Whole roasted baby cauliflower with tahini yoghurt and toasted cumin

Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.

What brought me to cook this for the page was stumbling across these perfect little cauliflowers in the local vegetable shop. These, roasted with a knob of butter and a good pinch of salt, were quite possibly the nicest thing I’ve eaten this winter. The intensity of flavour was incredible. And the outside leaves, which are usually discarded in bigger heads, caramelised perfectly. These leaves also protected the cauliflower as it cooked, retaining the moisture and allowing the flavour to develop.

I followed this recipe again the next day, roasting these little gems in the same fashion. Once roasted, I cut them in half and returned them to the oven with a large slab of Taleggio. It was a euphoric, pre-heart attack moment.

Tahini, yoghurt and cumin seed are a regular combination at home. It’s one that has often got me out of jail. I’ve always got tahini and yoghurt in the fridge, and it goes as well with carrots as a leg of lamb. The tahini and yoghurt sauce in this recipe could stand up as a dip on its own, if you like dips. For the record: I don’t.

When I think about it, tahini is probably one of the most useful things I have in the fridge. I use it in the obvious: humus, yoghurts, various other dressings. Tahini also crosses over into Asian cooking, where I will often make a cold salad of shredded chicken tossed with chilli oil and spring onions and then smothered with a tahini-based sauce. To make the sauce I take a tablespoon of tahini, a teaspoon of soy, lemon juice to taste and a pinch of sugar. I stir this and thin with water until it reaches a pouring consistency. Cold rice noodles make a good final addition.

But back to cauliflower: cook this before the season’s over. You won’t regret it. If baby cauliflowers aren’t available, find the smallest cauliflower you can, quarter it, and prepare the same way. Romanesco broccoli, if available, would also work.


Whole roasted baby cauliflower with tahini yoghurt and toasted cumin

Serves 4

– 4 baby cauliflowers

– 4 tbsp butter

– ½ lemon

– 150g natural yoghurt

– 100g tahini

– 1 pinch of sea salt

– 1 tbsp lemon juice

– 1 tsp cumin seeds

– 1 pinch sea salt

– 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 220ºC.

Place the cauliflowers on a roasting tray with one tablespoon of butter on the top of each. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove the cauliflowers from the oven and finish them off with a few drops of lemon juice squeezed onto each piece.

As the cauliflowers are roasting, combine the yoghurt, tahini, salt and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. If it is a bit thick, add a few drops of hot water to thin it out.

Heat a small frying pan to a low heat and add the cumin seeds. Dry roast in the pan, tossing until the cumin becomes fragrant.

Take the pan off the heat and allow the seeds to cool. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the seeds roughly and then mix in the sea salt.

When ready to serve. Place a generous spoonful of tahini yoghurt onto four plates. Place the roasted cauliflower on the yoghurt and drizzle olive oil over the top. Finish with a generous pinch of cumin salt over each cauliflower for seasoning.


Wine pairing:

2016 Sinapius Clem Blanc field blend, Pipers Brook ($38) – Mark Williamson, wine buyer for Cumulus Inc, Cumulus Up and the Builders Arms Hotel.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 2, 2017 as "Let a hundred cauliflowers bloom".

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Andrew McConnell is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.