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Cauliflower recipes to infuse warmth into winter

This is the season to cook, roast and bake farm fresh cauliflowers

Gobhi-gajar-matar is the triumvirate of winter vegetables(Image courtesy: iStockPhoto)
Gobhi-gajar-matar is the triumvirate of winter vegetables(Image courtesy: iStockPhoto)

Stacks of bright white cauliflowers with their vibrant green leaves are symbolic of winter market scenes in many parts of India, which have a bounty of cool weather crops at this time of the year. For me, gobhi-gajar-matar (cauliflower, red carrots and green peas) is the triumvirate of winter vegetables—and I cannot have enough of them in all possible dishes and combinations.

A few friends who are into kitchen gardening have been sharing photographs of shiny happy cauliflowers that usually grow one per pot in container gardening. This year, I haven’t been lucky with any. Unseasonal heavy rain damaged young plants that died mostly due to an over-watering situation. To compensate, I have been buying a lot of gobhi and making all my favourite dishes. Even a basic alu gobhi tastes extra delicious during these months due to the flavour of the freshly harvested potatoes. Apart from that, gobhi-matar, gobhi paratha and tandoori gobhi feature high on my list of favourite things to make with cauliflower.

The chart-topper, though, is the whole roasted cauliflower, a showstopper of a vegetarian dish. Something about presenting the whole vegetable with its stem makes it look bounteous, sumptuous and inviting. Even though cauliflower is available all year round, I only make this dish in winter. One, for the fresh flavour, and two, fewer worms in the cauliflower.

It’s always a good idea to give a cauliflower the salt and vinegar treatment before cooking with it, more so if you are going to be cooking it whole. After removing the outer leaves and stems, immerse the whole cauliflower in a big pot of water with one teaspoon each of salt and vinegar per one litre of water for at least 30 minutes. This will draw out any worms hiding within.

The best part about a whole roasted cauliflower is that it needs no recipe. Select a cauliflower with no blemishes and tightly packed florets. Prep it right and create your own version, taking key flavours from any cuisine.

For example:

Bengali style—Infuse mustard oil with bay leaves, red chillies, panch phoron seeds and grated ginger, and use this oil along with kashundi (mustard sauce) as the coating spice mix.

Punjabi style—Prepare a makhani- like gravy using ginger, garlic, tomatoes, onions, spices, butter and cream. Cover the cauliflower generously with this sauce and bake until done.

Italian style—Make a tomato-based marinara sauce and douse the cauliflower with the sauce, along with plenty of chopped basil or crushed dried basil, grated Parmesan cheese or even crumbled mozzarella. Bake until the cheese melts. This tastes every bit like a pizza minus the crust.

Try out the minimalistic herbs and olive oil whole roasted cauliflower and the whole roasted tandoori gobhi from the recipes here. Have it as a main course / salad /tacos / rice-dal side dish.


Nandita Iyer's tandoori gobhi recipe
Nandita Iyer's tandoori gobhi recipe

Serves 4


1 large cauliflower ~1kg*

1 tbsp salt + more for cooking

1 tbsp vinegar

For the marinade

1 cup hung yogurt

1 tbsp tandoori masala*

2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp chaat masala

Half tsp black salt

Half tsp turmeric

1 tbsp kasuri methi, crushed

1 tbsp ghee (melted)


Prep the cauliflower by cutting off the stems and most of the leaves. Leave a couple of them on the cauliflower for a nice presentation. Slice the base stem so it can sit flat in the pan.

Immerse the whole cauliflower in a large bowl of water with one tablespoon each of salt and vinegar for half an hour. Remove and wash the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water, add one-two teaspoons salt. Keep a heavy weight like a ceramic bowl on the lid to keep the cauliflower immersed in water. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce flame and allow to simmer for six-seven minutes until the florets are tender but not overcooked. Remove using a spider and drain well. Pat dry with a clean towel.

Pre heat the oven at 190 degrees Celsius. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Rub the marinade all over the cauliflower and in between the florets. Place this in an aluminium foil lined baking tray or cast-iron pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until slightly charred on the top.

* If you don’t have tandoori masala, mix coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, garlic powder, black salt and some kasuri methi. Not the exact ingredients but will lend similar flavours.

* Around 800g after all the stems and leaves are removed


Nandita Iyer's roasted cauliflower recipe.
Nandita Iyer's roasted cauliflower recipe.

Serves 4

(Inspired by Miznon’s whole roasted cauliflower. Miznon is a restaurant chain in Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, Melbourne and New York City that serves Mediterranean-inspired street food.)

To serve individual cauliflowers as a main course, choose smaller-sized ones, around 300g or so, or use a large one and divide into quarters.


4 small cauliflowers or 1 large

1 tbsp salt + more for cooking

1 tbsp vinegar

For the marinade

Quarter cup olive oil (or more)

8-10 cloves garlic, grated

2 tbsp mixed herbs (basil + rosemary)

Pink salt or rock salt

1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)


Follow the process as earlier up to blanching and patting dry the cauliflower.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Brush the cauliflower/s with this marinade in several layers so that the flavours seep through. Lay the cauliflowers in a cast-iron pan or baking tray and bake until charred spots appear on the surface.

Sour cream-based sauce works very well with this.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.


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