This is the signature dish from Ester Restaurant which is one of Sydney’s trendiest restaurants. It’s not like me to order a head of cauliflower at a restaurant but I’m so glad I did because it was sensational! So I was thrilled to find the chef’s recipe. And it’s SO easy to make! Ester Restaurant in Chippendale has been one of the hottest restaurants in Sydney for a couple of years now. I went there recently with low expectations, thinking that it would be another “trendy” restaurant that was big on cool factor but mediocre on delivery.
I love being proved wrong! (Eerm, well, for something like this!!) I was floored by how fantastic it was. Modern western food with a very subtle Asian twist which seems appropriate given the restauranteur, Mat Lindsay, is the former head chef of Billy Kwong (Kylie Kwong’s restaurant). Every dish had a little unexpected twist to it that gave it a “wow” factor. Nothing too drastic / try-hard / fancy, just little things. Like classic chargrilled prawns with burnt butter (delicious, but ordinary) transformed into knock-your-socks-off fantastic with the addition of a little tamari. I wanted to lick the plate but settled for mopping it clean with bread. Mind blowingly delicious. So this roasted cauliflower is from Ester Restaurant. It’s one of their signature dishes which I knew before I went, otherwise I can tell you for sure that I never would have ordered a roasted head of cauliflower at a restaurant. And I am SO glad I did. It is seriously amazing how char grilling a cauliflower can transform a somewhat drab recipe into something worthy of being served at a two-hat restaurant (Australia’s answer to michelin star ratings). I found the recipe on Gourmet Traveller Australia and it is the recipe from the restaurant. It is really easy to make. The restaurant serves it with an almond sauce which is quite rich, though you don’t use much. It’s like a mayonnaise made with almond meal. I’ve also made it with a yoghurt lemon sauce (diet food that’s big on flavour!) and a yoghurt tahini sauce (the creamy sesame flavour goes really well with the cauliflower) so I’ve provided those recipes as well because they are alternatives that are lighter as well as faster to make. I don’t share much meat-free dishes. So when I do, you know there’s a good reason for it! – Nagi
- 1 cup almond meal
- 2/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil , separated
- 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar (or rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- Black pepper
- 1 large head of cauliflower (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon , juice only
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup almonds , roughly chopped and lightly toasted in a dry frypan
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (packed)
Place the almond meal, water and 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the almond meal starts to swell - around 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour the almond mixture into a blender or small food processor and whiz until smooth. Add brown rice vinegar and salt and whizz to mix.
With the blender running, add the egg yolks then pour the oil in a thin stream. Keep whizzing while you pour and the sauce will become thick and creamy. Taste to check the salt and pepper, then set aside (keep at room temperature).
Cut the cauliflower into quarters (leaving most of the outer leaves on). Cut off a bit of the core, otherwise it won't cook through because it is thicker (see photo below).
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower, bring back to boil then boil for 3 minutes. (Alternatively you could steam it.)
Drain and leave the cauliflower to steam dry for 10 minutes. It also continues cooking.
Preheat the grill/broiler on high and place the rack around 20cm/8" from the heat source.
Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil then place under the grill/broiler for 5 minutes until nicely charred, then turn the cauliflower and char the other side for a few minutes.
Remove the cauliflower from under the grill/broiler and drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread about 3/4 cup of the Almond Sauce on a plate. Place the cauliflower on top, sprinkle over the almonds and mint.
This can be served warm or at room temperature.
1. The cauliflower I used was around 25cm / 10" in diameter.
2. This recipe makes more Almond Sauce than you need because it is hard to make a smaller amount. Reserve leftovers in the fridge and drizzle over roasted vegetables or meats.
3. The Almond Sauce is quite rich. So here are two other simple sauces that go really well with this that are lighter and faster / easier to make.
Lemon Yoghurt Sauce - a simple sauce alternative that matches superbly with roasted cauliflower. Mix together 1 cup of creamy plain yoghurt with 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, 1 small garlic clove (minced), 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 to 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Place in the refrigerator for the flavours to develop for 20 minutes. Variation: Add 3/4 tsp cumin powder to give this dish a Middle Eastern twist.
Yoghurt Tahini Sauce - creamier than then Lemon Yoghurt Sauce but still much lighter than the Almond Sauce! Mix together 3/4 cup of creamy plain yoghurt with 2 tbsp of tahini, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper and 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Place in the refrigerator until required.
4. Nutrition assuming 4 servings which is a fairly substantial serving (1/4 cabbage per person).