It's not often that cauliflower becomes a main dish, but this shawarma is one of Berber & Q's most popular dishes – and it's a showstopper.
"What I love most about cauliflower is its versatility. It works brilliantly as a soup and in salads, as well as an accompaniment to most meat and fish. But it can more than hold it’s own as the main component of any dish. I like to serve cauliflower whole. There is an element of theatre to it when brought to the table fresh from the barbecue or out of the oven, especially when burnt on the edges and emanating the smell of smoke from the fire," says Josh Katz, Berber & Q's head chef and co-owner.
- 1 whole cauliflower
- Shawarma-spiced butter
- 40g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1½ tbsp coriander, finely chopped
Shawarma spice mix
- 1tbsp cinnamon
- 1tbsp sumac
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp pimento (allspice)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- 80g raw tahini
- 25ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- ½ tbsp Maldon Salt
For the garnish
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (thinned down with water)
- 1½ tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tsp dried rose petals
- 1½ tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- Try sourcing some chunks of wood to sit atop of your burning coals on the barbecue. There is a vast array of different woods available that can be picked to suit whatever is being cooked, ranging from hickory to mesquite and including apple, cherry or oak. Smoke emanating from the wood can be used to enhance the flavour of whatever is positioned directly above it. Cauliflower is particularly susceptible to this and benefits greatly from the addition of smokiness.
- A barbecue can be set up for 2-zone cooking quite easily. It’s a common assumption that BBQ cooking largely involves grilling for relatively short periods of time directly over hot burning coals. Banking the coals to one side of your BBQ and positioning a larger piece of meat to the opposite side enables indirect cooking for longer periods of time. In this way, a BBQ can easily be turned into an oven, with the added benefit of imparting a smoked BBQ flavour to whatever is being cooked. Just remember to put the lid on your barbecue whilst ensuring the vents remain at least partially open to ensure a continuous airflow.
- Trim the outer cauliflower leaves, but don’t be afraid to leave some on – they have great taste and add to the aesthetic of the dish when burnt and crisped on the barbecue.
- Place the cauliflower in enough salted water to cover and bring to the boil on a high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium so it has a gentle roll, and continue to cook for approximately 8-10 minutes. The intention is to par-cook the cauliflower before finishing it on the BBQ. It should be removed from the water when pierced firmly with a knife whilst retaining some resistance.
- Whilst the cauliflower is in the water, prepare the tahini. Whisk all the ingredients in a large bowl and gradually add ice-cold water. At first the tahini will form a lumpy paste, but continue to add liquid and keep whisking until it gradually turns into a smooth and silky sauce. The amount of water is determined by the individual preference for consistency.
- Make the shawarma-spiced butter by combining the softened butter, minced garlic, lemon juice and shawarma spice mix in a blender. Fold in the chopped coriander to combine.
- Brush the cauliflower liberally all over with the butter, and where possible, try and get beneath the floret canopy to reach the inner sections of the cauliflower. Retain some of the butter for brushing at a later stage.
- Prepare a BBQ for grilling. If using charcoal, bank the coal to one side for direct grilling and leave an area for indirect cooking. When the BBQ is searing hot, grill the cauliflower on direct heat until such time that it blackens on its outer edges. Turn the cauliflower throughout so as to ensure that it gets colouration all over. The aim is to burn the cauliflower in parts. This lends not only flavour, but also is pleasing on the eye and a key aspect of the presentation. Throughout the cooking process continue to brush with any leftover butter.
- Once the cauliflower has been sufficiently grilled to satisfaction and is cooked through, remove from the heat and transfer to a plate. Spoon over the tahini sauce and pomegranate molasses, and finish the dish by sprinkling the rose petals, pine nuts and chopped parsley over the top. An optional drizzle of olive oil adds a nice glossy finish.