taste: roasted cauliflower dahl with coconut and ginger

cauliflower, dahling.

I believe this is my first vegan recipe. You’re welcome, America.

This was an easy and delicious recipe that exemplified what is becoming my general cooking approach. I knew, for instance, that there was a cauliflower in the fridge, and like aubergine, squash and other such large and assertive vegetables, it demands to be taken seriously. Although I’ve been using cauliflower more as a side lately (see here) I can’t shake that sense that if I am going cauliflower, I am making A Cauliflower Dish. But what? I have a cupboard full of optimism in the shape of packets of lentils and split peas, and found myself thinking: cauliflower dahl. That’s a thing, isn’t it?

Some Epicurious and internet hunting yielded a few recipes but I was after a method, being a bit skittish about legumes and their cooking times. I found ‘Year-round Cauliflower Dahl’ at a site called  Green Appetite, and used it as inspiration for this – roasted cauliflower dahl with coconut and ginger.

Start by preheating the oven to hot (400°F.) Heat a good glug of a light oil in a deep sauté pan or saucepan. Finely chop a medium onion, three cloves garlic and a hunk of fresh ginger root, about one knobbly outgrowth’s worth. Also peel and chop two large carrots into bite-sized pieces – you want them chunky as they’ll be cooking for a while.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan with generous pinches of ground spices; I used coriander, cumin and curry powder but you can adapt as you like. My version of this dish came out mild; my fellow-taster, as he often does, suggested I could have ‘gone a little longer on the spices,’ so if you like heat, add plenty. The lentils can take it.

Fry everything up for five minutes or so, and meanwhile, measure out 4oz/half a cup red lentils and soak them in cold water. Boil a kettle and dissolve some powdered vegetable bouillon in about 2 cups water. When everything in the pan is browned, fragrant and soft, stir in the carrots and the lentils and pour over the stock – you should cover the lentils by about half an inch, so add more water if necessary. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down. Cover the pan and let everything simmer.

De-leaf and chop a cauliflower into small florets. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, ground ginger, salt and pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Put into the oven and pour yourself a drink. Nothing to do now except occasionally stir the lentils, and turn the cauliflower florets over to make sure they cook evenly.

After about 20-25 minutes check the progress of the lentils. If they are soft, turn the heat off and check the cauliflower. If that’s soft too, it’s assembly time.

Pull the cauliflower out of the oven and sprinkle the florets with about a tablespoon coconut flakes. Stir the cauliflower into the pan, and add a generous handful of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, a little more coconut, and the juice of half a lemon. Season and taste; adjust as you like. After a minute or two to let the herbs wilt and the flavours combine.

This will serve two generously with leftovers, or you could put it over brown rice and easily serve four.

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