This is a really useful recipe to have up your sleeve to cater for any plant-based guests this Christmas – not only does it look the part, being as plump and golden as any roast turkey, but the sweet spices work well with more traditional Christmas trimmings, while the fresh, nutty sauce means you won't need to make a second gravy if you're cooking meat too. It should also pair amicably with the same wine you'd serve with poultry.
Those wanting to get ahead can par-boil the cauliflower and make the pistachio sauce a day or so in advance, so all you have to do is rub and roast it – with the potatoes and parsnips once you've taken the meat out to rest if necessary – though bear in mind it may take slightly longer to heat through. Feel free to swap the oil for softened butter for a richer dish if your guests are vegetarian rather than vegan; the pomegranate seeds are optional, but add a touch of festivity. As with any vegetarian alternative, you may well find meat eaters show an interest too, so make sure you buy a fairly big cauliflower!
Felicity Cloake's Spiced Roast Cauliflower with Pistachio and Herb Sauce
Serves 4 as part of a larger meal
- 1 large cauliflower (about 1.2kg)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 tbsp pomegranate seeds, to serve
- For the pistachio and herb sauce
- 125g shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 15g parsley
- 15g mint, leaves picked
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100ml olive oil
Bring a large pan of generously salted water to the boil. Trim any battered or large leaves from the cauliflower if necessary, so the top of the white part is exposed, and level the base so it will sit flat on a baking tray.
Lower the cauliflower into the water, stem-side up. Bring to the boil again and cook for eight minutes, turning over halfway, until just tender to a skewer, then drain and leave to dry in a colander, florets-side down, for 10 minutes. While it's cooking, heat the oven to 240C/220 fan, and whisk together the oil with the dry spices and a pinch of salt.
Put the cauliflower, stem-side down, on a greased baking tray. Whisk the spiced oil again to bring it back together and brush all over the white part of the cauliflower (don't be tempted to use your hands; turmeric is very persistent!).
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cauliflower is well browned, basting occasionally. Meanwhile, roughly chop the nuts and put in a blender with the other sauce ingredients. Whizz up until you have a chunky sauce. Season to taste.
Spread the sauce in a serving dish or shallow bowl to make a ring slightly larger than the cauliflower, then put the roasted cauliflower in the middle. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds to serve; preferably whole for maximum wow factor. Carve into thick steaks or wedges depending on appetites.