"If you make this dish correctly, you’ll be asking yourself if you’ve burnt it," says Rumi's Joseph Abboud.

“It’s okay. My training in modern European kitchens where everything had to be golden brown had me second-guessing, too. It just doesn’t taste the same if it is golden brown. It’s that dark bittersweet flavour that transforms cauliflower.”

This dish has been on the menu at Rumi since the day we opened and was inspired by Rita Macali’s cauliflower at Ladro, then later at Supermaxi. Before that, the only cauliflower you’d find in Melbourne was the unwanted friend of broccoli and carrots at the pub, or at a French restaurant covered in sauce mornay. Melbourne, you’ve come a long way.

Serves 6–8


100 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pine nuts
2 onions, cut into 2 cm squares
salt, to taste
small pinch of ground allspice
1 tablespoon currants
1 small head of cauliflower
oil, for deep frying
plain flour, for dusting


Heat a small frying pan over a low heat and add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and the pine nuts. Fry gently until the pine nuts start to change colour and become golden. At this point, strain through a small sieve and spread them on a plate or tray lined with paper towel. They will continue to colour so be sure to take them off the heat before they get too brown.

Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over a high heat until very hot, then add the onion, stirring frequently until it starts to colour. Turn down the heat to low and allow the onion to caramelise slowly. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until completely soft and dark brown. Season with salt and allspice, then add the currants, stirring through the onion until well combined. Remove from the heat.

For the cauliflower, fill a saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Cut the cauliflower into florets at least the size of a golf ball and no bigger than a mandarin. Boil in the salted water for 8-10 minutes until soft, then remove from the water with a kitchen spider or strain through a sieve. Spread on a tray lined with paper towel or a tea towel and allow to cool and dry out a little.

When ready to fry, heat the oil in a saucepan or deep-fryer to 180°C. Dredge the cauliflower in the flour then shake off any excess in a sieve. Fry until dark brown. Yes – dark!

Remove from the oil and drain on some paper towel. Season with salt and pepper, then arrange on a plate and top with the caramelised onion, currants and pine nuts.

Note: you can use chickpea flour for dusting for a gluten-free result. If you prefer to steam (not boil) the cauliflower, be sure to sprinkle with lots of salt before it goes into the steamer. The onions and the boiling of the cauliflower can be done a few days in advance. Be sure to warm the onion mix slightly before using it. The pine nuts can also be prepared days in advance. If you have become a fan of frying nuts, you can fry a larger batch. They will keep in the fridge for up to three months. The traditional accompaniment for this fried cauliflower is tarator. Leftover fried cauliflower goes beautifully in a flatbread sandwich drizzled with tarator.

Joseph Abboud’s Rumi: Food of Middle Eastern Appearance (published by Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99) is available now from great Victorian booksellers such as Hill of Content and Readings, as well as online.