We were recently in Sydney for a week visiting Kylie’s family and happened to catch up with one of her friend’s for dinner at a little Lebanese restaurant where I got the inspiration for this next dish. Rather than get a main course each we decided to share a whole lot of entrees and appetizers as it all looked very good. I was really impressed by the food. There was a delicious Lebanese styled fried potato appetizer that was salty and spicy, kind of like a combination between hot chips or French fries and potato chips. We had some great lamb kofta that was still moist and flavoursome, not overcooked and dry as they can sometime be. I also enjoyed the dips, a traditional hommous, baba gannouj and labni and I think I’ll be making the later two at some time in the near future.
However I would have to say that I was most impressed by the ‘Fried Cauliflower’ with tahini sauce. Nicely flavoured florets of cauliflower drizzled with a lovely creamy tahini sauce that to me had a slightly cheesy flavour and I thought worked really well. It reminded me of the classic ‘cauliflower cheese’ and I thought, wow, this would be really great as a baked dish so when we got home I decided to have a go at making it.
If you have grown up in New Zealand, Australia or the UK you have more than likely had cauliflower cheese many times before. If you are unfamiliar with the dish, it’s kind of what I guess a traditional mac n’ cheese is like but with cauliflower instead of macaroni noodles. You cook the cauliflower in boiling water, place it in a oven tray and cover with béchamel sauce. You may call it a white sauce or cheese sauce but it’s basically a sauce made with milk that is thickened with butter and flour (roux) and cheese and seasoning is stirred in once the sauce is cooked.
There are many variations and versions of cauliflower cheese. Some people add bacon or ham, you can really change up the sauce by adding some sundried tomato pesto to the béchamel, the cauliflower can even be replaced with broccoli. For this version I have given the cauliflower a flavour kick with cumin, ground coriander and smoked paprika. I’ve added tahini to a traditional béchamel style sauce, which gives it a delicate roasted sesame flavour that really compliments the spiced cauliflower well.
This dish can be eaten by itself but just like the old Cauliflower Cheese it’s traditionally a side dish. Here I served it with an awesome Moroccan style lamb leg roast… but that’s another story!
Lebanese Cauliflower Cheese
- ½ cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds toasted and ground can sub ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup kale leaves washed and roughly shredded
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons tahini
- 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
- salt and white pepper to taste
- ¼ cup wholemeal breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Heat oven to 400 (200C) and line a 7”x10” baking dish or simular with parchment paper. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil on the stove and cook the cauliflower florets for 2 minutes then drain off and place in a mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika and salt over the cauliflower and mix well. Add in the shredded kale leaves and mix through. Place the cauliflower and kale mix in the baking dish.
- Take a medium sized saucepan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and add the milk. Continue to cook whilst stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened and there are no lumps. Remove from heat and stir in tahini and cheese. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
- Pour the sauce mixture over the cauliflower and sprinkle over the wholemeal breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.
- Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown.