Roast cauliflower with Puy lentil puree
As with a piece of roast meat, a big roast cauliflower offers several different flavours and textures. There are salty, burnt leaves, a sweet, golden brown surface, tender inner curds and a still-nutty base. All are delicious sauced with a rough, savoury purée of Puy lentils. And both elements of the dish are very easy to prepare.
1 medium cauliflower, about 800g (900g max), at room temperature
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil Sea salt and black pepper
FOR THE PUY LENTIL PURÉE
200g Puy lentils
1 large garlic clove, peeled but left whole
500ml veg stock (see page 190 for home-made)
Extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, to trickle
Take the outer few leaves off the cauliflower but leave half a dozen or so of the inner leaves still attached.
Rub the cauliflower with the oil, working it into the nooks and crannies and all over the leaves. Don’t worry if some of the leaf stems snap, just keep them with the cauliflower. Season the cauliflower all over with salt and pepper. Put the prepared cauliflower in a roasting dish and roast for an hour.
When the cauliflower has been cooking for about half an hour, put the lentils into a saucepan with the peeled garlic clove and veg stock. Bring to a simmer then cover the pan and simmer gently for about
15 minutes until the lentils are tender.
Test the cauliflower by pressing a small, sharp knife into the core, going in at the base, which is the thickest, toughest part. It won’t be soft but the knife should go in without too much resistance. If it seems very firm still, put it back in the oven for 10–15 minutes then test again.
When the lentils are tender, use a stick blender to blitz them in the pan with the garlic and stock – you want a fairly thick but still spoonable purée, with a little texture. If it’s very thick, add a little hot water. Taste the purée and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm.
To serve, cut the hot roasted cauliflower into quarters and place on warmed plates. Spoon over the Puy lentil purée, give each portion a trickle of extra virgin oil, a sprinkling more salt and pepper, and serve.
Some leaves may be too blackened to eat, but the leaf stems will be deliciously bittersweet. Most of the cauliflower will be nicely al dente and the thickest part of the base will still be fairly firm – I pick this up with my hands and eat it when all the rest has been devoured.