Thursday, January 24, 2008

Steak for vegetarians

The photo yet again doesn't do this dish justice, so ignore that slightly messy looking plateful for a minute and just let me tell you about it.

There's three components - a cauliflower 'steak' - browned outside and soft inside; a strangly almondy cauliflower puree; and a rich tomato and caper sauce. The steak and puree bit I borrowed from Bon Appetit magazine, slightly adapted, and the sauce and pine nuts I added.

The other day I tried a recipe for a chickpea and celeriac salad I had had bookmarked in Australian Gourmet for ages. It involved a lot of different ingredients, making your own houmous, and roasting celeriac in about an inch of liquid that needed to be sporadically topped up. Complicated stuff, but I thought it would be worth the effort because it looked like a beautiful dish that would be bursting with flavour and something very special from two humble main ingredients.

I learnt a valuable lesson trying this out. Namely, that complicated recipes are just not my thing. I cut corners and I substitute ingredients, and I expect too much from something which takes all of my evening to prepare. It was a bit of a mess, and the kitchen was so messy by the time I had finished, and I so tired, that I barely noticed eating it in between all the prep and the tidy up.

Hang all that. I am much happier with recipes with a little give and take. That concentrate on one or two ingredients, that don't require the finely tuned balance of 17 different spices, that can be thrown together in an hour and then enjoyed at leisure.

I saw this cauli recipe and it seemed much more the kind of thing. I thought there was something very dignified and beautiful about presenting this vegetable in both a luxurious processed form and in a proud, unadulterated chunk. It required few ingredients and only three pans. It looked promising.

And it delivered. The 'steak' is good and caramelised and tasty. The puree is light and slightly sweet and rich. The sauce is rich and sharp and a good complement to both. It's a good dinner dish. Something a bit different and fully satisfying. And not too complicated!

Cauliflower steak with cauliflower puree and tomato sauce
(Serves 2)
  • First, chop half an onion, a clove of garlic and several handfuls of cherry tomatoes (sorry - I forgot to weigh them so no more accurate weight, but you can work out how many you need I'm sure!) or just use a tin or two of tinned tomatoes.
  • Heat some olive oil gently, add the onion, garlic and tomatoes, a good slug of red wine, salt and pepper and a few branches of rosemary. Let simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until rich and thick.
  • Near the end, add a handful of capers and pick out the sticky bits of rosemary.
  • Meanwhile, cut two 1 inch slices from the middle of a medium-sized cauliflower and break the rest into florets.
  • Heat some olice oil in a frying pan, and cook the 'steaks' on both sides for about 5-10 minutes until browned, at which point transfer to an oven tray and bake at about 180C for another 20 minutes to soften the inside
  • While the steaks are cooking, put the florets in a saucepan with a cup of milk, a cup of water and a couple of pieces of cinnamon bark. When soft (about 10 minutes), drain, reserving the liquid, spread out on an oven tray and put in the oven until they've crisped up a little (5-10 minutes)
  • Process the florets with a cup of the reserved liquid and a little grated parmesan, until nice and smooth.
  • Toast some pinenuts in a frying pan until lightly browned.
  • Put a blob of puree on each plate, top with a steak, and scatter with pinenuts. Sauce on the side.

1 comment:

Little Sister Saucepan said...

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