Cauliflower, apple, almond, leek ash

I’d heard for years how good roasted cauliflower was but it was only very recently when I cooked a recipe from Yottam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook that I actually got to try it. I’d no reason to doubt people’s recommendations but I was still surprised at just how fantastic it tasted and the following dish is a sort of homage to all the different flavours and textures you can coax out of this surprisingly versatile vegetable.

Funnily enough I haven’t actually roasted anything this time; the magic lies not so much in the particular cooking method but in imparting a lovely golden crust on the cauliflower and there are better ways of doing that evenly than in the oven: when fried slowly in butter over a low heat in a wide pan you have more control and a superior flavour.

Something I’d never tried before as well was cauliflower ‘couscous’, beloved of many on low carb diets, which is incredible easy to prepare if you’ve a food processor and possibly soul destroying if all you’re using is a microplane grater a la El Bulli. Rather than steaming it though, I figured it would be far more delicious if browned in yet more butter and, unsurprisingly, it was.

For the almond component, I decided to make mayonnaise with almond oil and it turned into quite a drama. My wife’s pregnant so I couldn’t use raw egg yolks – not to worry, I thought, let’s just pasteurise them in the water bath. There’s two main temperatures you can use, 55°C for two hours, which preserves the egg white, or 57°C for an hour and a quarter. I went for the latter option but only pasteurised one egg and I’m sure you can guess what happened next: the emulsion split and I’d to wait another hour while I did two more eggs. All at 1 o’clock in the morning. Lovely.

I also got to experiment with a new – to me at least – technique by making a fruit glass (after coming across a recipe by Wylie Dufresne purely by chance). Basically, all you do is thicken a syrup made with a flavourful liquid, in this case apple juice, and then dehydrate it in the oven overnight. This results – assuming you spread the paste thinly enough, something I only managed in parts – in extremely brittle shards that shatter in your mouth and give a fantastic textural element to the dish. Combined with an intense burst of sweet and sour from some pickled apples, it really adds another dimension.

Finally, I remembered a great post on Kitchen 72 that paired cauliflower with burnt leeks and thought it would be make an interesting garnish, the smokiness and bitter edge acting as a counterpoint to the richer elements on the plate. And more importantly, it looks really cool too.

Cauliflower, apple, almond, leek ash

Cauliflower, apple, almond, leek ash

Serves: 4

For the pickled apple
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
100ml water
70ml cider vinegar
40g sugar
5g salt

For the apple glass
90g apple juice
15g tapioca maltodextrin
7.5g glucose powder
2g propylene glycol alginate
12.5g powdered sugar

For the leek ash
1 leek, finely chopped

For the almond mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
2.5g salt
125ml sunflower oil
2.5ml lemon juice
25ml almond oil

For the glazed cauliflower
30g butter
5 cauliflower florets, quartered
50ml water
Salt

For the cauliflower puree
150g cauliflower, finely chopped
150ml milk
25g butter
Salt

For the cauliflower couscous
50g butter
150g cauliflower, grated or very finely chopped in a food processor
Salt

For the deep fried cauliflower
300ml sunflower oil
2 cauliflower florets, thinly sliced on a mandolin

For the garnish
15g butter
15g sliced almonds

Method:

  1. For the pickled apples, place the cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve to the sugar and salt.
  3. Add the apple cubes to a clean jar and pour in the hot pickling liquid.
  4. Allow to cool before placing in the fridge overnight.
  5. For the apple glass, place the apple juice, tapioca maltodextrin, glucose powder, propylene glycol alginate and powdered sugar in to a blender and blend until fully incorporated.
  6. Lay a sheet of baking parchment on a tray and spread the apple mixture in a very thin layer over the paper.
  7. Place in a 50°C oven with the door ajar overnight to dehydrate.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Break up the apple glass into shards and store in an airtight jar.
  10. For the leek ash, place a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the chopped leeks.
  11. Fry, stirring regularly, until most of the leeks are either burnt or dark brown.
  12. Place the leeks in a 50°C oven with the door ajar overnight to dehydrate.
  13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  14. Place in a blender and grind to a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.
  15. For the almond mayonnaise, place the egg yolk and salt in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.
  16. Whilst whisking constantly, add a small amount of oil.
  17. When the oil is thoroughly incorporated, add the same amount of oil all the while whisking.
  18. Continue this process until all the sunflower oil is emulsified.
  19. Pour in the lemon juice and a splash of water to thin the sauce a bit.
  20. Slowly whisk in the almond oil until fully incorporated.
  21. Add more lemon juice or salt if required. Reserve.
  22. For the glazed cauliflower, melt the butter over a medium heat in a frying pan.
  23. When the butter stops foaming, reduce the heat to low and add the quartered florets.
  24. Cook flat side down until golden brown, around 5-10 minutes.
  25. Turn the florets to brown the other flat side, around 5-10 minutes.
  26. Add the water and cover the frying pan with a lid.
  27. Allow the cauliflower to steam until tender, around 5 minutes. Reserve and keep warm.
  28. For the cauliflower purée, place the cauliflower and milk in a small saucepan.
  29. Bring the pan to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.
  30. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and blend to a smooth purée. Reserve and keep warm.
  31. For the cauliflower couscous, melt the butter over a medium heat in a frying pan.
  32. When the butter stops foaming, add the cauliflower and sauté until golden brown. Reserve and keep warm.
  33. For the deep-fried cauliflower, heat the sunflower oil in a wok until it is 180°C.
  34. Add the sliced cauliflower florets and cook until golden brown, around 1-2 minutes. Reserve and keep warm.
  35. For the garnish, melt the butter over a medium heat in a frying pan.
  36. When the butter stops foaming, add the almonds and cook until golden brown, around 3-4 minutes.
  37. To plate; place four of the quartered florets down the middle of a plate; place two swirls of cauliflower purée either side; spoon some of the cauliflower couscous around the cauliflower quarters; place some of the pickled apple cubes down either side of the quarters; balance three of the deep-fried cauliflower slices in between the quartered florets;balance three of the apple glass shards in between the quartered florets on the other side; place two blobs of almond mayonnaise on one side of the quartered florets and one large blob on the other side; sprinkle over some of the almonds; dust the plate with the leek ash.

 

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