This post shows how to make smoked cauliflower and why smoking vegetables is a great way to start playing around with indirect cooking or hot smoking, as you don’t have to worry about temperatures and cooking times like you would with meat or fish. With this recipe I’ve added a full flavoured marinade to the cauliflower to spice up the flavour and it adds some fantastic visual impact to the finished article.
Poor old cauliflower isn’t the most romantic of vegetables, it’s probably one step up from cabbage, languishing in the bottom end of my on-the-spot opinion of what vegetables are sexy. At the other end of the scale, asparagus is sexy. Those slender, tender, delicate stems that only make themselves available during a brief period of the year, and even then, there’s a noticeable peak, when they come into full bloom and put on a display of their sheer vegetluality (yes, I just made up a word, and it’s very hard to pronounce). Cauliflower just doesn’t have the same exclusivity, it’s too much of an genial all-rounder to inspire such mysterious intrigue.
Cauliflower is also a delicate soul, easily over cooked and turned into a mush of whiteness, yielding little florets that are barely able to hold their own weight and simply give up at the merest hint of a fork. Then it’s appearance. It’s just a big football of a vegetable. A cranial vegetative mass that would be hard to dress up as a whole to appear cool or sleek like a slither of chargrilled aubergine can.
Into the Limelight.
But despite these facts, cauliflower has undergone quite a renaissance over the last few years. The wellness or low carb brigade found that you can whizz cauliflower into a rice or cous-cous-esque mass and substitute it for any carbohydrate you might be planning on eating, so that you can feel tired, exhausted and low on energy the following day. Sorry, I meant so that you can attain the physical embodiment of whatever celebrated person you feel you need to look like today. Sorry, so that you can live a healthy lifestyle and diet, even though carbs do have a fundamental relevance to our ability to have energy and move around.
The other way in which I’ve seen it have a resurgence is cooking whole in the oven. Roasting a cauliflower whole is just an awesome proposition, because it fits into my ‘Will It Roast?’ category of taking a whole vegetable, shoving it in the oven, then eating it. No prep, no fiddly peeling or trimming, just in the oven, then serve. It’s like heaven in it’s simplicity. I made a recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower a while ago and it was absolutely delicious. It was a revelation, so easy to cook, very tasty and the leftovers went into a bowl of red pesto pasta and complemented the whole shebang beautifully, a most unexpected result (please note, I added the cauliflower as well as having pasta, rather than instead of).
It’s Smoked Cauliflower Time.
When the desire to get my smoker out emerged, my mind had decided on cauliflower before I even thought about it. You may have seen my BBQ courgette with smoked labneh which I posted last week, well this cauliflower came about from the same smoking session. I created a beginners guide to smoking on my smoking tofu blog post, where I explain the difference between hot and cold smoking and how they work.
A Little Note.
For this smoked cauliflower recipe I added a simple coating, a marinade to give some extra flavour to the vegetable, which worked really well, adding some spiciness and richness as well as a lovely deep colour to the outside. You can add this whenever you want prior to cooking, but if you coat it a few hours in advance it will give the flavours a bit of time to get into the cauliflower. However, if your concern is simply about smoking a cauliflower, you can omit this, and just smoke the vegetable plain, there will be no impact on the cooking or method by doing so.
A word about BBQs and smokersMy life has changed immeasurably in the last year or so, and so has my BBQ. I previously used a little Weber Go-Anywhere which really was an awesome little BBQ. I used it on the beach, at home, on a rooftop, basically anywhere (as the name would suggest). It’s compact, easy to use and works flawlessly. Sadly, it wasn’t actually mine, so once it was gone, I needed to get something to try smoking with. I opted for a slightly bigger smoker/grill/BBQ combo, the Bar-Be-Quick Smoker Grill. As a grill, this thing works well, but as a smoker, it’s not that good. There’s something about the design of it that means the charcoal burns out quickly and the smoker unit struggles to maintain a temperature suitable for smoking. I modified it straight away by drilling holes around the fire basket, to get some air flow through, which helped marginally, however I think it’s just a flawed design. It’s the bottom end of the smoker market, so if your funds allow I would recommend trying to get a more expensive model (where’s my piggie bank gone?), but if your primary concern is grilling, it does work well and has the benefit of easily accessible multiple levels, but I can’t recommend it as a smoker.
Smoked Cauliflower with Paprika Garlic Marinade
By Gavin Wren
Serves 6 as a side
Uses a kettle BBQ or smoker
A couple of handfuls of smoking wood chips
1 whole cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 teaspoons smoked paprika
Half a lemon, juice only
0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
Place your smoking wood chips in a bowl of water and leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
Trim all of the leaves from your cauliflower, so that you have a whole, plain vegetable.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients together and rub all over the cauliflower, you can do this up to 24 hours in advance.
Fire up your BBQ with a load of charcoal. Once heated, place a water tray filled with tap water underneath the cooking grate, where the cauliflower will be cooked. The cauliflower needs to sit above the water tray, not directly above the coals.
Place your cauliflower above the water tray and throw a handful of your soaked wood chips onto the charcoal. Place the lid back onto the BBQ, you want to aim for a nice gentle trickle of smoke, rather than a raging torrent of it. Add more wood chips if the smoke disappears, also make sure your water bath doesn’t dry up, add more hot water if it does. The cooking process should take about 1 hour, test the cauliflower by inserting a knife into it. Aim for a little bit of resistance when you test it. If the knife just slides in unaided, then it’s time to whip the cauliflower off the grill. If it’s still very firm cook for a while longer and make sure your vents are open to ensure there’s still decent heat in the BBQ.
Once finished, I sliced my smoked cauliflower like a cake and served on the side of some plain grilled fish. It was a fantastic addition and the great thing about smoking vegetables as opposed to meat or fish is that you don’t have to worry about how precise your cooking temperatures and times are, as long as your vegetable is roughly cooked. In that sense, they make fantastic things to smoke for beginners or when you’re just trying to learn how smoking works.