Pan-fried Cauliflower with Caramelized Red Onions, Toasted Israeli Couscous and Almonds
It’s an honour to welcome Masterchef finalist and author of beautiful new cookery book Fress, Emma Spitzer.
Fress is a celebration of contemporary Jewish cooking and features a fusion of Middle-Eastern and Eastern European flavours. Her melting pot of inspiration embraces Poland and Russia, Jewish recipes learned from her mother, travels in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and North Africa, as well as Algerian recipes shared by her mother-in-law. Emma describe it as Ashkenazi meets Sephardi.
After Masterchef, Emma has gone on to teach cookery classes, appear at food festivals cater for private events and has hosted sell-out supper clubs.
It really is a visual and literal feast!
I adapt this to make it a vegan recipe.
Over to Emma for her recipe:
Pan-fried Cauliflower with Caramelized RedOnions, Toasted Israeli Couscous and Almonds
Cauliflower is having what you would call ‘a moment’, with many menus now offering it as a dish in its own right, elevating it from humble side vegetable to queen of the plate.
Its versatility makes it a great vegetable to experiment with, and that’s exactly what I was doing when this recipe came about. Fried, roasted, baked, mashed or blitzed into couscous, it’s like a flavour sponge, gracefully accepting whatever dressing you throw on it.
As a cook, I often think of flavour first, texture second and visual impact third. This dish is the perfect result of the three: the tenderness of the cauliflower with the earthy and slightly tangy flavour of the za’atar and barberries, against the soft couscous and crunchy almonds.
Enjoy this as a hearty lunch or supper. If you struggle to find barberries, you can replace them with dried cranberries, raisins or dried sour cherries.
80ml olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced into
2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large or 2 small cauliflowers, cut into
large florets, any small leaves retained
150g toasted Israeli couscous (or
substitutefregola if you can’t find it)
500ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
40g butter, cut into pieces
2–3 tablespoons Za’atar
1 tablespoon Lebanese 7-spice Mix
100g raw unblanched almonds
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 large handfuls of dried barberries
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a generous sprinkling of pomegranate seeds
a few oregano leaves
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and gently fry for 10–15 minutes with a pinch of salt until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for 5–10 minutes more until slightly sticky.
Meanwhile, blanch the cauliflower and its leaves in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 3–4 minutes. Drain and leave to steam dry in a colander.
Heat a tablespoon of the remaining oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the couscous and stir to coat. Fry for around 2–3 minutes, then cover with the hot stock and add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for around 8–10 minutes. Drain off any liquid and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the cauliflower and fry, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Drain off any oil from the pan and set the cauliflower aside.
Place the pan back on the heat and add the butter, za’atar and Lebanese spice mix. Stir until the butter has melted, then add the cauliflower back in and baste until it is well coated. Throw in the almonds, pine nuts and barberries and stir everything in the pan until it has all heated through.
Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a large bowl and mix through the couscous and the cooked red onion. Season with some sea salt and black
pepper, and garnish with the pomegranate seeds and oregano leaves.
The dish can be served hot or at room temperature.
The couscous and onion can be made up to 24 hours ahead and the cauliflower blanched in advance, so don’t worry about having to tackle all the elements at the same time.
Photographs by Clare Winfield.
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