Baked Cauliflower in Tomato sauce

Okay, so there are people who don't like cauliflower and some who don't like me posting recipes with cauliflower in them ;) If you are reading this, you'll know this is for you!

Winter is officially over in Hyd with temperatures raring to touch 40 C. At such times, I still find spotlessly white head of cauliflower waiting to be picked up and used, so what else can I do but that? The idea for this dish comes a recipe I found in the book- From Bengal to Punjab : the cuisines of India by Smita Chandra - which has a very interesting collection of recipes and most of them are available on preview in the link above.
I've tried the recipe Gobhi Mazedar from this book, which turned out superb. In fact, the hubby and me ate off the stuff from the baking dish and that was our dinner that night.

This time to pair with the pasta, I tried an Italian version of this dish - which turned out as good. In fact if you have a good loaf of bread on hand, you can dish out an excellent meal with just the bread and this baked cauliflower dish. There are two ways to do the dish - either deal with the cauliflower whole or break into large florets which will cook / bake faster if you are short of time.

Baked cauliflower in tomato sauce
Serves 4-6

1 large cauliflower roughly 750 grams - very fresh
10 medium tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions
8 cloves of garlic
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice (optional)

The Cauliflower
Remove the stalks of the cauliflower. Discard or reserve for another use.
If you have a pot big enough to hold the whole flower, then fill it with around 2L water. Add 2 tsp salt. Let it come to a boil. Meanwhile keep the cauliflower immersed in a large pot of salted water to remove any worms if present.
If you dont have a pot big enough or not enough time on hand, then break the cauliflower into big florets and keep immersed in salted water, until a pot of water comes to a boil.
When the water starts to boil, remove the cauliflower from the salted water and place it in the pot bottom down (if using whole). Cover and cook for around 10-12 minutes, checking until almost done. The florets will take shorter time, around 6-7 minutes, so keep a watch. Don't let them turn too soft.
Once this is done, drain, wipe thoroughly with tea towel and keep aside.

The sauce
Wash tomatoes well. Halve them and throw them in a pot. Let them cook in their own juices on medium heat. No need to add water. Stir around occasionally until they get mashed to a pulp. At this stage you could pass them through a strainer to remove the skins or keep it as it is (which is what I did). Remove and cool.
In a saucepan, heat 2 tsp olive oil. Add the cruches garlic cloves and sliced onions, stir until the garlic is light golden and onion is soft.
In a blender, place the cooled tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper - whir to a very smooth sauce. If you find this runny, which could happen if your tomatoes were very juicy, take this back in the saucepan and thicken with a slurry made from 1 tbsp flour and 1/4 cup water, simmer till thick and then proceed with recipe.

Grease a 9" round baking dish. Place the cauliflower in it. Reserve 1/2 cup sauce to use while serving. For whole cauliflower, spoon the sauce between all the florets and whatever sauce remains, pour it and rub it over the top, so the flavours enter every nook and cranny.
For the florets, arrange the florets stem down - neatly in a baking dish that accommodates it all - pour the tomato sauce (reserving 1/2 cup) all over and around the florets, pressing well.
The dish can be prepared up to this stage, covered well and refrigerated for a day or two, to be removed and baked just before serving.

Cover the top of the dish with bread crumbs, cheese, extra herbs, pepper and bake in a 180 C oven for around 30 minutes, unt cheese is melted and golden.

Serve hot along with a simple pasta (preferably not in a tomato sauce) or with slices of bread.

Please do try the original recipe Gobhi Mazedar. You'll enjoy browsing that cookbook online, it has a fantastic collection of recipes. Better still if you can lay your hands on it in your bookshop / library, you can see the book in its entirety. If the link does not work, you can try searching in Google ebooks for 'Smita Chandra Gobhi Mazedar'.

This is a very hearty flavoursome dish which will make a great addition to your menu for an Italian party. I served this with Penne in Spinach sauce and the green and red complemented each other beautifully.

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