I know I promised you that bhaji recipe – and it is on the way – but an opportunity has presented itself to me to be vaguely topical so it would be remiss of me not to take it.
The not-fake-but-so-preposterous-it-could-be news earlier this week was that KFC had to close two-thirds of its UK branches because it had run out of chicken. Seriously? That’s like Costa running out of coffee beans. Or Piers Morgan running out of bullshit. Or UKIP post-Brexit.
Needless to say, The Great British Public is outraged. The police have had to issue a request urging people not to call them regarding the #KFCCrisis (#morons). KFC has set up an emergency online service so people can locate stores that remain open with a ‘limited’ menu, whatever that means. Bargain buckets of slaw or baked beans perhaps?
But fear not people, I have come up with an alternative. It uses an ingredient that is cheap, healthy and in plentiful supply in the UK: the humble cauliflower. Marinate it, coat it and cook it in the same way as you would Southern fried chicken, and you have a meal that will satisfy not only vegetarians craving a little filth in their diet, but meat eaters like me, who happen to love vegetarian food. And you might even convert a few fried chicken lovers along the way.
Southern fried cauliflower tacos with homemade buffalo sauce
My family (The Husband included) who would previously only tolerate cauliflower if blanketed in a copious amount of cheese sauce, loved this, but if you have ardent carnivores in yours, the marinade and coating can be used on chicken and I daresay, other animal proteins. Squirrel anyone?
For the cauliflower
- 1 medium head cauliflower, broken or cut into small florets
- sunflower or vegetable oil for shallow frying
- flaky sea salt
- 8 -16 corn or wheat soft tacos, depending on appetite (the Wahaca ones are great – available from Ocado) or you could use standard sized tortillas
- Shredded red cabbage and iceberg lettuce
- grated cheddar or crumbled feta
- buffalo sauce, shop bought or see recipe below
- sour cream
- pickled jalapenos
- coriander leaves
For the marinade
- 250ml buttermilk
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp onion salt
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of white pepper, good grinding of black
For the coating
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- a good grinding of black pepper
- Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the cauliflower florets and use your hands to coat well with the mixture. Leave for an hour or so if you can.
- In a wide bowl or rimmed tray, stir the coating ingredients together and toss each floret in this until evenly coated.
- Heat about a centimetre of oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the cauliflower in batches, on each side until golden and crispy. *
- Drain on kitchen towel and sprinkle over a little flaky sea salt.
- Assemble your tacos as you see fit.
Homemade buffalo sauce
- 150g hot/chilli sauce (I used Linghams)
- 125g cold unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice, white wine or cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- pinch garlic powder
- pinch salt
- Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk gently over a medium heat until the butter has melted. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat, stir and serve either warm or cool. Add water to loosen if it becomes too thick. Keeps well covered in the fridge for a week, but bring to room temperature before serving.
* For a healthier version, bake the cauliflower in an oven preheated to 190°C (fan). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper, spritz the florets with oil spray or drizzle with a little oil and bake until caramelised – about 30-40 mins.
Ten minutes before the end of cooking time, brush over some buffalo sauce and return to oven – this will stop it from tasting too dry and worthy.