Cauliflower Popcorn with Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce

“Deep-frying is like the icing sugar of cookery – it just makes everything taste so much better! This crisp, battered manifestation of the humble cauliflower is based on one of the dishes I can never resist when I go to a Chinese restaurant: salt and pepper squid,” says food writer and chef Ravinder Bhogal.

“The batter is laced with mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns, which are dry-roasted to tease out their fragrance and flavour, along with some more assertive black peppercorns for a bit of heat. Importantly, the popcorn should really be scarfed as soon as it hits the plate.”

Read: Cauliflower, Lemon and Chilli Pasta

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I had been missing moments like this at the pass so much (this was for a big event we did) but has been great firing up the ovens again for @comfortandjoybyjikoni – to have the buzz and banter return – just missing our guests now. #comfortandjoybyjikoni #jikonilondon 📸 @miss_ebp

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Serves: 4 as a starter

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • small handful of Thai basil leaves
  • 6 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • groundnut oil, for deep-frying ( or peanut oil)
  • lime wedges, to serve

For the dipping sauce:

  • 100ml Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 80ml light soy sauce
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • small thumb of ginger, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

For the batter:

  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 200g plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons cornflour
  • about 300ml ice-cold sparkling water

Cauliflower popcorn from Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen by Ravinder Bhogal (Kristin Perers/PA)
Cauliflower popcorn (Kristin Perers/PA)

To make the dipping sauce, simply whisk together all the ingredients.

Read: Popcorn Cauliflower and Broccoli

For the batter, heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast the peppercorns until they’re aromatic. Tip into a pestle and mortar, along with the salt, and crush to a coarse powder. Empty into a mixing bowl, add both flours and mix well. Now whisk in the sparkling water, adding just enough to make a batter with a double-cream consistency, and being careful not to over beat.

Fill a large, heavy-based saucepan a third full with the deep-frying oil. Heat the oil to 180°C – if you don’t have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Dip the pieces of cauliflower into the batter, one at a time, letting the excess drip off, and deep-fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Dip the basil leaves in batter and fry in the same way. When you’ve finished frying the cauliflower and basil leaves, carefully pour out most of the oil from the pan, leaving just a few tablespoons. Place over medium-high heat and flash-fry the spring onions, chillies and garlic for a minute or so, until the garlic is just beginning to colour. Drain on kitchen paper, scatter over the cauliflower and toss.

Read: Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

Serve immediately, with lime wedges for squeezing and the dipping sauce alongside.

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Here it is! The cover of my book Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen which is being published by @bloomsburycooks on May 28th 🦜🦜🦜 “Our recipes displayed a rebellious spirit, lawless concoctions that drew their influences from one nation and then another. We took the traditions of our ancestors and their regional home cooking and overlaid them with the reality of our new home and whatever its various food markets, delis, canteens and multicultural supermarkets had to offer on any given day. This is what I suppose could be loosely termed ‘immigrant cuisine’, proudly inauthentic recipes that span geography, ethnicity and history.” 🌍 🌍 🌍 Moving from Kenya 🇰🇪 to Britain 🇬🇧 as a child meant contending with immense homesickness. There was an ache for what we had left behind, yet the wonder of our new landscape. The steady stability of mealtimes became hugely important in our efforts to settle in and what emerged from our kitchen were hybrid dishes that were, in part, acts of self-preservation but yet unshackled by rules or cultural accuracy. Amongst the 100 plus recipes I have also written a series of stories which are deeply personal – about reconciling the old and new worlds, preserving memories and traditions while adapting and letting go a little, settling and finding a place in the world around us and expressing it through food. 🥭 🦜 I am immensely grateful to many people particularly my husband Nadeem who really made it possible for me to have some time and space to write, the wonderful team and kindred spirits @jikonilondon, Adam @creativefamilylondon for interpreting my vision for the cover with these beautifully hand painted migrant birds and ingredients @kristinperers @tabhawkins @jossherd73 for being such great collaborators and friends, and to Mr Salman Rushdie and Mr Yotam Ottolenghi for being inspiring and generous always. The link for pre-orders is in my profile. Thank you for all the love, support and kindness always. I can’t wait to share this book with you all and hope you enjoy it! ❤️❤️❤️ #jikonicookbook #jikonilondon

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Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From An Immigrant Kitchen by Ravinder Bhogal, photography by Kristin Perers, is available now.

– With PA

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