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  • Amy Minichiello

Cauliflower Parmigiana

Hiding behind those big green leaves that gently cup the snow white florets hides a humble vegetable that can be prepared in so many different ways. From curries to cakes - yes, cauliflower cake is a thing and a delicious thing at that. I can highly recommend making Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe which can be found in his "plenty more" cookbook on page 258. It certainly provides a very pleasurable eating experience.

Cauliflower rice. cauliflower mash. golden little nuggets of roasted florets and their leaves. Soups. Salads. The list could go on and on. It wasn't until I was flicking through an old issue of Gourmet Traveller that I came across a recipe that seemed to jump out at me from the page. The cauliflower was coated in a crushed hazelnut crumb; pan-fried until the crumb became golden and crisp and piled on top of a roasted parsnip salad, of sorts, with a rosewater dressing. My mind immediately wandered off to the thought of topping the cauliflower "steaks" with a rich tomato passata, which would then be generously covered with thick slices of buffalo mozzarella and a fine grating of pecorino. The cheese would turn a molten gold and melt into a bubbly mess.

I couldn't wait a moment and was so excited at the thought that I trialled the idea later that week. I am pleased to report that they were a great success! Cauliflower Parma's were created, eaten and enjoyed with not a skerrick left on our plates. As I turned to my chief-taste-tester he simply said, with a grin on his face...."They are really good. But if that sauce, that cheese and that crumb were on a chicken breast it would be absolutely mind-blowing!"

Oh dear! My hand went to my head and he had quite the chuckle to himself. If you, like my husband really do enjoy your meat and feel that a chicken breast would suit your family a whole lot better, then please do go ahead and create them this way, but I really do suggest giving the cauliflower a go it is really tasty and a great vegetarian alternative.

You can even make the passata (or buy a bottle of good quality passata) the day before where it will sit quite happily in your fridge for a good few days until you are ready to cook. Then all you need to do is crumb your "steaks", pan-fry and top with the cheeses. Making it a really wonderful weeknight meal. Either served with crunchy roasted potatoes (roasted in chicken fat, yum!) or a simple green salad with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of salt flakes.

They also make for a really tasty lunch (if you happen to have any leftover) eaten cold, straight from the fridge!


Cauliflower Parma’s

Serves 4

4 thick slices of cauliflower. try to keep it all intact but if they do fall apart it’s not a worry just piece them together once they are on the tray.

2 cups hazelnut meal

1 cup spelt flour (or plain flour if you prefer)

1 free-range egg

1/2 cup milk

A good knob of unsalted butter

About 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 brown onion diced

2 garlic cloves diced

2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

A dash of balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano

1-2 balls of buffalo mozzarella

Pecorino for grating over the top

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat a little oil in a frypan and then add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and just starting to colour. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic and oregano. With the heat on just low enough to simmer away cook for about 15-20 minutes until starting to thicken. Remove from the heat, taste to see if it needs any salt or pepper and then blitz it all up in a small food processor.

Place the flour and hazelnut meal on separate plates and crack your egg into a bowl, add the milk and a little salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Dip the cauliflower “steaks” into the flour, then the egg and finally the meal, coating really well. Heat the butter and the oil in a large frypan over a medium heat, then add the cauliflower, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side and then flipping over and continue to cook until golden. I spoon some of the butter and oil over the cauliflower as it cooks too, yum!

Place onto the baking tray (if your “steaks” have happened to have come apart, simply just piece them together once on a tray) and spread a good amount of passata over the top. Grate a generous amount of pecorino or parmesan over the top of this and then place the slices of mozzarella on top of this. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese has turned into a molten, bubbly delicious goo.

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