Cauliflower steaks with zahter

I didn’t want to waste any of the cauliflower which is why the ‘steaks’ are served on top of the mash. The dish also works very well as it is, though, without the mash, if you want to do without. In this case the leftover cauliflower can simply be added to a salad, coarsely grated, thinly sliced or just broken into small florets. If you do make the mash you’ll have twice as much as you need for this recipe. It keeps in the fridge for 3 days and can be warmed through for another meal. It’s great served alongside sausages or any grilled meat, or just spread on toast for a snack.
I’ve been using the spice blend za’atar – a mix of sumac, sesame seeds and hyssop – in my cooking for many years. The availability of the fresh herb Zahter, though, preserved in oil and vinegar, is a new addition to my pantry and one I could get a little bit addicted to. It has long thin leaves like thyme but, unlike thyme, is something you can eat quite a lot of as it is, spooned alongside all sorts of grilled meats. It’s not cheap, but a little goes a very long way your jar will last you a good long time. It’s not widely available in supermarkets, at the moment, so you’ll need to go online to find it. Picked oregano leaves can also be used, as an alternative.

With credit to David Bravo, one of our chefs in Spitalfields.

4 people

Serving size


2 large cauliflowers, trimmed and leaves discarded (1.3kg)
70g unsalted butter
2 sprigs of sage (6g) 
8 strips of finely shaved lemon skin 
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice 
3 tbsp olive oil (or 60ml, if using oregano instead of the zahter) 
1 onion, finely chopped (170g) 
1 tbsp cider vinegar 
1 tsp honey 
3 tbsp zahter, drained from its oil (or 3 tablespoons of picked oregano leaves) 
20g baby capers, pat dried 
5g coriander, roughly chopped 


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.

  2. Sit the cauliflowers upright on your chopping board and cut two thick slices out of the centre of each cauliflower. You want the four slices – or ‘steaks’ – to remain held together at the base and each be about 4 centimetres thick. You should have about 400 grams of trimmings. Break these into even-sized pieces (if making the mash) and set aside.

  3. Add all of the butter to a large frying pan (or half the butter to two medium frying pans, if your large one is not able to fit in all four steaks) and place on a medium heat with the sage, lemon skin and ¾ teaspoon salt (or half in each pan, if using two). Once the butter starts to foam, add the cauliflower steaks, turning them in the pan so that they get covered in salt and butter on both sides. Fry gently for about 8 minutes, until golden-brown underneath and then flip the steaks over. Fry for another 8 minutes, until nearly cooked, and then transfer to a parchment-lined tray. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through. Keep somewhere warm until ready to serve.

  4. If making the mash, fill a medium saucepan with plenty of salted water and place on a high heat. Once boiling, add the cauliflower trimmings and boil for 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is really soft. Drain and then place in a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, 2 tablespoon of water and a 1/8th of salt. Blitz to combine, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then keep somewhere warm until ready to serve. Add 1½ tablespoons of oil to a medium frying pan (or 2½ tablespoons, if you are using the oregano leaves) and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry for 8 minutes until soft and caramelised. Add the vinegar and honey, stir through for a minute and then add the zahter (or oregano), along with a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  5. Add the remaining 1½ tablespoons of oil to a small saucepan and place on a high heat. Once hot, add the capers and fry for about a minute, until the capers have opened out and are crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the oil and set aside on a kitchen paper-lined plate.

  6. When you are ready to serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cauliflower and tahini mash onto each plate (if you have made it) and spread out into a thin layer, not much larger than the cauliflower steaks. Place the cauliflower steaks on top and then spoon over the onion and zahter (or oregano) salsa. Finish with a sprinkle of the crispy capers, along with the coriander, and serve.