I’ve chosen to honor the mighty cauliflower in this recipe. To show how much I value this underrated vegetable, I’ve used it to replace a prime cut of beef steak, making it the centerpiece of the meal, rather than just a side.
The inspiration is World Meat Free Day, which takes place on June 12th. The idea is for meat eaters to take just one day off, to show how easy it is to give up our obsession with flesh.
The main motivator is the fact that it is totally unsustainable to keep eating meat on the scale that we currently do. As stated on the World Meat Free Day website, “With the population set to rise by over 30% by 2050, the demand for meat simply cannot be met.” Providing the land, water and feed needed to rear enough meat to feed the human population is having a devastating effect on our planet with major issues like deforestation for grazing and arable land and a global water shortage.
The World Meat Free website states that “by giving up meat for just one meal you will save:
• Enough carbon emissions to boil a kettle 388 times
• The daily water usage of nine people
• Up to 11g of fat, equivalent to two whole teaspoons of butter
• Up to 90 calories, about as much as two rich tea biscuits”
The latter points highlight the health issue. A lot is said and written about healthy eating but most people agree that eating a balanced diet is the healthiest way. Many people have a diet too focused on meat, and having just one day off can be a good way of breaking the habit and gaining a new perspective.
Eating too much meat can lead to an inflammatory response from our bodies and although it’s a great source of protein, meat tends also to be high in fat so should be respected and eaten in moderation.
Some people will tell you that meat is full of flavor and you that vegetables just don’t pack the same punch. This is nonsense. In fact, it’s all in the preparation. As you’ll see when trying this recipe, you can still achieve all the lovely caramelization that is characteristic of a good steak; the cauliflower is seared in a hot pan so you’ll still get that smokey, charred flavor.
It’s true that cooking with meat is an easy way to produce a tasty meal, but at what cost? Meat is expensive and this is because you have to rear, look after, feed and slaughter a sentient being to get hold of its meat. This shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Chicken, beef, pork and lamb are widely available but other than these meats, you’re down to other poultry and game which are far harder to find. This selection is narrowed even further if you are looking to buy good quality, sustainably produced, and ethically reared meat, which is what I would advocate. So, there is not a huge choice in the range of meats available.
With vegetables, however, it’s a totally different story. There is more variety just in the brassica family of vegetables than there is in the entire world of commercially reared meat. Plus, it’s easy to get hold of and relatively cheap to buy. Then there’s roots, fruits, alliums, leaves and salads, a whole world of mushrooms and fungi, coastal plants and seaweeds. The list goes on, and they all pack unique and interesting flavors and aromas that can be explored in the kitchen.
With meat, you have a limited range of tastes that you can utilize but with vegetables the differing sweetness, tartness, range of textures and colors are near unlimited. As a chef, this makes cooking with vegetables far more appealing and challenging than cooking with meat and is why I’ve chosen to honor the exhilarating world of vegetables with this recipe for World Meat Free Day.
This recipe is all about the wonderful cauliflower. The once out of favor brassica has risen to the status of trendy veg of the moment, although it is still often overcooked, which renders it bland in flavor and unappealingly soft in texture.
I treat it like a prime piece of steak, browning it a pan before roasting in the oven to medium-rare (soft enough to eat but still with a bit of bite). Cauliflower takes on flavors fantastically well and I generously drizzle on olive oil, lemon juice, and plenty of salt and cracked black pepper.
Out of respect for the star of this show, the leaves on the outside of the cauli are not going to waste either. They pack just as much flavor as the rest of it and can be added to the salad that accompanies the main event.
Along with the leaves go capers and gherkins to liven things up, parsley and toasted buckwheat which is nutty and crunchy.
Buckwheat is also gluten free (even though the name might suggest otherwise) so it’s perfect for those who are intolerant to gluten. If you can’t get hold of buckwheat, quinoa would be a good alternative, or if gluten is alright by you, then couscous or cracked wheat are good alternatives.
These are tossed with some more lemon juice and olive oil and chopped tomato for a fresh and zingy salad to balance the richness of the meaty but meat-free cauliflower steak.
You can’t have a steak without a sauce, and this is where the vegetable magic comes in. Onions are absolutely packed with savory flavors and natural sweetness so make the perfect ingredient to replace a meaty gravy.
I roast them in the oven until almost burnt to unlock the sweet and bitter flavors, then infuse them into vegetable stock and red wine to make a sauce that perfectly complements the roasted cauliflower steak.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
1 head of cauliflower
1 white onion
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup buckwheat
2 tbsp chopped capers
2 tbsp chopped gherkins
1 handful parsley
1 large tomato
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups red wine
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat the oven to 355°F (180°C).
2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and reserve them for the salad. Cut the cauliflower across its width into thick steaks ready for cooking.
3. Slice the onions as thinly as you can and place them in a baking tray with a little bit of oil. Roast them in the oven until they are brown, almost a little burnt.
4. When the onions are done (this takes about 20 mins) pour the vegetable stock over them and leave to infuse.
5. Meanwhile, toast the buckwheat in the hot oven until brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes.
6. Roughly chop the gherkins and capers and add to the cauliflower leaves and buckwheat.
7. Pick the leaves from the parsley stalks and chop the stalks finely and add these to the salad. Dice the tomato and add this too.
8. To finish everything off, around half an hour before you are ready to eat, start cooking the cauliflower. Brown the steaks in a very hot pan with some olive oil.
9. Transfer the browned steaks to a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
10. Roast in the oven for about twenty minutes or until just soft but with some bite.
11. While they are roasting, deglaze the cauliflower pan with the red wine and boil it to cook off the alcohol.
12. Strain the onion infused stock into the wine pan, and discard the onions (they have done their job). Reduce the sauce a little to intensify the flavor, then balance with a little honey and season with salt and pepper.
13. Finish the salad by dressing it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
14. Serve up your steak as the centerpiece with a generous saucing, and the zingy salad on the side.
If you want to know what foods will help you restore your natural vitality and get slim and stay slim, then check out the Best Foods That Rapidly Slim & Heal In 7 Days program.
Rick Kaselj, MS