The Magpie Anthology

Cauliflower popcorn with black vinegar dipping sauce

Here at Magpie Towers we love a barbi (we never let The Husband near it as everything ends up uniformly cremated) but we were thinking that our sides could do with a bit of oomph and a get away from the boring coleslaw / corn combos. So, here’s something we came across from cookbook writer Ravinder Bhogal – if you haven’t already got her new book Jikoni, we can highly recommend – especially the lamb Wellington…

Serves 4 as a starter (or as a bbq side)

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets 
Small handful of Thai basil leaves
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 red chillies, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Groundnut oil, for deep-frying
Lime wedges, to serve 

For the dipping sauce

100ml Chinese vinegar
80ml light soy sauce
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Small thumb of ginger, finely grated
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted 

For the batter

2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
200g plain flour 
4 tbsp cornflour 
About 300ml ice-cold sparkling water 

To make the dipping sauce, simply whisk together all the ingredients. For the batter, heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast the peppercorns until they are aromatic. Tip into a pestle and mortar, along with the salt, and crush to a coarse powder. Empty out into a mixing bowl, add both flours and mix well. Now whisk in the sparkling water, adding just enough to make a batter with a double-cream consistency, and being careful not to overbeat.

Fill a large, heavy-based saucepan a third full with the deep-frying oil. Heat the oil to 180C – if you don’t have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Dip the pieces of cauliflower into the batter, one at a time, letting the excess drip off, and deep-fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Dip the basil leaves in batter and fry in the same way. When you have finished frying the cauliflower and basil leaves, carefully pour out most of the oil from the pan, leaving just a few tablespoons. Place over medium-high heat and flash-fry the spring onions, chillies and garlic for a minute or so, until the garlic is just beginning to colour. Drain on kitchen paper, scatter over the cauliflower and toss. Serve immediately, with lime wedges for squeezing and the dipping sauce alongside.

Pic: (Kristin Perers)

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