These cauliflower tacos come from my new book, Meat-Free Mexican, which is out next week. In the book, they’re basted in a garlicky marinade made from the fruity, tangy seeds of the achiote tree, which is native to the Yucatan. With its distinct flavour and bright red colour, achiote works beautifully on cauliflower, and is increasingly available online. When I run out of it, however, I use harissa instead, which pairs beautifully with the classic Mexican combination of lime-pickled red onions and black beans.
Quick-roast cauliflower with pink pickled onions and black beans
While achiote is mild, harissa can be quite fiery, so adjust the quantity to suit your taste.
Prep 25 min
Cook 35 min
1-3 tbsp harissa paste or achiote
4 large garlic cloves, peeled – 3 left whole, the other crushed
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano, or 1 small handful fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp brown sugar
6 tbsp plain yoghurt
15ml fresh lime juice
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp extra for the beans
1 large cauliflower
400g cooked black beans
Tacos or rice, to serve
For the pickled onions
1 medium red onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
30ml fresh lime juice
40ml fresh orange juice
½ tsp dried Mexican oregano (optional)
Cover the onion with boiling water, soak for 30 seconds, then drain (this helps speed up the pickling process). Squeeze on the citrus juices, scrunch the onions for 10-15 seconds, then sprinkle with oregano, if using. Cover and chill for at least half an hour, to soften and pickle.
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. In a mortar, smash the harissa and three whole garlic cloves to a paste. Add the oregano, half a teaspoon of salt and the sugar, and pound again, then stir in the yoghurt, lime juice and olive oil, and taste to check the seasoning.
Cut the florets from the stem of the cauliflower, discarding the tough outer leaves and gnarly end of the stem, but keeping the tender inner leaves and the inner core. Cut the larger florets into halves or quarters and the inner core into similar-sized pieces (you want them bite-sized, but bear in mind that they will shrink when roasted). Arrange the cauliflower pieces over a large roasting tray (or two smaller ones), leaving room between the pieces so they roast rather than sweat. Rub all over with the paste, scrunch over a little sea salt, drizzle with olive oil, then roast for 30-35 minutes, until nicely caramelised all over.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic. Once it’s pale golden, stir in the black beans, heat through gently and season (in Mexico, you’d cook them with an avocado leaf or a touch of anise).
Serve the cauliflower in tacos with the black beans and pickled onions, or with rice. A few wedges of lime never go astray, either.
The simple flex
Try using achiote to marinade pork chops or halloumi, and serve with the same pink pickled onions.