If there were a single dish that’s come to symbolise Berber & Q it would be the cauliflower shawarma, with pomegranate, pine nuts and rose. To make your own tahina sauce, whisk equal parts tahini and iced water together, with the optional additions of lemon juice, garlic and seasoning to taste.
Takes: 45 mins
Serves: 4 as a side, 2 as a main
1 whole cauliflower
For the shawarma-spiced butter
40g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground sumac
1½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground allspice
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cardamom
4 tbsp tahina sauce
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1½ tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 small green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 tsp dried rose petals
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1 Combine all the ingredients for the spiced butter in a stand mixer and mix using the paddle attachment. In the absence of a mixer, whisk in a large bowl until thoroughly incorporated. The butter should be aerated, slightly stiff and all one colour (as opposed to streaked). Set aside until needed. It can be kept in the fridge for several weeks, but must be brought to room temperature before being used.
2 Trim some of the outer cauliflower leaves, but leave some stragglers behind — they taste delicious and look great when burnt and crisped.
3 Set a large saucepan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, gently lower the cauliflower into the pan. Bring the water back to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium so the water has a gentle roll. The cauliflower should be removed from the water when tender to a knife, yet retaining some resistance – al dente. It’s important not to overcook it; 7 mins from when the water comes back to the boil should be enough.
4 Set the cauliflower on a cooling rack over a roasting tray and allow to drip-dry. Brush liberally all over with the spiced butter, and where possible, try and get beneath the floret canopy to reach the inner sections. Retain some of the butter for brushing at a later stage. Season generously with salt and pepper.
5 Preheat the oven to its highest setting (240°C/220°C fan/gas mark 9) and blast the cauliflower for 5–7 minutes, until blackened all over — you want it to char lightly, not to form an acrid burnt crust. Once sufficiently roasted, you can transfer it to the barbecue for a few minutes (if you have one going) for a final hit of smokiness, basting it periodically with any leftover butter.
6 Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon over the tahina sauce and pomegranate molasses, and finish by sprinkling over the pine nuts, green chilli, pomegranate seeds, rose petals and parsley. A drizzle of olive oil adds a nice glossy finish. Serve immediately – the cauliflower tastes so much better when hot.
Josh Katz is chef-owner of Berber & Q.
Publishing in Issue 2 of National Geographic Traveller Food.