Christmas cauliflower

When I heard at the farmer’s market that there were only five more markets before Christmas, I went into a spin. How is this possible? We haven’t been anywhere or done an awful lot. The year’s just slipped by; it’s quite disorientating but the indisputable fact is that Christmas is coming and it’s good to have another Christmas dinner to look forward to. 

We have about twenty-five cauliflowers in our garden, getting ready to do their thing. 

Cauliflowers are big plants, like giant cabbages on long stems, which have florets that suddenly open up in the centre like knobbly white aliens. We set the seed late last lockdown with the hope they would be ready for Christmas and fingers crossed it looks like we might be lucky.

Thinking of Christmas with all of these anticipated caulis has piqued my interest, as there are so many ways to cook – or not to cook – a cauliflower. It’s another one of those vegetables with gazillions of possibilities.

Roasting seems like a good solution for a celebration feast, as the sauces can be made beforehand and the cauliflower needs very little attention once in the oven apart from occasional basting.

This fancy-sounding dish is not difficult to prepare and it looks beautiful. Its golden roasted crown strangely gives it an odd turkey-like appearance and it looks quite spectacular on a serving dish crowned with freshly toasted pistachio, parsley and lemon. Serve sliced into wedges with tahini sauce and whatever vegetables you’re having on the side. 

If you can find some fresh pomegranate seeds it’ll look spectacular. 

Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio and Lemon Picada and Tahini Sauce

Serves 3-4 as a main dish.


• 1 medium cauliflower, trimmed

• 1-2 lemons

• 100mls olive oil

• 75g pistachios, unroasted but shelled

• Small bunch parsley

• 1 tsp white balsamic vinegar – or the best you have

• Salt

• 2-3 tbs light tahini

• 1 clove garlic

• Pomegranate – optional


Put the oven on, 200c then put a large of pot of water to boil. It needs to be deep enough to just about submerge the cauliflower. When the water boils, add 2 tsp salt and the cauliflower. Cook for two minutes and then drain the cauliflower into a colander. Leave to drain for five minutes, turning it half way to get rid of any excess water.

Grate half of the lemon into a bowl, add a good pinch of salt and 50mls olive oil.

Line a small baking tray with parchment or greaseproof paper. Holding the cauliflower over the tray, rub all over with the lemony olive oil making sure to catch any drops. Sit the cauliflower into the tray then cover loosely with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the tin foil and baste the cauliflower with the oils in the bottom of the tray. Repeat this every ten minutes twice more. Test the cauliflower with a sharp knife: It should be just tender – you don’t want mushy.

Whilst the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauces, or if they’re already made, have an aperitif.

For the picada, toast the pistachio gently in a fairly hot dry pan for two minutes, stirring all the time. You want to toast the pistachios, not char them so keep an eye on the heat. Tip the nuts onto a clean counter then chop them roughly. Put half the nuts into a small bowl then chop the remaining nuts a little finer. Mix the nuts, the zest of the other half of the lemon, salt, 50mls olive oil and a teaspoon of your best vinegar.

Finely chop the parsley and stir in. Taste and put aside.

For the tahini sauce put the juice of one juicy lemon and two big tbs light tahini into a bowl together with one clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped and a pinch of salt. Whisk until amalgamated. Thin with water to achieve a thick pouring consistency – like cream. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if needed, the acidity opens the flavours.

To serve, pour the remaining lemony oil from the tray that the cauliflower is sitting in into the picada and mix well.

Put the cauliflower onto a heated serving plate, pile the picada on top so that it slips down like a volcano, pour a little tahini sauce around the base and sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.

Serve sliced into wedges with the remaining picada and tahini sauce on the side.

We will be open until 3pm on Christmas Eve and are taking orders for Christmas puddings, cakes, nut roasts etc, as well as all our usual fare. Check out our Christmas menu in our ad.

We hope to see you in the days leading up to Christmas and would like to wish you all happy feasting with whomever you are able to share it with.

Thank you all for supporting us, and our very best wishes for the coming year. Who knows what good things it will bring!

Karen Austin

Karen Austin is the co-owner of the Lettercollum Kitchen Project in Clonakilty.

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