Cauliflower purée with garlic and spices is heads above the overboiled, unsalted mush of your youth. Nigel Slater combines cauliflower purée with rich spices, heady garlic, and a topping of crisply fried florets. Boiled, yes. But nothing like what you remember.
Cauliflower is having its 15 minutes in the sun, not that it has ever been in the shade in my kitchen. But it is a relief to find this pale, gently flavored brassica on menus once again. As always, we never seem to do the ingredient du jour by halves and the queen of the brassicas likes a good spicing (and curries rather well, as long as some yogurt or cream is involved) and seems more than comfortable in the presence of chilies and a sweet, earthy mix of spices, such as a mild garam masala.–Nigel Slater
Cauliflower Purée with Garlic and Spices
For the cauliflower
- 2 pounds 5 ounces cauliflower
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup peanut or mild vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A small handful of fresh cilantro leaves* chopped
Prepare the cauliflower
- Remove three-quarters of the cauliflower florets from their stalks and set aside. Cut the remaining cauliflower into large pieces.
- In a deep saucepan over medium heat, combine the cut cauliflower, milk, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the spice mix
- In a spice grinder, or using a mortar and pestle, grind the coriander seeds to powder. In a small bowl combine the ground coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chile flakes, and ground ginger.
- In a shallow skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it colors lightly, about 1 minute.Stir in the spices and the reserved cauliflower. Cover with a lid and cook until the cauliflower has started to brown a little, 8 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
- Drain the boiled cauliflower, reserving the milk and discarding the aromatics. In a blender, combine the boiled cauliflower and butter, and blitz, slowly adding just enough milk to create a soft purée. You’ll need between 1/3 and 3/4 cup of milk. Season to taste.
- Spoon the purée into shallow dishes.
- Divvy the cauliflower and garlic between the dishes of purée, add a little cilantro to each, and serve.
*What's the difference between cilantro and coriander?They're the same thing, aren't they? Why would you need to use both? Well, actually...the whole plant is known as coriander—seeds, leaves, stalks, and all. Except in North America, where the leaves and stalks are called cilantro and the seeds are known as coriander. Confusing, right? This means that if you're looking for cilantro but find leaves and stalks labeled as coriander, it's the same thing, particularly in Asian markets and anywhere outside North America. As far as the seeds go, you can't substitute seeds for leaves or vice versa. Fresh cilantro leaves have quite a bright, very assertive flavor with citrusy notes, unlike the warm, nutty, orange flavor of the seeds.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This is a lovely way to serve cauliflower with two different preparations in one dish: puréed and fried. This dish could be served as a vegetarian starter course or as a side dish with just about any protein. With the addition of butter, the puree is velvety smooth and contrasts beautifully with the fried and spicy cauliflower florets.
The fried cauliflower is a bit spicy but combined with the puree you end up with a very satisfying and perfect blend of spice and creaminess. I served this cauliflower purée with garlic and spices as a side dish with pork chops in a separate bowl with fresh cilantro garnish.
The flavor combination, textures, and the idea of serving the florets with a purée made from the same vegetable is fantastic. This cauliflower purée with garlic and spices is a pretty simple dish to make yet looks really elegant and refined.
Originally published May 17, 2021