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Why Cauliflower is the New Chicken

Wednesday 8 June 2016

vb526487 Shaved cauliflower salad parmesan toasted almonds 2

You’ve heard of cauliflower couscous – the vegetable blitzed in a food processor until grainy, then steamed and served in place of starchy carbs; supermarkets are even selling it ready-made now.

But cauliflower is rapidly rising even further up the food chain, increasingly taking the role of meal centrepiece. Think cauliflower steaks quickly seared and finished in the oven, barbecued cauliflower, whole roast cauliflower or, maze Grill’s signature shaved cauliflower salad with parmesan and Cajun-spiced roast almonds, which is often ordered as a main course.

As more and more people aim to have plant-based meals two nights a week, they’re turning not to tofu or imitation meat products, but to a vegetable that not so long ago was only considered delicious when smothered in cheese sauce.


Cauliflower first began losing its dowdy image around 20 years ago when silky and very creamy cauliflower purée became a favourite on fine dining menus. The purée was often a bed for big, beautiful king scallops, maybe sprinkled with finely chopped bacon or pancetta – still a great combination.

Curry spices, capers and raisins are also great with scallops and cauliflower as this clip from Gordon Ramsay shows.

Even today at maze Grill we serve caramelised cauliflower purée with bone marrow beef pie but there is much more you can do with the vegetable.


Chef Will Stanyer of York & Albany likes to blitz cauliflower with coconut milk and serve it with white fish. To garnish, he adds curry velouté sauce, sea vegetables plus chunks of roast and raw cauliflower.

Maze Sushi chef Gohei Kishi is happy simply to deep-fry pieces of raw cauliflower until golden brown and serve them sprinkled with Malden sea salt as a snack (brussels sprouts are good cooked this way too). Gohei also speaks lovingly of deep-fried cauliflower served with Vietnamese-style fish sauce caramel dressing and finished with wasabi furikake, a favourite Japanese condiment.

vb3539 Maze food 07


Take a whole raw cauli, trim off the leaves, then position it on a board and cut four slices about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick from the middle, making sure each slice contains enough of the central stalk to hold it together as a ‘steak’. Keep the leftovers to use as crudités, to steam as a side veg, or add to a soup.

Now you have choices. Do you want to brush your cauli steaks with marinade or a spice rub? Feel free. Alternatively you can simply season with salt and pepper, fry the steaks for 2 minutes per side in a little olive oil until golden brown, then transfer to a 200°C oven for about 15 minutes or until tender.

The smoky flavour that comes from cooking cauliflower steaks on a barbecue or grill is very welcome, especially with a really gutsy spice rub such as tandoori or chipotle, garlic and lime. The trick with BBQ cauliflower steaks is to cook them quickly over direct heat until nicely charred then either move them to the side so they finish cooking with indirect heat, or cover them with the lid if your barbecue has one.

So why not give cauliflower steaks a try next time you have friends over for a BBQ? They make a stylish main course for vegetarians or chicken-eaters! And a super side dish for anyone tucking into beef steaks too.

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