This Bloody Cauliflower Brain Is the Centrepiece Your Halloween Needs

This Bloody Cauliflower Brain Is the Centrepiece Your Halloween Needs
Photo: Claire Lower

Through no fault of its own, the humble cauliflower looks a lot like a brain (or at least the most brain-like out of all the vegetables). Its bumpy, lobed appearance and round shape all scream “I came from a skull,” but its pale, beige hue usually keeps things from feeling too visceral.

The actual colour of a human brain varies, depending on whether the person it belongs to is alive and how much oxygen it’s getting: They can be pink, red, yellow, grey, and even black, but a cartoonish pink is the most effective for making things that are not brains look like brains. (Grey is a close second, but I didn’t want to make a grey cauliflower.)

Turning a head of cauliflower into a bloody brain is pretty simple. Like all of my favourite whole, roasted cauliflowers, this one starts with a simple 10% salt brine, only this brine is coloured with beets.

Adding a beet to the brine makes it pink, which, in turn, makes the cauliflower pink (and tasty). Roast the brined cauliflower in a pan with a couple more beets — to get those lovely little “blood” splotches — and you have a creepy looking, incidentally vegan edible centrepiece.

How to make a bloody beet-brined brain

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 litre of water
  • 100 grams kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 beet, sliced thin
  • 500 grams of ice
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 beets, chopped into 1-inch pieces

Add the water, salt, sugar, and beets to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, then remove from the heat and add ice, stirring to melt. Place the cauliflower in a bowl or other container and pour the brine — beets and all — over the cauliflower, then pop the whole thing in the fridge overnight.

Remove the cauliflower from the brine and let it drain over paper towels, stalk side down, for at least five minutes. Flip it over and let drain for another five minutes. (Matty Matheson lets his brined cauliflowers air dry on a rack for a couple of hours, which you are also welcome to do, but I never have.)

Heat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Drizzle the bottom of the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then place it in a roasting pan, and surround it with the beets. Use a pan that is just big enough to accommodate the vegetables, so the beets stay in contact with the sides of the cauliflower.

Pour the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil on top of the cauliflower and beets, and rub it around on the top of the cauliflower to make sure it’s coated. Roast for 1-2 hours, until the cauliflower can be easily pierced with a thin, sharp knife (which will depend on its size). Cover with foil if it starts to brown too quickly — I usually have to do this about half an hour in.

Remove the cauliflower brain from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. If it doesn’t look bloody enough, you can dab it with the roasted beets to give it a few more splotches. You can also use a thick hot sauce (such as sriracha) to create a longitudinal fissure if you’re so inclined. Carve into wedges and serve, preferably with this roasted beet dip.

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