladle into wide bowls. Top with cauliflower pieces and sprinkle with coriander & chilli.
(1) Try to cut the florets into equal size pieces so that they cook uniformly.
(2) Some dal are drier than others so do check the packet instructions.
(3) Make the dal looser or drier depending on your tastes, I like mine to be like a thick soup
(4) Use a spatula to carefully flip the cauliflower half way through cooking to prevent too much colour on one side.