I really like raw cauliflower when it's young, fresh, snappy and unblemished, and reckon it's an ingredient that deserves to be used more often in salads. This vegetable may have a college education, but it's not naturally gifted in the flavour department, so when you serve it raw it's important to give it a kick in the pants with some bright, zingy ingredients. The inspiration for this recipe comes from my version of Robert Carrier's Cauliflower à la Polonaise (which, gratifyingly, remains among the most-viewed recipes on this blog).
It's not easy making neat, thin through-the-stalk slices of cauliflower - there is only so much 'tree-trunk' available on individual florets. Use a mandolin, or a very sharp paring knife. Chop the pieces that don't have a stalk attached, and hide them under the prettiest looking slices.
An authentic Spanish chorizo or Portuguese chouriço, made with smoked red peppers, will give you the best results. These beauties - available at good delis - are not cheap, but you need only one sausage for four servings, and they're of much better quality than most local versions, which tend to be fatty and somewhat, er, flaccid. If you can't find imported chorizo, add a pinch or two of fresh paprika to colour the dressing.
And if you'd like some heat in this dish, add a pinch or two of red chilli flakes to the pan when you cook the garlic.
Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo Sausage and a Warm Lemon Dressing
1 young, perfect cauliflower (or two smaller ones)
1 good chorizo sausage (15-20 cm long)
3 T (45 ml) sunflower oil or similar light vegetable oil
a small clove of garlic, peeled and finely grated
the juice of a lemon
2 breadrolls (or slices of bread), a day or two old
6 T (90 ml) good olive oil
a big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
milled black pepper
Cut the core out of the cauliflower and break off the florets. Using mandolin or sharp knife, cut the florets vertically into thin slices and arrange on a platter. Put a piece of kitchen paper on the counter. Cut off a third of the sausage and set aside. Peel the skin off the rest of the sausage and crumble the flesh (or dice into very small pieces). Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the sausage bits and fry, over a moderate heat, for a minute or two, until they're beginning to crisp and darken. Crumble the bread into the frying pan - you need some pea-sized nuggets, as well as smaller crumbs - and fry until crisp. (The crumbs tend to carry on browning after you remove them from the heat, so take them off when they're a pale gold, and watch them like a hawk.)
Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve, drain off all the oil and spread them out on the kitchen paper. Return the pan to the heat and add the garlic and a tablespoon of the olive oil. Gently cook the garlic for a minute or two, making sure not to let it brown. Now add the lemon juice, all in one go, and stir briskly to dislodge the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining olive oil.
Pour the warm dressing over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the fried sausage bits, breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley. Finely slice the remaining piece of sausage and arrange the slices on the salad. Grind over plenty of black pepper. You shouldn't need to add any more salt.
Serves 4 as a starter or side dish.