Today we’re getting a little weird. And then we’re going to act like weird is normal. All thanks to a delicious spice mix known as Hawaij.
We are going to act as if cutting up a head of cauliflower, smothering it in yogurt, roasting it in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes and then stuffing our face with this yogurt coated, oven baked cauliflower like its our last meal, EVER, is just perfectly normal.
Because, repeat after me, this is how we roll!
Nothing to see here people, keep moving (so I can continue gorging myself on the more-than-normal cauliflower).
In all seriousness, how weird is cauliflower? A white, squishy, watery (and somewhat flavour-lackking) relative to broccoli, if someone had come up to me a few years ago and said “hey, I have here a bowl of steamed cauliflower, would you like to eat it” I’m sure I would have responded with “wha?!?!”
Don’t get me wrong I like cauliflower – in a way. If it’s drowning in a cheesy (or better yet a roasted red pepper and cheese) sauce in a broccoli and cheese bake kinda deal then, you bet I’m in. And, if it is loitering around on my plate with a host of other vegetables… bring all the cauliflower and veggie goodness on.
But just cauliflower. On its own. As the main ingredient. That white, flavour restricted vegetable as the main thing sitting on my plate…
What is this cauliflower-on-my-plate madness all about?
Well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about: it’s about that, despite being a little questionable in the “yum!” departments when flying solo, cauliflower shines brightly when sauces, spices, herbs and other flavour shooting goodies come into play.
But, as I’m sure you – my fellow foodies – are aware this is the greatness of cauliflower. Yes it may be lacking in the flavour department but, on the flip side, it acts as the perfect blank canvas kind of food for you to throw on the wildest, craziest, spiciest, most umami-bursting flavour combos at it as possible.
Bursting with nutritional goodness, as well as possessing stomach filling powers, cauliflower can be turned from boring white vegetable into super tasty kick-ass food. If you need more convincing, please swish your mouse-clicking self over to these delicious tandoori cauliflower bites – nothing boring about them.
And today we’re at it again. Cauliflower Bites all the way… because this is how we roll!
And, because we’re on the subject of acting a little weird and pretending this weirdness is absolutely normal – which happens quite often in the world of the this here food blogger – the flavour combo we throwing at our cauliflower today is little bit on the weirdly different side.
Today we are using Hawaij (which in arabic is حوايج; and in hebrew is חוויג׳/חוואיג׳) which is the the umbrella term given to a wide range of spice blends used in soups, stews and even coffee (brb i really have to try this !) in Yemen. Hawaij is also very common amongst Yemenite Jews which, seeing as most were moved from Yemen to Israel through Operation Magic Carpet between 1949 and 1950, means the spice blend is also a a major part of Israeli Jewish cuisine, also.
Now, like any spice blend from any cuisine of the world, the exact make up of Hawaij really depends on who is making it; basically every spice merchant, family, or individual has their own variation and recipe. Of course I am not from Yemen, nor have I ever been to Yemen, and – despite collecting a wide range of friends from across the globe, usually just to pick their brains about awesome food- I don’t have a friend of Yemenite Jewish descent. So I’ve had to trawl the internet for research about Hawaij and have since found out that the main ingredients of this spice blend include:
- black peppercorns
- fennel seeds
- caraway seeds
So really, seeing as these are all readily available, sitting on your local supermarket shelves ingredients, it’s not that weird, right? Although I’m sure, if your next foodie gathering consists of you bringing out “Yemenite-Jewish Hawaij-spiced cauliflower bites” your fellow foodies my raise some eyebrows but, of course you don’t care because, repeat after me, that’s how you roll!
And easy, did I tell you that? This recipe is so quick and easy; a few minutes of prep (the trickiest bit is measuring out all those spice), throwing the spices, cauliflower in a bowl with yogurt and mixing thorougly before roasting until crunchy, spicy, weirdly normal perfection.
It’s going to be a weird day but that’s okay because we are foodies, we love to mix things up a bit and Hawaij spiced cauliflower bites is just how we roll…
Serving suggestion: Serve these cauliflower bites along with a creamy/ yogurt-y dip such as Hummus or Tzatziki (not really Yemeni but we’re aiming for weird, right?) or keep the Yemeni theme alive with Z’hug – Yemen’s answer to chilli sauce.Print
Hawaij Spice Cauliflower Bites
A quick and easy, healthy – and totally yummy – veggie snack or side dish swathed in the delicious flavours of Yemen’s Hawaij spice mix
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 Mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a snack or side
- One head of cauliflower (about 800g once the stem and leaves have been removed) cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 cup natural/ greek yogurt
For the Hawaij:
- 3 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 3 Tbsp Coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 3/4 Tbsp ground cardamon
- 3/4 Tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cloves and peppercorns into a skillet over medium high heat and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until fragrant and crackling slightly. Allow to cool before grinding in a pestle and mortar or blender. Stir in the turmeric, cardamon and salt.
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/ 390°F.
- In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt and 2 tbsp of the Hawaij spice mixture (the rest can be stored in a jar for several months) until well combined. Add the cauliflower florets and toss until coated evenly with the yogurt mixture. Place the coated florets onto a lined baking tray and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or the cauliflower is cooked.
- Serve with your favourite yogurt based or chilli sauces.