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Taste of Europe: Selin Kiazim’s roast cauliflower

Food writer JOSH BARRIE brings readers a recipe from a chef who makes ingredients sing on a plate.

Silin Kiazim’s roast cauliflower.

Last Monday, I went to Oklava, Shoreditch, to celebrate Selin Kiazim’s new recipe book, Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking. It is a long and wearying title. The food, though, is anything but, and captures the imagination.

Kiazim is masterful with her spices and layers, and has produced a cookbook that is innovative and modern in its veg focus. So many published these days are formulaic and use the same combinations, the same toasted hazelnuts on a piece of white fish approach.

Monday’s food was kaleidoscopic. First came a hot and sour lychee salad with cucumber and cashews, then fried prawns for dipping in coconut chutney and green chilli jam. We scooped medjool date butter on to sourdough before the chermoula beetroots. Chermoula is a sauce full of garlic, cumin, coriander and lemon and is popular across North Africa. It was a sweet and satisfying dish alongside a salad of bitter leaves and lamb bacon. Lamb bacon is meatier and richer than traditional pork but equally delicious, especially with mustard.

Charred hispi usually bores me terribly, because it is ubiquitous in London restaurants. At Oklava, the yoghurt, apple salsa and bergamot made the cabbage worthwhile. Crispy fried aubergines with chilli sauce and garlic yoghurt? I need not say more. Only the Aegean greens didn’t really make sense – greens shouldn’t bookend a meal and or fall about in chewy abandon.

If you’ve never had künefe, a syrupy Turkish pudding made with wiry pastry and sweet cheese, you need to locate a portion.

Anyway, Kiazim’s food is wonderful and interesting, she makes vegetables sing, so here’s another one of her recipes. This one calls for cauliflower and is decidedly easier to put together than some of the dishes she served on Monday, although no less enjoyable.

Roast cauliflower with tahini and pecans

Ingredients

2 large or 4 small cauliflower
6–8 tbsp natural cauliflower purée
Extra-virgin olive oil
150g unsalted butter
4–8 small cauliflower leaves (optional)
sea salt flakes (kosher salt)
4 tbsp tahini (black, preferably)

For the dressing:
80g pecans, toasted and crushed
4 natural dried apricots, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
10 chives, finely sliced
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
4–5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp vinegar (red, white, apple cider or moscatel)

Method

Heat the oven to 210C/190C fan/415F/ gas mark 6–7.

Cut 4 steaks from the central part of the cauliflowers – if the cauliflowers are large, you should be able to cut 2 steaks from each. Alternatively, you could just cut wedges and follow the recipe as per normal.

Put a little olive oil in a large, ovenproof frying pan (skillet) and place over a medium-high heat. Add the steaks (you may need to do this in two separate pans) and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Season both sides with a little fine salt, turn the heat down and add in half the butter. As the butter melts, use a spoon to keep basting it over the cauliflower.

Once you have basted the cauliflower a few times, add the remaining butter to the pan, turn the cauliflower over and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Baste the cauliflower halfway through the cooking time. Take the cauliflower out and drain on a piece of paper towel.

Before serving, place the cauliflower leaves, if using, into the hot butter and baste for 20-30 seconds or until they turn golden brown.

Drain on a paper towel and season with fine salt. Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.

To serve, smear the cauliflower purée on to a plate, drizzle around the tahini, add the cauliflower steaks, spoon over the dressing, and cauliflower leaves (if using).

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