Roasted, Korean Cauliflower Leaves
Just when you thought cauliflower couldn't provide us with any more versatility, we realise that the leaves can be used for a whole load of other magical ways! I only recently realised that you could eat cauliflower leaves and I was astounded that it's not common knowledge. Why are there very few recipes out there and why, in this age of reducing food waste, is it not being shouted from the rooftops. The leaves taste like any other vegetable so what am I missing?
Cauliflower has been taken from the ugly duckling of vegetables to the most beautiful swan of all making regular appearances of restaurant menus. It's treated almost like a delicacy where it can made into chargrilled 'steaks', mashed into rich purees, shaved into salads and even use to make 'chicken wings'. With the increase in popularity there is only a matter of time before everyone wakes up to the wonder of cauliflower leaves. Especially in the current increasing awareness on food waste these cauliflower leaves are sure to be a hit.
Well after not finding much recipe inspiration, I decided to make my own and then share it with you! So here is my roasted Korean cauliflower leaf recipe. I pretty much use this recipe quite a bit on cauliflower florets so it wasn't much work to adapt it for the leaves. When I use this recipe for cauliflower florets I will often deep fry them to get them super crispy but I wanted to make a healthier version. It's definitely not the same crispiness as deep frying but roasting the cauliflower leaves still makes an impressive dish.
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Why use the leaves of a cauliflower?
Think of it as free food. An ingredient that you may have previously thrown away can now be made into an amazing meal or side. There are literally so many ways that cauliflower leaves can be eaten so why wouldn't we want to take advantage of this opportunity. Saving food from the bin is always a win in my eyes.
What do cauliflower leaves taste like?
For me, cauliflower leaves taste different depending on how they are cooked. Boiled or steamed it is like a milder cabbage. Roasted it kind of tastes like crispy kale. It is a vegetable that can really soak up some flavours so can be a side dish for many cuisines.
How to use cauliflower leaves?
So other than this roasted Korean cauliflower leaf recipe, cauliflower leaves can be used in many other ways. Eat steamed as a side in the place of spinach, kale or chard. You can also add cauliflower leaves to a stir-fry or fermented in kimchi. The leaves can also make a great snack just roasted with some oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of sugar.
When you have chosen how to cook your cauliflower leaves then you can decide what to eat with it. You can serve you roasted leaves with other roasted vegetables with your main meal. Serve with a lovely bit of meat or fish or make a delicious warm salad with nuts, vegetables and dressing. Any way you decide to experiment with your cauliflower leaves, it will be delicious.
I will often keep it simple and shred and steam my cauliflower leaves. I'll have it on the side of any dish and then sprinkle it with salt or pour a dash of soy sauce over the top. But if I have quite a few leave to use up I will make this roasted Korean cauliflower leaf recipe.
Health benefits of cauliflower leaves
Another great reason to eat cauliflower leaves is that they are packed with nutritional goodness.
Cauliflower leaves are a great source of fibre and vitamin C. They also contain a pretty decent amount of vitamin A, calcium, potassium and folate. The selenium in cauliflower leaves also works well with the vitamin C to help boost the immune system. The leaves are a good source of iron and antioxidants as well so they are jam-packed with goodness.
Can I use this recipe on cauliflower?
You can definitely use this recipe with cauliflower florets. There a few slight changes but nothing too drastic.
So firstly, you want to slice your florets into 1 1/2cm thick slices. When mixing the flours together add a little water at a time until you get a thick batter and then dip your cauliflower in the batter— you may need to make additional batter. Place in the fridge as normal.
When baking the cauliflower florets, you will need to bake them a little longer. Instead of 5 minutes, stir then 5 minutes, you will need to bake for 7 minutes, flip and then check at 7 minutes. If the florets aren't crispy, keep adding 2 minutes to the timer until they golden and crispy. Follow the rest of the roasted cauliflower leaves recipe as normal.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is used in Korean cooking and has such a wonderful spicy, sweet and salty flavour that brings a great balance to many dishes.
It is a red chilli paste that also contains fermented soybeans and glutinous rice. It's a thick, sticky condiment that is very concentrated to create a strong flavour. Heat levels can vary between the different brands so just double check when you are buying in case you don't want a super super spicy Gochujang. There is usually a spice-level indicator on the packaging.
How to use Gochujang?
Think of Gochujang as having similar properties as miso paste. It is concentrated flavour in a jar/ tub so you can't really use it as it is. It usually thinned out with other ingredients to make marinades for meat or stirred into dipping sauces. Gochujang can also be used in soups or stews to bump up the flavour.
The thickness of Gochujang also means it doesn't have a great texture if it isn't watered down. and because Gochujang contains sugar, marinated meats can burn easily if being seared or grilled so its best to use as a dipping sauce in this case.
Roasted Korean Cauliflower Leaves (extended)
120g Cauliflower leaves, chopped
2 tbsp Plain flour
2 tbsp Cornflour
4 tbsp Light brown sugar
2 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp White pepper
1 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Gochujang
4 tsp Soy sauce
4 drops Fish sauce
Preparing the cauliflower leaves
Place the chopped cauliflower leaves in a bowl and drizzle around 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over the top. Stir the cauliflower leaves until all the pieces are evenly coated in the oil.
In a separate bowl mix together the flour and cornflour. Add the cauliflower leaves and mix until all of it has an even coating. Cover the bowl and then place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Tip: if you want to add some extra flavour to your cauliflower leaves then feel free to add some extra spices to the flour mix such as ground ginger or five spice.
Baking the cauliflower leaves
Five minutes before taking the cauliflower leaves out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Grease a large baking tray and then take your cauliflower leaves out of the fridge. Evenly spread out the cauliflower leaves on the baking tray making sure there are no overlapping leaves— you may need to use 2 baking trays.
Bake for 5 minutes and then stir. Bake for a further 5 minutes or until the leaves are crispy but not burnt.
Note: the leaves can burn very quickly so it's a good idea to keep an eye on them when they're in the oven.
Making the Gochujang sauce
You can make the sauce while the cauliflower leaves are baking. Start by placing the rest of the ingredients in a pan with 150ml of water. Place on a medium heat and simmer until the sauce becomes sticky and thick (about 5 minutes). Stir often to make sure the sauce doesn't stick. Remove from the heat.
Coating the cauliflower
Add the baked cauliflower leaves to the pan and stir to coat them in the sauce. Serve up with some sticky rice spring onion, sesame seeds and pickled cucumber—all optional of course.
Tip: eat the baked, Korean cauliflower leaves straight away to enjoy them at their crispiest.