Humble cauliflower all spiced up in casserole

Spiced Cauliflower Casserole with Lemon Rice

Spiced Cauliflower Casserole with Lemon Rice (Serves 2-3 people)

Evelyn O'Grady


Evelyn O'Grady


Believe it or not we are half way through the month of resolutions. For many folks these resolutions often revolve around our diet, focusing on the inclusion or exclusion of certain foods. We plan, prepare and agonise over our ingredient choices and what’s for our next meal.

For some, social media such as Instagram and Pinterest become sources of motivation, for others a source of frustration. When shopping we negotiate a mine-field of carefully worded health claims which can often sit in juxtaposition with the convenience that they offer.

In our well-meaning attempt to atone for that last mince pie we ate, it's all too easy to get over-whelmed and lose interest. At the darkest, coldest time of the year when we crave the warmth and comfort that only a good home cooked meal can offer, we risk turning cooking and eating into a chore.

My resolution this year is to find more time to work on personal projects, like making jam or sharing a recipe. The kind of projects that offer a sense of satisfaction in the doing and joy in the sharing or in some cases eating.

One of the trendiest resolution campaigns to partake in this year is Veganuary, a UK based charity launched in 2014, which encourages and supports people to try Veganism for a month. It has been steadily gaining popularity since its inception and this year is reported to have the support of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey.

Whatever your views on the subject and going cold turkey on the turkey does not sound appealing for you, looking at a vegan or vegetarian diet can certainly offer the opportunity or inspiration to get a lot more creative with the vegetables that you include in your diet.

So, in striving to maintain my New Year’s resolution and maybe helping you with yours, I share this rather delicious “Spiced Cauliflower Casserole” recipe. This dish makes a main event out of the rather humble cauliflower, which is in season in Ireland until around the end of February.

It is an alteration on a traditional Greek dish called ‘Kounoupithi Kapama’ referring to cauliflower which has been braised in a tomato sauce. Deviating from the traditional recipe, the addition of Garam Masala (an Indian mixed spice, generally made from a blend of pepper, cinnamon, mace, cumin, coriander and cardamom) adds some extra warmth and comfort. The toasted flaked almonds add a wonderful crunchy texture and really complements the zesty lemon rice.

The ingredients are readily available in the supermarket, the preparation is not laborious and cooking time short enough to make it suitable for an evening meal. Ultimately this dish is so satisfying that you will wonder why cauliflower has been relegated to be the bland side vegetable.

Spiced Cauliflower Casserole with Lemon Rice (Serves 2-3 people)

For the Casserole:
2 tbsps. rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tbsps. garam masala
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 curry leaves
2 garlic cloves
2 tsps. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps. tomato puree
1 tin chopped plum tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
1 cauliflower head, large (portioned into florets)
30g flaked almonds, toasted
Juice ½ lemon
Salt & pepper

For the Rice:
200g basmati rice
80g wild rice
Cold water, (Enough to cover the depth of the rice plus 1cm over)
1 bay leaf
Zest 1 lemon
Juice ½ lemon

To Garnish
Flaked almonds, toasted
Natural yogurt (or dairy free alternative)
Fresh coriander or parsley, chopped


Place the flaked almonds onto a frying pan over a low heat, toss them every now and then. Toast until they are lightly golden brown, about five minutes. Remove from the heat once toasted.

Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves, cut out the stalk and break or chop into florets no more than one or two bites in size. Cut the onion in half through the root, peel off the outer layers, slice thinly into half-moon shapes.

Heat a saucepan over a low/medium heat for 1-2 minutes add the sliced onion, spices, cinnamon stick and curry leaves. Sweat for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

Next add the apple cider vinegar and stir, add the tomato puree and stir and finally add the tinned tomato. Simmer the tomato sauce for 10 minutes.

While the tomato sauce is cooking, weigh the rice and rinse in cold water at least three times. This will prevent the rice becoming too sticky when cooked. Put the washed rice in a saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil.

Add the cauliflower florets to the tomato sauce and toss until coated, place the lid on the saucepan and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the rice has come to the boil, place the lid on the saucepan, reduce the temperature to its lowest setting and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. After which turn off the heat completely and leave to sit for a further 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to lift the lid, the steam trapped in the pot will cook it through, leaving you with perfectly fluffy rice.

When the rice is cooked, add the lemon zest and juice and fluff up the grains with a fork.

Serve the cauliflower on a bed of rice finished with a dollop of natural yogurt (if using), a little chopped herbs and a few toasted almonds.

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