Cauliflower (gobi), when fried or baked in batter takes on a different taste and texture, one that makes cauliflower-haters enjoy it. I made this for someone who refers to cauliflower as “broccoli’s evil cousin,” and he liked it a lot.
I’ve made other cauliflower dishes with a chickpea flour batter: pakoras from my first book, and the caesar salad with crispy cauliflower and chickpea fritters from High Protein Vegan. The Indo Chinese dish gobi manchurian is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while – it usually consists of cauliflower fried in a flavoured wheat and corn starch batter, with a spicy tomato and chili sauce and I thought it would work brilliantly using chickpea flour instead of the other flours. This makes it gluten-free and high enough in protein to be a satisfying and filling main dish when served alongside some rice or quinoa, and maybe a side salad with plenty of crunchy lettuce.
This recipe has been made soy-free by using coconut aminos and some extra salt where soy sauce would normally be used. Soy-free chickpea or adzuki miso will also work, and if you have no problems with soy, then regular non-gmo soy tamari, shoyu or another kind of naturally fermented soy sauce can also be used.
This is a hearty and savoury dish that can be made really quickly (or the batter can be soaked overnight, for the best nutrition).
Gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, grain-free, low fat option, under 45 minutes
For the battered cauliflower:
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (besan)
3/4 cup water
optional 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons coconut aminos (or tamari, or naturally fermented soy sauce, or miso)
1 teaspoon finely chopped red chili
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (use only 1/2 teaspoon if using tamari, soy sauce or miso instead of coconut aminos)
1 small-medium cauliflower (around 500g)
olive oil, for frying
For the sauce:
optional 2-4 teaspoons sesame seeds
2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil or olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1-3 teaspoons finely chopped chili
1/2 cup tomato purée (passata) (to make it yourself, just put some tomatoes in a food processor and process until smooth)
2-3 tablespoons coconut aminos, miso, naturally fermented gmo-free soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons coconut sugar, rapadura, sucanat or jaggery
salt, to taste
2 teaspoons tapioca flour or non-gmo corn starch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water
For the best nutrition, combine the chickpea flour with 3/4 cup lukewarm water and the lemon juice and leave it to sit in a large bowl, covered, at room temperature overnight (it should be a thick batter).
Mix through the garlic, ginger, coconut aminos, chili and salt.
Gently divide the cauliflower into florets. Chop the larger ones in half if you wish. Thoroughly coat these in the batter*
The rest of this recipe comes together really quickly, so measure out and prechop all the sauce ingredients.
In a large dry saucepan, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until they taste toasted. Remove from the pan and set aside until later.
Put around 1cm (1/2″) olive oil in a large pan. Heat over medium-high heat. To test the heat, add a piece of the coated cauliflower, the oil should fizz up around the cauliflower right away. Fry the cauliflower in batches until golden-brown, flipping the pieces over halfway through frying. It takes 2-3 batches in a 24cm chef pan. Drain the fritters in a colander lined with a tea towel.
Alternatively, for a lower fat option, bake on greased or lined baking sheets in an oven preheated to 180c (350f) for half an hour, flipping the pieces over after 25 minutes.
When all the cauliflower has finished cooking, heat the toasted sesame oil in a large saucepan over a heat between medium-high and high. When the oil is hot, stir through the onion for two minutes, then stir through the ginger and garlic for one minute. Stir through the chili for thirty seconds, then add the tomato purée, coconut aminos and coconut sugar. Stir through until bubbling then taste, and adjust the seasonings with salt and chili (it should be fairly hot, but still edible and tasty). Keep stirring for another minute or two, to allow the sauce to reduce, then quickly stir through the tapioca flour and water mixture. Quickly add the fried cauliflower and stir to coat. Serve right away, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
*if you have extra batter left over, cut an onion into half moons (or use any other chopped, fast cooking vegetable) and coat in the batter, then fry after the cauliflower has finished.