I originally made this in trepidation, wanting something other than cauliflower cheese, but not sure what the ingredients would be like when they came together. There was no need to worry. The recipe was so good that we ate the lot and cleaned the pan between us with the naan.
Thank you to the amazing Thomasina Miers for truly the best way I’ve found to cook cauliflower. And although it has some unusual ingredients, it’s not actually that technically complicated, so do give the recipe a go.
The only thing in the original recipe that didn’t really work for me was the cauliflower ‘steaks’, so I’ve made it simply with florets instead. Also, I had to rely on dried curry leaves, but if you can find fresh I’m sure they’d be much superiour.
It is supposed to feed six. Maybe it’s just because it tasted so good, but we polished it off between the two of us.
Sri Lankan-style cauliflower curry
2 large cauliflowers, ideally with crisp, fresh outer leaves
4 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
1 400ml tin coconut milk
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
6cm knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 green birds’ eye chillies, finely chopped (or mild green chillies)
30 fresh curry leaves (I couldn’t find them so use dried)
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Seeds from 3 cardamom pods
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Vegetarian fish sauce (optional)
2 heaped tsp tamarind paste
12 cherry tomatoes
1 large handful roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped
Cut the leaves from the cauliflowers and set aside and break the rest into florets, keeping the stalks. Rub the slices, stalks, florets and leaves in oil, just enough lightly to coat them. Arrange the leaves, stalks and florets in a single layer in an oven tray and season sparingly.
Scoop two heaped tablespoons of the coconut solids from the tin of coconut milk into a wok, and fry on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the oils separate and the solids start turning golden. Turn down the heat, stir in the garlic, ginger, half the chilli and 10 curry leaves, and fry gently, stirring, for five minutes. This might seem crazy, but it really adds to the richness of the dish.
Roughly crush the fennel and cardamom seeds in a mortar and add to the wok with the turmeric, fish sauce, tamarind, tomatoes and the rest of the tin of coconut milk. Add 100ml water and leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to high and grill the tray of cauliflower leaves, stalks and florets for six to seven minutes, until slightly charred at the edges but retaining some bite, then tip into the curry sauce. In a separate pan, fry the remaining curry leaves in the rest of the oil for three or four minutes, until crisp.
Divide the curry into six shallow bowls, and top each with some cashews and a scattering of fried curry leaves. I found this best with some flat Afghan or naan bread, but it would also work with rice.