Stir-fried Cauliflower With Capers, Chilli and Parsley

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Sep 22, 2022

Here is our extract of Tenderheart by Hetty Lui McKinnon, published by Plum. This dish is both gluten free and vegan.

During my early twenties, as a young university student living at home, I introduced my mother to a few of the dishes I had learned from my favourite cooking shows or from the recipe pages in magazines. My spaghetti with parsley, chilli and capers is one she instantly loved. She adored the fiery heat, the briny saltiness of the capers (a new ingredient to her) and the surprising grassiness of the parsley. She often requested that I cook this dish, and later, once I moved out, she would make this dish for herself and my brother. This recipe employs this formidable triptych of parsley, chilli and capers in a different way, as the seasoning for stir-fried cauliflower. If you can find it, use Taishan cauliflower, which is sweet and vegetal and remains delightfully crisp. I love stumbling across these wild-looking stems at roadside stalls in Chinatown in the spring (although I often see them during the autumn too). This stir-fry is a blank canvas – toss it through pasta, add some feta and chickpeas to turn it into a salad, or serve with a fried egg over the top. Or, of course, eat with rice.


extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, finely sliced

500 g Taishan (Chinese flowering) or regular cauliflower, cut into thin uniform stems

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1–2 bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced (remove the seeds if you prefer less spice)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

1⁄2 bunch of parsley, stalks and leaves finely chopped

sea salt
1⁄2 lemon
rice or pasta, to serve

Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium–high heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, along with the onion. Stir-fry for
2 minutes, until softened and turning golden. Add the cauliflower, garlic, chilli, capers and parsley, along with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and about 1⁄2 teaspoon of sea salt, and toss for 1 minute until the cauliflower is well coated in the seasoning. Add 2–3 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid (if you don’t have a lid, use a large heatproof plate) and leave for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir-fry for another 2–3 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp-tender and charred in some places. The cooking time will depend upon how large your stems are so don’t be afraid to taste to check for doneness. If you are using Taishan cauliflower, the stems will stay quite crisp. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

Serve with rice, toss through pasta or try one of the serving suggestions in the recipe introduction.

‘Tenderheart by Hetty Lui McKinnon, published by Plum, RRP $59.99, photography by Hetty Lui McKinnon and Shirley Cai.’ The embargo date on this book is 28 September 2022. 


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