Cauliflower is one of the most underrated vegetables. Its unique ability to absorb flavour without using its own character makes it both versatile and perfect as a vehicle for beautiful spices. It can also take a bit of rough treatment – I prefer it slightly charred at the edges.
Turkish chili flakes pair really well with cauliflower made this way. They are milder than most chili flakes, but much more fragrant and flavoursome. They’re almost like an all purpose seasoning (except it’s all natural). If you don’t have it, do get some of it the next time you visit a shop with a good selection of international spices. The label will probably read pul biber, Aleppo pepper or simply Turkish pepper flakes. If you see a packet labelled isot biber or urfa pepper, grab that too. They’re the same, given a slightly different treatment during the drying process which turns them very dark, almost purply black. The flavour is even more intense than for regular chili flakes, with slightly smoky undertones.
Any creamy dip will work alongside this cauliflower. I prefer to use labneh as a base. It is light and creamy, but with more flavour (and less of the heaviness) than cream cheese. You can easily make your own by straining yoghurt until it reaches a cream cheese-like consistency (or however much time allows). If you’d rather not, a mixture of yoghurt and cream cheese or indeed just plain yoghurt (get the thickest variety you can find) will work well.
Serve as a delicious evening snack, starter or as part of a meze table. If you want to make a meal out of it, serve alongside chicken. Serves 3-4 as a snack or side, more as part of a meze table.
Roast cauliflower florets with herb dip
- 1 cauliflower, cut into small florets, stem and good-looking leaves sliced to thin stalks
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1,5 tsp Turkish chili flakes (pul biber), or another chili flake or paprika, to taste
- 0,5 tsp urfa pepper (isot biber) or a pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 150 g labneh or thick yoghurt (or a mixture of yoghurt & cream cheese)
- 20-25 g herbs to taste (I like to use half flat-leaf parsley, half mint, dill or coriander)
- 1 small clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 230 C (445 F).
- Mix the cauliflower florets and stalks with the olive oil, chili flakes and a good amount of seasoning. Spread in a roasting pan and roast at a high rack until the cauliflower is cooked through and slightly charred at the edges, 20-30 minutes.
- Make the herb dip by mixing all the ingredients with a regular or stick blender. Season to taste.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with the dip in a separate bowl.
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