Crispy Cauliflower with Ras el Hanout, Tahini and Date Syrup



Last week’s warm weekend, with its ingratiating mantra and promise of sunnier climes, tricked me into thinking spring had arrived.  One minute I was making daisy chains in The Mother-in-Law’s garden with two nymphy children running naked circles around me; the next I’m impersonating a drowned rat towing two smaller drowned rats through gale-force winds and bucketing rain.  However, I will not succumb and allow the weather to batter my optimism for the springtide.  Instead I battered some cauliflower, all the while reminding myself that the rain is good for the garden.

On my recent trip to Israel with The Husband and kids, I was reminded that this crazy, beautiful country has such a wonderful food culture.  Influenced by the many peoples who have passed through, we feasted upon the fruits of their histories and of their land.  We ate spiced chicken livers with secular Israelis in Tel Aviv, the headiest zhough (a delicious Yemenite fiery, green chili paste) from a humble stall in a shuk, hamishe chicken soup with Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, baklava that tasted like liquid gold, and the freshest seafood with Arabs in Jaffa.  And one of my best discoveries was the way they cook cauliflower: charred whole on a grill or fried until golden, it transcends the transgressing British way of boiling the life out of the cauliflower until you are left with nothing more than a pappy and soggy yellowing corpse.


So, allow me to introduce to you my very easy and incredibly moreish recipe for Crispy Cauliflower with Ras el Hanout, Tahini and Date Syrup.  The family went crazy for this dish, with its sweet spiced charms and its crispy and creamy texture.  It takes minutes to make and serves four grown ups as a starter.


Ras el Hanout is an intoxicating blend of spices originating in Morocco and used throughout North Africa.  Like many spice mixes, there isn’t one definitive blend, but the one I have includes rose petals, paprika, cumin seed, coriander seed, salt, chilli, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel seed, turmeric, cardamom, mace, pink peppercorn,  black onion seed, ginger, nutmeg, star anise, and clove.  I particularly like the floral balance of the rose petals and their aphrodisiac suggestiveness: roses in cooking will forever remind me of this wonderful scene from one of my favourite books-to-films, ‘Like Water for Chocolate’, although don’t expect my cauliflower to have the same sort of effect (especially if your mother-in-law is dining with you).


1 cauliflower
50g gram (chickpea) flour
2 teaspoons of ras el hanout
3 tablespoons of tahini
1 tablespoons of date syrup
1 tablespoon of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Oil for frying (such as coconut, groundnut or sunflower), enough to fill your frying pan 5cm up from the bottom


Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Whilst you do this, wash and cut up your cauliflower into chunky florets.


Plunge the florets into the water and blanche for a couple of minutes.  Drain and pat dry.


Mix the ras al hanout spice mix with the gram flour and add the cauliflower whilst still warm.  Using your hands coat all the florets well.


Pour the oil into a heavy-bottomed frying pan, covering so that the oil reaches around 5cm up the side.  Heat over a medium/high heat.  When the oil is hot (but not smoking) add the cauliflower (in batches if your pan isn’t large enough) and fry until golden brown – this will probably take around 5 minutes – ensuring your turn the florets so they colour evenly and do not burn.


Remove from the pan and drain on some paper towel.


Whilst still warm, arrange on either one large serving plate or smaller plates, and dress liberally with the tahini, date syrup and a scattering of coriander.  (I also finished my dish with some deliciously delicate wild garlic flowers from the mother-in-law’s garden.  Makes it look all fancy shmancy.)

12 thoughts on “Crispy Cauliflower with Ras el Hanout, Tahini and Date Syrup

  1. I love ras el hanout! I make my own (which doesn’t yet involve rose petals, though I keep meaning to get my hands on some to throw in!) & put it in loads of things. It’s nice sprinkled on hummus (a bit of ras el hanout & a drizzle of olive oil transforms a bog standard supermarket pot!), stirred into vaguely north african stew type dishes, on roast veg, etc. Will def have to try your cauliflower recipe!

    • Ooh, you’ll have to send me your recipe for ras el hanout. Enjoy the roasted cauli – let me know how it turns out!

      • Well, roasting it didn’t quite work out… I did the gram flour coating but should have just stuck to sprinkling it with ras el hanout as the gram flour made it a bit dry & “grainy”, but it tasted nice!

        Will just go look up my recipe for ras el hanout…

        • OK, it’s pretty long but most of the ingredients are optional – I’ve written them roughly in order of priority though so if you just make sure you use the most important ones plus a few of the others it should turn out fine. The last few items (rose petals etc) are things I’ve never added but are sometimes found in authentic versions – even the last item on the list is reputed to be included in some 😉

          There are as many recipes for it as there are spice sellers in Morocco, there isn’t one definitive version so you can mix it up a bit (literally!).

          1 tsp cinnamon/cassia (or 1 3 inch stick)
          1/4-1/2 tsp saffron
          1-2 tsp turmeric
          1/2 – 1 tb peppercorns (black or a mixture of black & white)
          2 tsp ground ginger
          1 tsp allspice berries
          1 whole nutmeg
          1 tsp – 1 tb cumin seeds
          1 – 2 tb paprika
          1 tsp mace
          1 – 2 tsp (green) cardamom seeds
          1 whole black cardamom pod
          2 cloves
          2 tsp salt
          pinch – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
          1/4 tsp aniseeds/fennel
          a few szechuan peppercorns
          1/4 – 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
          1/4 tsp caraway seeds
          1/2 tsp dark sugar
          1 tb rose petals or 10 dried rosebuds
          1/4 tsp lavender
          1-2 pieces dried galangal
          1/2 – 1 tsp cubeb peppers
          1/2 tsp grains of paradise
          hashish 😉

          • I did recently manage to find cubeb peppers though so planning on trying a version with that soon! Also wondering whether I could do something clever with rose water (e.g. sprinkle it on the spice mix then spread it all out to dry?). I haven’t seen rose petals for sale anywhere, and I don’t have a fresh source of the right type of rose petals.

          • Ooh, never heard of cubeb peppers! Will have to look those up. What do you use them for? You can buy ras el hanout from Sainsburys (and I’m sure other supermarkets and ethnic stores will sell it. Also, there’s a place down here in Bath that sell things like rose petals called – they deliver, I think. Rose water may work if you mix it into a dressing for the cauliflower but I’m not sure… you’ll have to try and let me know!

        • Roasted cauli is my absolute fave. I throw on lots of spices and olive oil, and it’s just perfect like that. Thanks for the ras el hanout recipe… like every spice mix I don’t think there’s a definitive one and every one has an opinion!

  2. Actually, you’ve inspired me – I’m going to try something very similar to your recipe, but roasting the cauli rather than frying it. I have mostly root veg in my fridge which I was considering roasting anyway, so I’ll sprinkle that with ras el hanout too. Mmmm…

  3. Will be trying that, looks delicious and I’m forever getting cauliflower in my veg box. No more will we moan when the next one is delivered!!

Comments are closed.