Like many of us growing up, I hated cauliflower. This sad state of affairs was kicked off one rainy Sunday afternoon when a kindly aunt presented me with a luke warm bowl of water-sodden cauliflower smothered with a mean cheese sauce (you probably know exactly what I mean)! Years later, we have all learned our lesson and the once dreaded brassica oleracea has become one of our veggie heroes. We can thank the great Ottolenghi for that; in fact, this recipe is based on one of his. The other hero of this dish is za’atar, a generic name for an aromatic mix of herbs, usually including oregano, marjoram, sumac, cumin and sea salt from the Middle East. If you mention this to a Turkish cook however – as I recently did – they will throw up their arms in horror because, for them, za’atar is a singular herb similar to summer savory.
1 large cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets
4 banana shallots, finely sliced
A generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp za’atar
2 tsp sea salt
300g spelt grains
A handful of pistachios, chopped
A generous handful of fresh mint leaves
For the dressing:
3 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (or an orange if you fancy it)
1 tbsp good honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Put the prepped cauliflower and shallots into a large bowl and mix together with the olive oil, the Za’atar and sea salt. Place on a large baking tray and roast in the oven for around 40 minutes or until the florets are golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the spelt grains in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Then partially cover your pan, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for around 45 minutes. It could take a little less time than that, it could take a little more; what you’re looking for is a grain that is soft yet still retains a little bite.
Once cooked, drain the grains in a sieve and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Then roughly chop the pistachios with the fresh mint and bring all the ingredients together in a large salad bowl.
To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a lidded jam jar and shake together until you achieve a light creamy consistency. Adjust the oil, lemon juice and seasonings to your taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.
Any remaining salad can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Perfect for lunch on the go.