Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sluttishly Savoury: Cauliflower Steak

Or, a whole meal made from one little cauliflower. Yup. Waste not, want not and all that - I've made the main event plus two sides, all for 86p.

I read about cauliflower steaks in the paper last weekend, where I was reliably informed that they are 'going up'. In colour supplement terms this is high praise indeed. I was intrigued. Then surprised. And then, delighted. I am a convert.

This isn't claiming to taste like steak. It doesn't. But it does provide a substantial wodge of deliciousness, which needs little adornment. I've served it up with cauliflower purée and crispy cauliflower leaves, which on paper (or screen) sounds like a fatal overdose of cauliflower, but the textures and flavours are so distinct, it really isn't odd at all. Trust me.

The idea for crispy cauliflower leaves came from our Sara's kale chips recipe (try it if you haven't already), and it turns out the green leaves of a cauliflower make excellent crunchy, salty shards of Holy Crap, This Is The Bit We Usually Throw Away?! And cauliflower purée, well, a quick scout around the internet showed me that this is THE fashionable way to serve up our chou-fleur steak (I've resorted to French; there's only so many times I can type the word caulifl... oh). So who was I to disagree?

Cauliflower steak with cauliflower purée and crispy cauliflower leaves (serves one)
You will need:
  • 1 small cauliflower, stalk intact (mine weighed 600g with the leaves on, 450g with the leaves off), outer leaves carefully removed, washed and set aside
  • Olive oil to fry, rub and splosh
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 3 tbsp double cream
  • A knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve
  • Garlic oil or truffle oil for drizzling
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Cut a 1" thick slice from the centre of the cauliflower, working from top to bottom so that you end up with a little tree shape. Set this aside until later.
  3. Remove the fibrous central rib from the leaves and discard. Place the leaves on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, throw on the garlic, and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Pop them on the top shelf of the oven for about 15 minutes. They'll be crispy and turning brown at the edges when they're done.
  4. As they're baking, remove the florets from the remaining cauliflower, and boil in a little water for about 10 minutes, until very soft.
  5. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (a cast-iron skillet is best, as it can go straight in the oven - but no worries if you don't have one!). Rub a little oil on to both sides of the cauliflower steak, and season with salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side, until the edges start to catch.
  6. Transfer the pan to the centre of the oven (or place in a roasting tin along with the hot oil), and bake for about 10 minutes, until the stalk is tender (use a skewer or sharp knife to test its softness).
  7. Drain the florets and add the cream, salt and pepper, butter, and parmesan. Purée using a blender.
  8. Using these timings, everything should be ready ALL AT ONCE. If not, the purée reheats well over a low heat, and the cauliflower steak will come to no harm if it's in the oven a little longer. Do keep an eye on the crispy leaves, though, if you're waiting for other stuff to be ready - if in doubt, move to a lower shelf.
  9. Drizzle some garlic oil or truffle oil over the steak, and garnish the purée with a few shavings of parmesan.
  10. Awaken from your cauliflower coma satisfied and full of goodness. 

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