Recipe & pairing | Joseph Abboud's (Rumi) Fried cauliflower with caramelised onion, currants and pine nuts

Vinomofo
By Vinomofo
7 days ago
6 min read

Don't know about you, but we're feeling in need of a winter warmer? Luckily, Joseph Abboud’s "Rumi: Recipes of a Middle Eastern Appearance" has come to the rescue, filled cover-to-cover with recipes that are firm favourites of the locals at this Brunswick East institution. This recipe for his fried cauliflower is exactly the trick, either as the main event or a generous side - along with a couple of pairing suggestions from us to toast to staying toasty.

Pairing tip: "Toasty, nutty, a rich, rounded flavour profile - am I describing this dish, or the Margaret River chardonnay I might be having in a glass alongside? It feels a bit of a safe bet on my behalf given it’s the obvious (and delicious) choice. As would be the ever food friendly pairings of riesling, chenin blanc, traditional method sparkling blanc de blancs or Provence-style rosé… so let’s go a little more left-field. A textural, white blend borrowing from a little bit of everything would be extremely fun with this; something a bit fuller but with the brightness to contrast against those bittersweet, earthy caramels of the dish, and enough surprise in the mix to potentially be a revelation. Or you could play it safe, but where’s the fun in that?" - Nick

Try this with:

David & Nadia Aristargos 2021

This is a complex blend (and not in a way that is at all unapproachable) with chenin blanc as the hero. The parcels of fruit from predominantly old vine plantings go to french oak barrels for 11 months to build texture, weight, and an all round delicious touch. We could drink this every night of the week, if it weren't in such short supply.

Chardonnay 2017 – Black Market Deal #48523

This ticks all the Margs chardy boxes; it's nutty, creamy, a little woody and a lot citrusy. Tropical fruit richness gives the wine a bit of palate breadth, and classic varietal acidity gives it line drive. Delicious stuff. Seven years in the cellar has allowed them to mellow a little, with nutty nuance coming to the fore, but there is still citrusy freshness and bright acidity on offer. This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it offer, so snap it up while the getting is good.


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Fried cauliflower with caramelised onion, currants and pine nuts

If you make this dish correctly, you’ll be asking yourself if you’ve burnt it. It’s okay. My training in modern European kitchens where everything had to be golden brown had me second-guessing, too. It just doesn’t taste the same if it is golden brown. It’s that dark bittersweet flavour that transforms cauliflower. 

This dish has been on the menu at Rumi since the day we opened and was inspired by Rita Macali’s cauliflower at Ladro, then later at Supermaxi. Before that, the only cauliflower you’d find in Melbourne was the unwanted friend of broccoli and carrots at the pub, or at a French restaurant covered in sauce mornay. Melbourne, you’ve come a long way.

Serves 6–8

Ingredients

  • 100 ml (31⁄2 fl oz) vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons pine nuts

  • 2 onions, cut into 2 cm (3⁄4 in) squares

  • salt, to taste 

  • small pinch of ground allspice

  • 1 tablespoon currants

  • 1 small head of cauliflower 

  • oil, for deep-frying (see page 49) 

  • plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting

Heat a small frying pan over a low heat and add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and the pine nuts. Fry gently until the pine nuts start to change colour and become golden. At this point, strain through a small sieve and spread them on a plate or tray lined with paper towel. They will continue to colour so be sure to take them off the heat before they get too brown.

Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over a high heat until very hot, then add the onion, stirring frequently until it starts to colour. Turn down the heat to low and allow the onion to caramelise slowly. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until completely soft and dark brown. Season with salt and allspice, then add the currants, stirring through the onion until well combined. Remove from the heat. 

For the cauliflower, fill a saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Cut the cauliflower into florets at least the size of a golf ball and no bigger than a mandarin. Boil in the salted water for 8–10 minutes until soft, then remove from the water with a kitchen spider or strain through a sieve. Spread on a tray lined with paper towel or a tea towel and allow to cool and dry out a little.

When ready to fry, heat the oil in a saucepan or deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Dredge the cauliflower in the flour then shake off any excess in a sieve. Fry until dark brown. Yes – DARK!

Remove from the oil and drain on some paper towel. Season with salt and pepper, then arrange on a plate and top with the caramelised onion, currants and pine nuts.

Note

You can use chickpea flour (besan) for dusting for a gluten-free result. If you prefer to steam (not boil) the cauliflower, be sure to sprinkle with lots of salt before it goes into the steamer. The onions and the boiling of the cauliflower can be done a few days in advance. Be sure to warm the onion mix slightly before using it. The pine nuts can also be prepared days in advance. If you have become a fan of frying nuts, you can fry a larger batch. They will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months. The traditional accompaniment for this fried cauliflower is Taratoor (see below). Leftover fried cauliflower goes beautifully in a flatbread sandwich drizzled with taratoor.


Taratoor

Tahini sauce, correctly called ‘taratoor’, is a versatile sauce that is traditionally used on anything from falafel to baked fish. I find myself reaching for it time and time again when looking for a creamy addition to many dishes, especially if they are vegan. We often have guests double-checking that the dishes with tahini in them are, in fact, vegan due to the richness that comes from the taratoor.

Makes 400 ml (14 fl oz)

Ingredients

  • 80 ml (1⁄3 cup) lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons verjuice

  • 10 g (1⁄4 oz) garlic, crushed to a fine paste, or 15 g (1⁄2 oz) Toum

  • 8 g (1⁄4 oz) salt

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 200 g (7 oz) tahini

Place all the ingredients in a jar or container, in the order in which they’re listed, with 150 ml (5 fl oz) water. Seal with a tight-fitting lid and shake, shake, shake!

The sauce may be very thick depending on the tahini, but it can be easily adjusted with a touch of water. You want it to be the consistency of single (pure) cream. This sauce will also thicken after refrigeration. Just add a little water to adjust the consistency. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


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Images and text from Rumi by Joseph Abboud, photography by Armelle Habib. Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.

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