The tandoor oven cooks some of the most flavourful dishes in India, but is often skewed towards meat eaters. One of the few concessions to the large vegetarian population is tandoori cauliflower. I have to say, I love cauliflower, and this recipe gives it that extra edge. It is now a go-to appetizer for when I have friends round and don’t want to serve a lot of meat. It doesn’t need a chutney or anything else.
Tandoori cauliflower, my way (Serves 6–8)
For the cauliflower
- 900g (2lb) cauliflower (around 1 small one)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp chickpea (gram) flour
- 60g (1⁄2 cup) cashew nuts
- 3 small garlic cloves
- 20g (11⁄2 tbsp) finely grated root ginger (peeled weight)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for the oven rack
- 400g (13⁄4 cups) plain yogurt
- 1⁄8–1⁄4 tsp chilli (chili) powder, or to taste
- paprika, for colour, if you like
- 1 tsp carom seeds
- 3 tsp garam masala (fresh if possible, see page 113)
- 3 tsp ground cumin
- large handful of chopped coriander (cilantro)
- 2 small tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
- 3⁄4 tsp chaat masala, or to taste
- 1 small Indian green finger chilli (chile), finely chopped, or to taste
- 200g (1 cup) crème fraîche
Cut the cauliflower into large 7.5cm (3in) florets. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add 1 tsp salt and the cauliflower. When it returns to the boil, cook for 1 minute, then drain.
Dry-roast the chickpea flour in a frying pan, stirring very often, until it has darkened by a couple of shades and smells roasted. Take it off the heat.
Place the cashews, garlic, ginger, oil and half the yogurt in a measuring jug or blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the remaining yogurt, spices, a little more salt and the chickpea flour. It should taste good, so adjust the salt if necessary. Place in a large bowl, add the cauliflower and leave for 20 minutes or so, if you have some time.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Line the base of the oven with foil, then oil an oven rack and place it in the middle of the oven. Once hot, place the cauliflower florets on the oiled rack and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until charred in areas and cooked through (the stalk should be tender when pierced with the point of a knife).
Meanwhile, mix together the coriander, tomatoes, chaat masala and chilli, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Spread the crème fraiche in a swirl over a serving platter. Spoon on just over half of the tomato mix. Place the cauliflower evenly over the crème fraîche, spoon over the rest of the tomato mix and serve.
Recipe from Anjum Anand, author of I Love India and founder of The Spice Tailor, a range of authentic curry sauces, naans and deals (www.thespicetailor.com)