I’m going to open with this: I have had a terrible month. A bout of savage flu tore me down for nearly two weeks and I was reduced to eating little more than crackers and takeout. I resembled a ghostly victim of Victorian-era consumption. I haven’t done a lot of cooking this month, which makes me sad. But, it also meant that my return to the kitchen was especially sweet!
All I felt like eating was something hot, crunchy, and comforting. But, I also wanted to sneak in some vegetables, considering my extremely fragile state of health. I settled on making some beer-battered cauliflower florets. If my last recipe had anything to prove, it’s that anything deep-fried in beer batter is going to be lip-smackingly delicious. Well, I’m at it again folks. The Juicy Lucy beer batter is back in business. Let’s crack on, shall we?
Showing cauliflower the respect it deserves
I know from personal experience that cauliflower had its heyday in Durban as the insufferable hero of the Banting diet. Cauliflower was pretending to be rice, it was pretending to be a viable pizza base, it was even posing as steak for a short while. I toyed with the idea of styling this blog as a recipe for vegan fried chicken, but I concluded that the era of forcing vegetables to pose as other food items is long over. It’s not right. Let’s just let cauliflower be cauliflower.
I love this recipe because 1) I never pass up the opportunity to beer-batter anything, 2) it’s a great way to sneak more vegetables into meals, and 3) it is inspired by an iconic dish from Mali restaurant in Morningside. My family loved it! So, this recipe is inspired by a shared favourite dish and my enduring love for beer-battered foods. The dip recipe came to me, fully formed, in a dream. It’s a truly dreamy combination.
What you'll need
Here's what you need to pick up from the shops:
A head of cauliflower
A whole lime
2 x cups plain flour
1 x 350ml can of beer of your choice (I used Devil’s Peak Juicy Lucy IPA)
Cup of neutral cooking oil
How to make it
Step One: Prep your kak
The first thing you’ll want to do is prepare your cauliflower. You’re going to break it up by hand into little florets. If you’re really pedantic, you can break them up into pieces of similar sizes - that way, they’ll all fry evenly. Personally, I like to break them into really small pieces. You might need to bring out a knife to cut them into small enough bits.
My sous-chef, Robot, plays an essential role in ingredient quality assurance.
You may also want to take a moment to put about 1cm of oil into a thick-bottomed pan and put it on medium-high heat.
Step Two: Make your dipping sauce in advance
Look. I can't actually tell you when to make your dipping sauce. You're a grown adult. But, heed my warning: you do not want to be whipping up this sauce while your cauliflower is darkening rapidly in hot oil. Doing anything else while deep-frying is ill-advised. It's a recipe for burnt cauliflower and minor oil burns. Allegedly, I mean.
To make the dipping sauce, simply strip the mint leaves from the stems and chuck them in a blender with the yoghurt, the juice of a lime, some olive oil, and a really generous pinch of salt. Remember, most of the flavour of your dish is going to come from this sauce, so season accordingly.
Tip: to reduce kitchen waste, you can also zest the lime before juicing and add the zest to your sauce for extra zing and flair.
Step Three: Shake things up
Put your flour into a large mixing bowl (do it with a sieve to eliminate lumps) and mix in your spices, salt, and pepper. You can be pretty generous with the seasoning. The paprika and cayenne lends good flavour to it, and also turns the batter into a lovely reddish colour.
Once all your dry ingredients are mixed together, you can add in your beer. You can eyeball this part. You want to achieve a batter that is the consistency of pancake mixture. It shouldn't be cakey, but it shouldn't be so liquid that it won't stick to your cauliflower.
Step Four: Coat your cauli!
You can toss your cauliflower florets right into your batter to coat them evenly. Your oil should be nice and hot at this stage. You can check to see if it's ready by sticking the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. If it bubbles, then you're good to go! If it's smoking, then you've got it on too hot and you're burning your oil.
Step Five: Fry 'em up!
Okidokes, folks, it's show time! Lower your lovely, beer-battered cauliflower florets into your hot oil. I like to use a miniature pair of plastic-tipped tongs. I am so enamoured with this kitchen tool that I stole this pair from an ex who didn't deserve them. I use them almost daily in the kitchen.
Take care to turn your florets so that they cook on both sides. You'll know they're done when they turn a gorgeous golden-brown colour. If they are turning dark brown or black, you might want to turn down the heat there, champ.
Step Six: Serve with a smile!
That's it! Once all of your florets are fried, you're ready to serve with the yoghurt dipping sauce. You can pat down the florets with some kitchen towel before serving if you're concerned about oil levels in the meal. Hurry, though - these deliciously crispy gems are best served as soon as possible.
Enjoy, folks. See you soon with another fresh recipe!
Mia & Robot