Ask Peter: Cauliflower steak
I read in an American article about hipster food trends that we are meant to be over, that one of the passe items was cauliflower steak. I’ve completely missed that trend. What is a cauliflower steak? Would a non-hipster still enjoy it, as I love caulis and they are just starting to come down in price at the markets?
Cauliflower steak is to me an oxymoron. Rather like a tofu cutlet. A steak is a chunk of meat, and a cauliflower is a vegetable. And why would you decide to not eat meat and then buy tofu that’s been shaped like a meat cutlet?
Anyway, personal gripe aside, cauliflower is a wonderful vege and I’m surprised it isn’t used more often. As for it being a hipster trend — I wouldn’t worry too much. A cauli steak is simply this — remove the outer leaves from a cauliflower and cut as many slices as you can — they need to be around 1.5cm thick, cut through the beast where the stalk keeps it all intact. A small cauliflower may only give you 2-3 slices as the stalk is thinner. A larger one will give you more, but the cauli will be somewhat less tasty as it’ll be older. The outer florets will fall away so the stalk is what holds it all in place.
Then you can cook it in several ways. Either brush both sides with oil and pan fry it or cook on the barbecue (it can fall apart a little as you turn it) or bake the “steaks’’ on a heavy based tray until golden.
How you serve your steak is entirely up to you. For a beef replacement look-a-likey steak you could slice portobello mushrooms and simmer with cream and mustard until the cream is thickened and reduced. Stir in flat parsley and snipped chives, spoon over the steaks and it’ll look like a porterhouse.
Or you might want to serve your golden hot vege steaks topped with a salad of quartered cherry tomatoes, shredded savoy cabbage, chopped toasted hazelnuts and sliced avocado dressed with olive oil and orange juice.
Other ways to flavour the cauliflower itself are to mix turmeric with chopped red chilli, garlic and ginger. Add some cumin and olive oil to make a thick paste and brush this over both sides of the steaks before baking in a hot oven (200C or more). Cook until you can just insert a knife through the stalk. Serve this with watercress and grated carrot on top, and a big dollop of plain yoghurt.
You could also brush the steaks with sesame oil and sesame seeds and bake them, then serve topped with flakes of hot-smoked salmon, rocket and sliced steamed golden beetroot and dress with lemon juice and avocado oil.
Once you’ve cut the steaks you will have lots of florets left that aren’t held together with the stalk so it’s good to have plans for this as well.
Pulse blitz them in the food processor, keeping the crumbs about the size of rice grains. Measure how many cups worth you have and then take the same amount of instant couscous grains. Add enough cold water (it must be cold) to just cover the grains with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper, and the finely grated zest of a lemon or half an orange. Leave it to absorb for 10 minutes, stirring twice. Add the blitzed cauliflower to it and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil and mix it all together.
Or mix the florets with the same turmeric mixture as described above and roast in a hot oven on baking paper. This is lovely served with fish, lamb or chicken, cooked in various ways, and finished dolloped with plain yoghurt or creme fraiche and picked mint or coriander. It may not be as hipster — but it’ll certainly taste just as good.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.