Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

Occasional stories, food and travel inspiration

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad with Saffron Dressing

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In my last post I blogged about taking professional and creative risks and working outside of my comfort zone.

My culinary comfort zone, so to speak, is modern Australian food with an emphasis on Asian food. But I’ll eat anything and frequently do. Trying a new dish, cuisine or style of cooking is a delight that will never get old for me.

Unlike me, my Italian friend Vanessa eats Italian food more or less exclusively.

“I like simple, plain food,” she says. “If I eat pasta I just want it with a plain tomato sauce that’s been simmering on the stove for three or four hours so that it’s full of flavour.”

As my plus one on a recent food and wine cruise on P&O’s Pacific Jewel, Vanessa had the opportunity to try all kinds of different food a few blocks over from her usual comfort zone. A new dish would be placed on the dining table and she’d look at it, wide-eyed and scared.

“I’ve never had this before,” she said in a hushed voice time and time again.

“Go on, give it a go,” I urged her.

So she did. She tried natural (raw) oysters, tuna sashimi (raw tuna), beef carpaccio (raw beef slices), Massaman curry, Thai green papaya salad, duck confit, Chinese-style pork belly, sorbet, salmon, truffle oil, scallops, Dukkah, crab and magnificent Ortiz anchovies on garlic toast all for the first time on our trip.

Some dishes she liked and some she didn’t. Nevertheless, the very act of eating so many new things was transformative for her.

“I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me,” she told me afterwards.

“Well, I’m glad,” I said. “You teach me about regional Italian cuisine and we’ll call it even, OK?”

“Done,” she replied.

New culinary adventures await all of us. Eat something you’ve never tried before today.


Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Saffron Dressing

This dish is an adaption of Luke Mangan’s cauliflower salad Vanessa and I ate at his Salt Grill restaurant on the Pacific Jewel. It was such a lovely dish I knew I had to make a version of it to eat at home.

Now don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients as everything should be available at your local grocery store or market. I had nearly all of these things at home — my #1 cooking tip is to maintain a well-stocked pantry — so for me it was just a matter of buying the cauliflower, saffron (which I’d never cooked with before) and yoghurt. The admittedly expensive saffron gives this yoghurt dressing a beautiful mellow sweetness, golden colour and distinctive flavour so do include it if possible.



  1. Cook wild rice in 2 cups water according to packet instructions.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  3. Remove stems and leaves from cauliflower and then slice into thick, 1cm-wide slices.
  4. Place cauliflower and chickpeas on a lined baking tray and then drizzle with oil.
  5. Sprinkle ginger, cumin, cardamon, coriander, turmeric, nutmeg. chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste over the top and then massage the spices in with your clean hands until everything is evenly covered.
  6. Roast cauliflower and chickpeas for 20 minutes and then leave to cool.
  7. While the cauliflower is cooking, soak the currants in the red wine for 10 minutes and then strain to discard wine.
  8. Make dressing by soaking saffron in 2 tablespoons water for 10 minutes. Pour the saffron-infused water through a sieve into a small bowl, discarding the  saffron. Mix this water with yoghurt, lemon, mustard and honey.
  9. Toast pine nuts by stirring them in a dry (no oil) pan for a few minutes until nicely brown but not burnt.
  10. To assemble, spoon wild rice onto one large serving platter and then top with half of the dressing.
  11. Arrange cauliflower, chickpeas and parsley on top and then spoon over the rest of the dressing before garnishing with currants and pine nuts.


More salad recipes


Vanessa and I travelled on the Pacific Jewel’s food and wine cruise as guests of P&O.

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