This is the best whole roast cauliflower in the world made famous Eyal Shani’s North Abraxass restaurant in Tel Aviv. This dish was life-changing for me. The first time I ate it I could believe that cauliflower could be this delicious and I have been making it this way ever since.
Cauliflower is the most amazing vegetable in the world and it has superpowers enabling it to masquerade as a carb and disguise itself as a delicious Italian sauce, but eating it whole roasted in this way, is simply the very best way it can be eaten. And I’m not making this up.
You can read the backstory about how Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani took this humble dish and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon here – and this was over 10 years ago.
Of course, since then everyone who is anyone in the food world has made their own version of the dish. In most cases, the cauliflower gets whacked in the oven whole and raw with various seasonings and olive oil. No doubt also delicious, but, what sets Shani’s dish apart from the rest is that its parboiled in salted water and then drained like a potato to get rid of moisture and maintain texture.
The other technique that takes his whole roast cauliflower to the next level is he pushes the boundary on the charring stage. Almost to the point of burning – and certainly burnt in parts. It’s there where all the flavour lies. Rich umami that makes you salivate and devour a whole head without a blink of an eye. Eyal Shani says ‘“People don’t tend to be generous with their vegetables. With meat they are, and this is something primordial within us. The cauliflower engenders generosity,”
I was lucky enough to get to both dine and meet the charismatic man himself on my trip to Israel in January. It was an absolute highlight. Not only have I never seen chefs and service staff stop in the middle of what they were doing to dance, sing and burn sage, but I had never been served a whole head of cauliflower this delicious, straight up on paper without any cutlery to devour with my hands. It was a life-changing culinary moment.
We managed to garner as much intel as we could about how to recreate this incredible dish from various people on the trip, and since we’ve been back a few of us have been playing around in the kitchen.
Aida Mollenkamp from Salt & Wind made her version with a garlic and tahini sauce, and Luiz Hara, aka The London Foodie, kept things straight up like the original. I decided to do the same. I mean why change perfection, anyway I craved that incredible flavour.
How to make the best-roasted cauliflower in the world
It’s all going to depend on the size of your cauliflower to start. If it’s large, I would say boil for 15 minutes, and if it’s small – as mine was, boil for 10.
His recipe calls for 10 grams of salt for every litre of water, but I found 2 – 3 tablespoons for a large pot perfect.
Allow it to drain and cool before pouring over a generous amount of olive oil – I think I got a little carried away here and added too much. Then season with salt and pepper. Shani doesn’t use pepper in his recipe, but I like it.
Roast in a very hot oven for an hour at 220C. After researching this article and finding Shani’s recipe online – I see he recommends 220C and doesn’t state how long to cook it for. Just until golden. I also found the second time I made it the bottom got charred too and formed a delicious chewy base, perhaps this was due to using too much olive oil.
Recipe adapted from Eyal ShaniPrint
The best whole-roasted cauliflower in the world
The Best whole roasted cauliflower in the world recipe by Eyal Shani.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Yield: 4 as a side
- Category: Vegetables
- Method: roasting
- Cuisine: Israeli
1 whole medium-sized, fresh, white cauliflower, florets tightly packed and covered in bright green leaves
3–4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220 C (430 degrees F).
Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Add about 10 grams of salt per liter of water. Cover with a lid and cook the cauliflower for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the cauliflower. Drain in a colander for at least 5 – 10 minutes
Brush or drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Place in a baking dish and place and bake in the middle of the oven until the top turns golden brown. About an hour.
Serve on the table in the baking dish. The outside of the cauliflower should be crisp and the inside as soft as butter. Separate the florets with a spoon and serve.
Anyway, you will love it and I recommend you get making this as soon as possible and let me know what you think.
I’ve thought of adding cheese or a cheese sauce to the finished product, but then it’s pretty perfect as is.
Keywords: Cauliflower, whole, roasted, best in the world Ayal Shani