Creamy, lemony and delicious. Lemony Greek Cauliflower is lighter with a more subtle flavour than the classic cheesy recipe. Greek Avgolemono sauce (egg and lemon) brings some winter sunshine to the humble cauliflower, also turning something like stuffed cabbage into a real treat. Easy to make, and if you follow a few simple tricks, contrary to popular belief, the sauce won’t split.
Cauliflowers are abundant and inexpensive at the moment; lemons are also just about to come into season. Perfect! I’ve adapted the classic recipe to add a little spice (cumin, red chilli flakes and coriander), plenty of garlic and a generous handful of parmesan cheese. The sauce is rich and creamy without the heaviness of flour-based sauce. It’s good enough to eat with a big green salad but makes an excellent addition to any festive table. You can happily serve it with beef, pork or chicken or simply as part of a vegetarian spread. It’s packed with flavour, so you don’t need much – a medium-sized cauliflower would be enough as a side dish for 4-6 people.
Braise the cauliflower on a bed of golden onions very slowly so it takes on their flavour. Add water gradually, allowing the cauliflower to absorb the liquid after each addition until the cauliflower is soft. If you add all the water at once, it will simply boil with the onions and be flavourless. You don’t want it mushy! However, with the last addition of water, you want enough sauce in the bottom of the pan to add to the egg mixture and enough liquid to make the whole dish saucy.
Waste nothing; use all the cauliflower, break the florets into bite-sized mouthfuls, and grate or finely slice the rest of the stalks. Discard any woody or tough stems. Add these when you start cooking, as they take a little longer.
I have used avgolemono before in the classic Greek chicken soup recipe. To stop it from splitting, you need to temper the eggs. Whisk some sauce from the bottom of the cauliflower pan into a separate bowl with the lemon and egg mixture. Return it slowly to the cauliflower, shaking or stirring after each addition. Heat gently for a minute or so. Stirring or swirling the pan until it cooks and thickens. Stir in the parmesan at the end and serve with Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes. There are roux-based avgolemono versions, but it’s not the same. If your sauce refuses to thicken or you prefer a little thicker – add a sprinkle of cornflour to help it along.
Lemony Greek cauliflower is a simple dish that you can make in advance. Prepare the onions and cauliflower until soft, then set aside, cover and refrigerate. Re-heat slowly and make the avgolemono just before you want to serve.
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Lemony Greek Cauliflower
- Large heavy based pan
- 1 medium to large cauliflower – make sure its white and firm – ie very fresh
- 1 large yellow onion – finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic – finely sliced
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp powdered fennel
- ¾ tsp red chilli flakes I like to use Aleppo pepper
- handful finely grated parmesan optional – a tasty addition but you can make the dish without cheese
- olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium eggs
- 2 medium lemons juiced and 1 tsp zest
- 1 tbsp finely chopped parsely optional
- 1 tbsp flaked almonds – lightly toasted optional
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the onions, saute gently until golden.
- Break up the cauliflower into small florets, keep any good leaves, and finely slice any stalks. Waste nothing. Add the cauliflower with the garlic, salt, cumin, fennel, Aleppo pepper, and coriander to the pan of onions. Cover, shake the pan and braise over low heat until the cauliflower is coated in the olive oil and spices and starts to soften. Add a sprinkle of water and more olive oil if it starts to stick.
- Remove the lid. Add 150ml of water. Continue cooking with the lid off until all the water has been absorbed. Repeat the process by adding another 100 ml of water and letting it evaporate. Repeat until the cauliflower is cooked. It should be soft but has yet to lose shape – with a slight bite. It must not be mushy!
- Once you are happy, the cauliflower is cooked. Turn off the heat. You need a generous 100ml of juices left in the pan – top up with water if necessary.
- In a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs, zest and lemon juice until light and frothy.
- Set the cauliflower over low heat and add a tablespoon of the liquid from the bottom of the pan to the egg mixture. It should be warm (not too hot). Whisk and then add a third back to the cauliflower pan. Shake the pan and stir. Repeat adding the final two-thirds of the lemony egg mixture to the pan. Stir gently until it thickens to the consistency of a pourable sauce*. When you are happy, add the finely grated parmesan – stir once and remove from the heat.
- Check for seasoning and decorate with flaked almonds or finely chopped parsley and parmesan. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad. Delicious as part of a vegetarian spread or to accompany beef, chicken or pork.