Fried chicken is one of the non-vegan foods I find myself craving the most often. The plant-based alternatives, mostly made out of seitan, which are often served up in city junk food joints never really hit the spot for me as they lack that real-deal, sour, oily, goodness that oozes out of the chicken fat during frying.
Fake meat is always welcome when it comes to vegan junk food, but this version I put together using fried cauliflower florets and chimichurri hits it out of the park for me much more in terms of texture, flavour and availability. It’s also incredibly cheap to make, especially if you have a herb garden handy.
The idea for the recipe came to me after eating gobi kempu, an Indian dish of spicy fried cauliflower with fresh curry leaves, and some cauliflower fried in what tasted like a dukkah batter on a meze plate at the ‘Plant Powered Sundays’ food market that GRUB host at Mayfield in Manchester. I figured a lighter flavoured batter would give a more a neutral taste so I could take the sour, fatty, flavor to the extreme with a chimichurri sauce. It’s light, crispy and satisfying. This dish works great as small plate to share between friends, or as a meal in itself.
Total time: 30 Minutes
Serves: 4-6 as a sharer
– 25g (or a few handfuls) fresh coriander – finely chopped
– 25g (or a few handfuls) fresh parsley – finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano – finely chopped
– 3-4 tbsp white wine vinegar
– 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 4 cloves garlic minced
– 1 tbsp finely sliced shallot
– 1-2 tsp fresh chilli
Crispy Fried Cauliflower
– 1 large cauliflower trimmed to florets
– Vegetable oil for frying
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 3 tbsp cornflower (plus extra from coating)
– 200g all purpose flour
– 250 ml of cold sparkling water
– 4 tsp smoked paprika
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp ground tumeric
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– ¼ tsp ground cardomom
– 2 tsp ground black pepper
– 1/2 tsp Salt (or to taste)
Make the chimichurri by mixing the ingredients together in a medium bowl and then leave to infuse for about 20-30 minutes.
While that’s going on, heat a cm of oil in a large pan. To make the batter, pour the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and blend in the water gradually, using a stabbing motion with the spatula to mix. The batter should be thick enough to stick on the cauliflower but light enough to taste good and cook quickly. Think thinner than honey but thicker than a condiment sauce.
Drop a little of the batter into the oil to check that it’s hot enough to crisp up, coat the raw cauliflower florets in the batter, roll in some corn flower and then drop it piece by piece into the oil, turning every now and again with tongues to cook evenly. It should take 3-5 minutes or so on each side to get a nice golden coating.
When cooked, dry off any excess oil with kitchen towel, transfer to a serving plate and spoon over the chimichurri.