I’ve discovered our household’s new favourite vegetable – whole roasted cauliflower. Roasting the whole head of cauliflower is really quite simple, and it makes a tasty centrepiece for the dinner table.
I have to admit that cauliflower rarely made it to my shopping list until a couple of years ago. Cauliflower slowly found its way into our soups and curries. The mild taste and soft texture seem right at home in these dishes, fleshing them out and serving as a base for spicy or tangy flavours.
Surprise, surprise, cauliflower can also be the star of the show, and not just playing in a supporting role. Whole cauliflower, roasted with oil, herbs, spices & seasonings is really quite delicious. It’s easy to prepare and makes an impressive vegetarian dish for the family or for guests.
A friend suggested a mustard and garlic mixture which was the inspiration for the recipe below. Add lemon juice if you like. Some grated parmesan sprinkled on the cauliflower just before serving could be a nice touch.
I’ve been experimenting with a few different flavours lately and have come up with two favourites – the mustard and garlic combo, and a pomegranate molasses and thyme version. I made both versions today and asked my family to vote for their favourite. The vote was pretty evenly split between the two!
Cooking a whole roasted cauliflower
Because of the size of the whole head of cauliflower it will take some time to cook all the way through to the centre (by the way, I use a cake skewer to teste if the cauliflower is cooked through). You really want it to be tender to the centre and golden on the outside.
One way to achieve this is to cook it for at least an hour in a moderate oven. Keep it covered to start with, either with a lid on the oven dish or with foil. Then take the lid off and cook the cauliflower uncovered for the last 20 minutes or so of the cooking time.
There is a shortcut which I discovered through trial and error when we had guests arriving for dinner at a particular time one evening. The whole roasted cauliflower turns out perfectly well if you par cook it in the microwave.
After rubbing it with the oil and spices, place the cauliflower in a microwave safe container with a lid and cook for 10 – 15 minutes on a medium/high setting. Transfer to an oven safe dish (or use the same dish if it suits both oven and microwave cooking), making sure to pour over any precious juices that might have escaped during the microwave cook. Another 20 minutes uncovered in a higher temperature oven (200°C / 400°F) will give the cauliflower a nice golden crust.
Sprinkles make it special
Don’t forget the sprinkles at the end! Once you take it out of the oven your cauliflower will be a large ball of soft flesh. Sprinkling some fresh herbs, nuts or seeds, perhaps a little grated cheese or extra salt and pepper will add a bit of variety, and a little something special to your cauliflower.
Why not try a couple of variations? First, the pomegranate molasses cauliflower:
- 1 whole head of cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon chopped herbs such as shallot, parsley – for sprinkling when serving
I think this dish is best served whole at the table. Let people help themselves, with a knife and/or a pie server.
By the way, we love cooking with our cast iron pans (skillets) and large pot. We bought them years ago at a camping store for a very reasonable price and use them everywhere – on the stove top, in the oven, outside on the BBQ, plus we take them camping. They are super tough and do a great job of holding their heat. If you are looking for a pan or skillet, try this popular one, or have a look in your local camping or outdoors store: