I have adapted the classic Mughlai recipe, Murgh Musallam, to create this dish. Musallam means ‘whole’ and, in my family, we make this spiced whole cauliflower dish for special guests so it looks as visually impressive as any of the meat dishes on the table.
Since my brother married a vegetarian, my mother has mastered the art of converting traditional heritage meat recipes into vegetarian dishes. This is one of them. Conveniently, this cauliflower dish can be prepared and cooked in advance, then reheated in a low oven.
1tbs whole milk
6 strands good-quality saffron
1 medium cauliflower, trimmed
2 medium onions, thinly sliced into half moons
1tbs garlic paste
2tbs fresh ginger paste
500ml full-fat natural (plain) yogurt
1tsp ground garam masala (cloves, cardamom, cassia bark, Indian bay leaf, nutmeg and mace roasted and ground)
1tbs ground coriander
½tsp chilli powder
1½tsp salt (adjust to taste)
4 drops of natural orange food colouring (optional)
Almond and pistachio slivers, to garnish
Gently warm the milk in a pan. Do not boil the milk; it should only be tepid as you do not want to scald the saffron. Touch the surface to check the temperature, then add the saffron strands and leave to infuse.
In a pan or wok, heat the ghee over a medium-high heat. Add the whole cauliflower and fry until brown on all sides. Remove from the pan, place on a plate to drain and set aside.
In the ghee left in the pan or wok, fry the onions until golden brown and caramelised.
Remove the onions to a plate to drain. Grind the onions to a paste.
Stir the onion, garlic and ginger pastes into the yogurt, then add the ground garam masala, ground coriander, chilli powder, salt, sugar, saffron-infused milk and food colouring (if using).
Place the whole cauliflower base down in a deep cast-iron casserole dish.
Pour the yogurt marinade over the cauliflower, then cover loosely with parchment paper and leave for 20 minutes.
Place the casserole dish over a medium heat to cook the cauliflower, keeping it loosely covered with the parchment paper. Lift the paper and baste the cauliflower regularly with the yogurt sauce to make sure it cooks evenly – depending on the size of the cauliflower, this should take 30-40 minutes. The cauliflower is cooked when a skewer goes in easily with only a slight resistance. Do not overcook the cauliflower: bear in mind that the cauliflower will continue to cook a little after you take it off the heat.
Before serving, taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
To serve, place the cauliflower whole on a serving plate or dish, then garnish with almond and pistachio slivers. Slice to serve.