A lovely, light early autumn supper of coated fried cauli baked until crisp and anointed with a garlicky topping
Pleasure is … basking in the still-warm weather of September, revelling, appreciating, savouring every last bit of sunshine before the cooler air of autumn starts slipping in. On a good evening, we can still eat outside. For ease, I choose dishes that can be eaten at room temperature. This is a pretty plate of food, the saffron staining the sweet, silky onions a beautiful ochre and lending them its delicate, floral taste.
Crispy cauliflower steaks with saffron escabeche
This makes a perfect light supper, but serve with jacket potatoes if you want something more substantial.
Prep 10 min
Soak 15 min
Cook 30 min
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 large pinch saffron threads
40g raisins, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
30g pine nuts, toasted
1 handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
For the cauliflower steaks
2 small cauliflowers
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of water to loosen
40g plain flour, seasoned
5-6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to grease
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 and line a baking tray with greased baking paper. Cut four 1cm-thick steaks from each cauliflower through the stem – depending on its size, you should be able to get two to three such steaks out of one cauliflower.
Weigh out 450g of the loose floret offcuts and roughly chop. Keep the rest for another dish, along with the leaves, if they are looking perky – they are delicious seasoned and roasted until crisp.
Put the beaten eggs, flour and polenta on three separate plates, with a fourth plate alongside. Dip the cauliflower steaks one by one first in the flour, then in the egg and finally the polenta, and put on the empty plate.
Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Fry the steaks in batches for two minutes on each side, until light golden, then transfer to the baking tray. Once all the steaks are browned, transfer the tray to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, until golden and tender.
Meanwhile, warm three tablespoons of oil in a medium pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook gently for eight to 10 minutes, then add the saffron, season generously and cook for three to four minutes more, until the onions are soft and fragrant.
Drain the raisins and add to the pan with the chopped florets, vinegar, sugar and 100ml water. Simmer for five minutes, until the liquid evaporates, then take off the heat, stir in the pine nuts and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Sprinkle the cauliflower steaks with a little sea salt, top with scoops of the escabeche and scatter over the parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a green salad.
And for the rest of the week …
Use the excess florets for a chopped salad (think grated carrots, toasted nuts, sweet apple and a gutsy dressing) or a warming soup with a rich, Indian-spiced butter.