My Whole-Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Tahini and Harissa has a bit of a backstory. It was inspired by a recent IG story by Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver), which I think was inspired by a brilliant photograph taken by David Loftus (@davidloftus), while he was at Miznon Restaurant in Paris (@miznonparis), of a recipe that was originally created by Eyal Shani, owner of Mizon and overall Israeli rockstar (@eyaltomato), some time ago. At least, this is what prompted me to whole-roast a head of cauliflower this time around.
It’s not my first time making a whole-roasted head of cauliflower. You can see my simpler, but equally delicious recipe here. The earlier version was inspired by a dish served at @fatpasha, a Toronto restaurant that serves up fresh spins on Middle Eastern classics. I’ve actually never eaten at Fat Pasha. I found out about their whole-roasted cauliflower because when they first opened their doors a few years back it was flooding the Instagrams of Toronto foodies. I suspect that like other versions of this dish, it was inspired by Eyal Shani’s rustic masterpiece.
Whole-Roasted vs. Steamed vs. Both
The two major differences between this whole-roasted cauliflower and the one I made last year (aside from the spices used), is the fact I steam it first and don’t discard the green leaves at the bottom. The latter is entirely aesthetic. Leaving the leaves on the during cooking process will not result in a tastier finished product. It will, however, give you a beautiful, centrepiece-worthy head of whole-roasted cauliflower goodness. When I made this for my family my sister-in-law gasped in awe because, well, it’s really pretty.
Steaming the cauliflower before roasting, on the other hand, will absolutely contribute to a better tasting dish. I’ve tested this recipe both ways and steaming first is the way to go! I realize that simply throwing things in the oven is the path of least resistance, but I urge you to take this extra step! It’s really as easy as placing the whole cauliflower, stem-side down, in a stockpot with a steamer insert. Most companies will sell stockpots with corresponding inserts – most of which are typically used for boiling pasta. If you use this method, you will need to fill the water to the level just beneath the lowest point of the insert. The goal here is to steam the cauliflower, not boil. I find that boiling results in a loss of flavour.
If you don’t have one of these fancy-shmancy inserts, don’t fret. You can achieve the same results by filling a stock pot or dutch oven with enough water to submerge one inch of the cauliflower. HOWEVER, you will absolutely need to keep an eye on the water level because it can evaporate. If this happens, simply add a bit more water and continue steaming.
I hope you like this recipe and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Whole-Roasted Spiced Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower – leaves intact
1 tsp coriander seed
½ tsp cumin seed
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup EVOO
1 tsp harissa paste
2 tbsp EVOO
¼ cup Basic Tahini sauce – see Basic Tahini recipe here
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup pine nuts – toasted
- Using a paring knife, trim the stem of the cauliflower so that it rests flat without toppling over. Be sure to keep the green leaves intact for presentation.
- In a stock pot with steamer insert or Dutch Oven, steam whole cauliflower for 25 minutes or until you can easily pierce the centre with a knife.
- Meanwhile, in a dry skillet over low heat, toast the coriander and cumin seeds (approximately 6-8 minutes or until spices are warm and fragrant). Transfer toasted spices to a mortar and pestle, or food processor, along with paprika, thyme, and garlic. Bash everything to a paste. Add the EVOO and stir to combine. Set mixture aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp harissa with two tbsp EVOO. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Transfer steamed cauliflower to an oven-safe skillet or roasting tray. Massage the spice paste all over of the cauliflower florets (no need to rub the leaves). Season with salt and pepper. Roast cauliflower 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. For even crispier edges, switch the oven to the broil setting for a minute or two just before removing from oven. NOTE: if broiling to finish, keep a very close eye on the cauliflower so that it does not burn.
- Remove roasted cauliflower from oven and transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with tahini and harissa oil. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.