In Lebanon, cauliflower is traditionally fried and served with tahini, lemon juice and garlic. But lately I’ve been enjoying a Syrian dip called muhammara, made with peppers and paprika.
Dan Lepard's cod and cauliflower with pepper walnut sauce
- Preparation time: 35 minutes
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- Total time: 55 minutes
½ large cauliflower, broken into florets
600g cod loin (or other firm white, skinless fish), cut into 2cm cubes
about 1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying
100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp sumac (or the finely grated zest of 1 lemon)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
small bunch mint leaves, roughly chopped
small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
230g jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp hot or smoked paprika
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp honey)
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1. The morning of the party, simmer the cauliflower in salted water until just tender (about 4-5 minutes); drain and dry on a tea towel.
2. To make the batter, whisk the egg with 100ml water, then add the flour, sumac, cumin and salt. Whisk until smooth, then chill.
3. For the pepper sauce, put everything in the small bowl of a food processor and purée to a slightly coarse texture. Spoon into a bowl and stir in enough cold water (about 2-3 tbsp) to give the mixture a thick but pourable consistency; season.
4. When you’re almost ready to serve, pour the vegetable oil into a deep, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of about 3-4cm, so the cauliflower can fry without touching the bottom. Heat the oil to 180˚C; use a sugar thermometer to test this or drop in a piece of bread – it should brown in 45 seconds. (Alternatively, use a deep-fat fryer.) Fry the cauliflower pieces for about 2-3 minutes, until golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
5. Next, thin the batter with a little water to the consistency of double cream, then beat in the bicarbonate of soda and stir in the herbs. Dust the cod pieces with flour and coat in the batter. Scoop them up with a spoon, one at a time, then lower into the oil. Fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper while you fry the remainder.
6. Serve the cauliflower and cod with watercress and finely sliced fennel, if liked. Spoon over the pepper sauce, plus a little tahini let down with water and scatter with a few nigella seeds, if liked.