Inspired by our town’s annual lantern festival celebrating the Winter solstice, my Fire Water Grilled Cauliflower combines sweetly grilled cauliflower with a dark bowl of fiery Asian broth.
In celebration of the Winter Solstice, our community holds a Lantern Festival each year. While the shortest day of the year is traditionally marked with meditation and internal reflection, our festival is far less contemplative. The Hills vibrate with drum circles, fire twirlers and a cavalcade of homemade lanterns. For weeks, shop windows are adorned with lanterns inspiring children to the local library for weekly construction sessions. The final result is a street long parade of glowing frogs, dragon flies, marionettes and the odd chicken.
While the hills glow with fire and echo to the sound of drums we are, at the core, a family community. The tribal communion ends at seven with our Elf tucked away, dreaming of fire lit owls by eight. Perfect.
While my fire water grilled cauliflower was inspired by the heat and theatrics of the festival fire twirlers, the actual broth is a re-imagining of South Indian pepper water or rasam. Pepper water is made with tomatoes and traditional Indian spices including mustard seeds, curry leaves and coriander, depending on the region. My fire water uses Asian ingredients to create a similarly peppery, kick in the pants broth.
Like pepper water, fire water sucker punches you in the back of the throat when consumed on its own. However, add it to rice, noodles or poured over grilled vegetables or tofu and it settles in to its companion. This fire water grilled cauliflower combines the slight sweetness of the grilled cauliflower to offset and compliment the peppery broth while the rice absorbs and holds the dish together. Besides, cauliflower is one of my favourite ingredients and is marched out on a more than regular basis. You can choose your base as your taste buds determine because this is all about the FIRE WATER.
Unlike the vibrance and thunder of the lantern festival, fire water sits as serenely as a cup of tea. Underneath its calm and unassuming exterior lies an explosion of heat, pepper and beautifully balanced Asian flavours. It’s a little bit dark and mysterious and therein lies its theatre.
And I do love me a little theatre every now and again. Enjoy.
Fire Water Grilled Cauliflower
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- ½ tsp Sichuan pepper corns smashed
- 1 teaspoon black pepper corns smashed or ground
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sea salt + plus more if needed
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 thumb ginger sliced
- 1 long chilli chopped
- 1/2 litre 500ml waterGrilled Cauliflower
- 1 whole cauliflower cut in to 1.5cm steaks
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon soy
- 1 teaspoon black vinegar or rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 x 2 cm thumb ginger grated
- 2 celery stalks sliced in 1 cm slices on an angle
- 1 bunch spring onions the whites cut in to 2 cm batons. Finely chop some of the greens for garnish.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for grillingSteamed rice to serve.
- Chopped celery leaves
- To prepare the cauliflower, combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.
- Lay the cauliflower in a rectangle pan and drizzle with the marinade. Set aside.
- For the fire water, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Taste the water and season if needed. IT WILL BE PEPPERY!
- Strain the fire water in to a jug or jar and set aside.
- Heat a griddle pan or BBQ and oil. Press the cauliflower steaks down and drizzle with the marinade. Cook for around four minutes or until griddle marks appear.
- Turn the steaks over and add the chopped celery and spring onions. Cook for another four minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked through.
- Spoon some steamed rice on to a plate or bowl and top with a cauliflower steak. Spoon fire water over the top and sprinkle with chopped celery leaves and spring onions.