Spicy cauliflower “steak”
Prep and cooking time: 30 minutes
Meeru loves to tease Vikram about two things: how much he loves meat and, after his years of studying in Europe, how she could never be as mannered and proper at a dining table as he is. One evening, when she was in charge of the meal, she made this vegetarian steak as a replacement for his regular meat steak. She wanted to feed him vegetables but (half-jokingly) give him the pleasure of using a fork and steak knife in a proper dining-table setting.
Like eggplant, cauliflower is a staple vegetable throughout India. Its taste and texture are a perfect match for Indian spices. You will rarely meet an Indian who doesn’t enjoy cauliflower, and we grew up eating it once a week.
You could just as easily cut up the cauliflower into smaller florets in this recipe, but we enjoy the “steak” cut and also find it’s easier to reheat this thicker cut the next day. We don’t like mushy cauliflower. Although there’s no sauce here, it’s still great with rice. And if you want some meat on the side, the Ground Lamb, Beef and Lentil Kebobs are perfect.
This cauliflower steak eventually ended up on our Rangoli menu.
1 head cauliflower, outside stalks cut off
1 /2 cup (125 mL) cooking oil
1-1 /2 cups (375 mL) puréed or crushed canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped ginger
1-1 /2 tsp (7.5 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) turmeric
1 Tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin
1 Tbsp (15 mL) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cayenne pepper
10 cloves (optional)
3-inch (7.6-cm) cinnamon stick (optional)
Cut cauliflower, as you would a pie, into six pieces if it’s a smaller head and eight pieces if it’s a larger one. Wash and carefully place large cauliflower pieces in a colander to drain.
Combine oil and tomatoes in a large wide pot on medium-high heat. (Since the pot is large, you may need to turn it on to high if your stove burner is small.) Add ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cloves, and cinnamon, stir well and sauté for three to four minutes, or until oil glistens from tomatoes.
Reduce the heat to low while you mix in cauliflower. Carefully place each large piece of cauliflower into the pot and gently stir so that the tomato masala covers all the pieces. If necessary, use a large spoon to ladle tomato masala into the nooks and crannies of the cauliflower pieces.
Increase the heat to medium, cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. When you stir, if you notice that the cauliflower isn’t cooking, increase the heat. If it’s sticking to the bottom of the pot, decrease the heat. Pierce one of the larger pieces with a knife to see if it is soft (not mushy). If necessary, cook cauliflower, covered, for another one to two minutes. (If florets have broken apart because they overcooked, don’t worry; this dish is still delicious.)
Serves 6 to 8 depending on the size of the cauliflower.
Recipe adapted from Vij's at Home: Relax, Honey by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (Douglas & McIntyre, September 2010). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.