This whole roasted cauliflower makes a seriously spectacular vegetarian centrepiece. It’s loaded with a punchy Asian-style marinade and served on top of an addictive tomato pesto you’re going to love. It also uses a clever time-saving hack for pre-cooking the cauliflower to give you the best result, every time.
There’s something really spectacular about a whole roasted cauliflower. It just looks SO gorgeous when you bring it to the table and I love how it celebrates how wonderful vegetables can be.
The cauliflower is slathered with a DELICIOUS gochujang/miso marinade and serves with an Asian-style tomato pesto (that’s also inspired by Masterchef Australia!) It’s loaded with all my favourite things (miso, soy, chilli jam) and it works wonderfully with the cauliflower marinade.
My hack for the perfect whole roasted cauliflower
The problem I’ve had with whole roasted cauliflower in the past is that the outside cooks and takes on too much colour before the middle is able to cook fully through. This technique switches that all up. The key is cooking the cauliflower so it’s tender BEFORE it goes into the oven. Then all you need the oven to do is char the marinade and give the outside florets colour.
The solution? Cook the cauliflower in the microwave first. This is one of my absolute favourite hacks. It’s a technique I learned from Masterchef Australia (the superior Masterchef), where Matt Preston shares it in a masterclass. I’ve used the technique where you boil it in water first, but find it super finicky – it’s messy, the cauliflower never properly stays in the water and it’s hard to dry it completely once it’s out. This way is SO much easier. It’s honestly a game-changer.
Most of these ingredients are cupboard staples – or things that will be easy to find in the store. Gochujang paste is the only one you might have a little trouble with, but I’ve outlined some options below.
- Cauliflower. Try to use a large cauliflower, and trim any tough outer leaves before you start. You can keep some of them intact though, I love the look of them and they taste lovely when they’re all charred from the oven. Depending on the size of your cauliflower, you might need to adjust the cooking time. You want a knife to easily be able to piece the thick cauliflower stalk, so if it’s still a little tough, pop it back in the oven. You can cover the top with aluminium foil if you’re worried about it taking on too much colour.
- Miso. This fermented soybean paste is a shortcut to a super delicious depth of flavour. It’s wonderful in vegetarian dishes to really bring that savoury, umami element. You’ll find it in the Asian food aisle of your supermarket. Go for white miso here – it’s milder than the darker miso pastes.
- Gochujang. This is a fermented Korean chilli paste that’s LOADED with deep, umami flavour. It’s easier to find than it used to be – larger supermarkets are starting to stock it in their Asian food aisle. You can also pick it up from Amazon. If you can’t find it, you can use another hot sauce, like sriracha.
- Sweet chilli jam. I use my sweet chilli jam recipe here – but you could use any other sweet chilli sauce, or use more honey.
- Toasted almonds. Do make sure they’re toasted for the best flavour – to do that, lay them out on an oven tray on a single layer, then pop in the oven at 180C/360F fan for about 6 minutes, until they’re lovely and golden. I’m using flaked almonds because I couldn’t find any whole almonds, but you could use whole almonds instead, or use cashews.
- Rice vinegar. If you can’t find any, just use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
OPTIONAL: To serve, I’m also drizzling the cauliflower with a quick tahini sauce for a little element of creaminess- for that you’ll need tahini paste, lemon juice and salt. You could also use a little yogurt instead.
MAKE IT VEGAN: Swap the honey for maple syrup or agave syrup.
How to make it
Pop the cauliflower into the microwave for 12 minutes. While it’s in there, add the miso, honey, gochujang paste, garlic, ginger, chopped spring onions, olive oil and lime zest into a bowl and give it a good mix. Transfer the cauliflower onto a baking paper-lined oven tray or dish, then slather over all the marinade, getting it into all the cracks and crevices. Roast for 30 minutes, until a knife can easily pierce the stalk and the top is looking charred and deep red.
While the cauliflower is in the oven, make the pesto. Add the toasted almonds, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, miso, sweet chilli jam and rice vinegar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until a smooth sauce forms.
Once the cauliflower is ready, smooth the pesto onto the base of a serving platter, then top it with the cauliflower. Scatter over the coriander, spring onions, sesame seeds and the tahini sauce if you’re using it.
Got a question?
Pop it back in the oven, covering the top with aluminium foil to prevent it burning. Cauliflowers aren’t uniform in size and the cooking time will depend on the size of your cauliflower – if your stem is very thick it will need more time to cook through.
You can use another hot sauce – sriracha is great.
The marinade definitely has a kick thanks to the gochujang, but you can reduce the quantity if you’re worried. Use 1 teaspoon, or you could leave it out. The rest of the dish is designed the work with the marinade to soften it – the tomato pesto is sweet and salty, and the tahini drizzle provides a lovely creaminess that cuts through the heat – so when it’s paired together it’s not as spicy as you might think.
You can microwave the cauliflower, then cover it in the marinade the day before you want to cook it. Or roast it earlier in the day you’d like to serve, then heat through in the oven at 180C/360F for 15 minutes, with aluminum foil covering the top. The pesto will keep really well for 1 week in the fridge, so you could make that ahead of time too.
If you swap the honey in the marinade and pesto for maple syrup or agave syrup, you can easily make it vegan.
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