Rory O’Connell: Roasted Cauliflower with Red Onion, Cumin and Muhammara

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From Rory O’Connell’s book ‘Cook Well, Eat Well’ published by Gill Books. ‘The preparation for this dish can be done several hours in advance, though I prefer not to cook it until closer to the time of serving’, says Rory. ‘The vegetable is good served straight from the oven or at room temperature. The cauliflower in this recipe can be replaced with the exotic-looking green cauliflower called Romanesco. The muhammara I suggest to serve with the cauliflower in this meal is spread over the base of your serving dishes and then the cauliflower is neatly piled on top. Finish the dish with the green olives, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and coriander leaves sprinkled over the roasted caulilower. Don’t forget to serve the roasted cauliflower in another meal without the muhammara as a standalone vegetable.’

Serves 6–8


1 head of cauliflower, green leaves removed
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted and ground
Zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 batch of muhammara (page 226)
6–7 walnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 pomegranate, seeds removed
2 tablespoons stoned and coarsely chopped green olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. Separate the cauliflower into florets and place in a large bowl. If the leaves are in good shape, roughly chop them and their stalks and add them too. Add the onion, ground cumin, lemon zest, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to glaze the vegetables.

3. Place on a roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice during the cooking time. The cauliflower and onion should be well coloured and tender. Don’t worry if the onion gets quite caramelised, as this will just add to the flavour.

4. To serve, spread the muhammara over the base of your serving dish or individual plates. Make neat piles of cauliflower on top, leaving some of the deeply coloured sauce visible around the bottom of the cauliflower. Finish the dish with the walnuts, pomegranate seeds, green olives and coriander

How to make Rory’s Muhammara Syrian Sauce for the recipe above:


1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into large chunks
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
8 cherry tomatoes
1–2 fresh red chillies, stalks removed and deseeded if very hot
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
70g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds

I find this flavour-packed Syrian sauce to be really useful. When you have a jar of this in the fridge, you will never be stuck for a sauce to serve with roast and grilled meat, poultry or oily fish. It makes a quick snack smeared onto grilled bread or hot toast and I love it with a hard-boiled egg. Be brave when roasting the vegetables to achieve plenty of colour, as that is where the depth of flavour in the recipe comes from. I once omitted the walnuts when I made this sauce for a friend who could not eat them and it was still good, though different.

Serves 4

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.

2. Place the pepper, onion, tomatoes, chilli and garlic on a roasting tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to char slightly.

3. Meanwhile, place the walnuts on a hot dry sauté pan set over a medium heat and cook, stirring often, until they are nicely toasted.

4. When the vegetables are roasted, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and place in a food processor along with the roasted vegetables. Add the toasted walnuts, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika and cumin and pulse until you have achieved a textured dip. Taste and correct the seasoning.


You can buy Rory’s new book at the Gill Books online bookshop or at any good bookstore throughout Ireland.

CURATE: You can also buy Rory’s book online at Amazon.co.uk.

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