Cauliflower & Halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron

13 Feb

 Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

De-waste of time stuff

I took a walk with the boy the other day, before the storms.  I was a bit bleary eyed and I can blame only late nights and very good apple and pecan bread, oh and the cinnamon and raisin loaf.  We stopped to look at the blooming snowdrops and daffodils and I smiled that spring is almost here.   Lines of them fluttered for us and we had a little chat about the colour and how they need water and light to grow. My boy asked me, ‘like mumma and me’. I chuckled and said sort of, yes and that people need love and food too. Some groups of pre-teens walked past, in categories of pretty and flamboyant, comical and loud, and simply cheeky.  I, now feeling category-less, tried to reflect on what groupings I had grown through and what sort of company had influenced me, then decided that this was a pointless activity but you do become like the people you surround yourself with. We then stopped in the supermarket and a tot wanted to engage with me, I asked his mother how old he was, but she was tapping away at her phone and didn’t answer.  My phone buzzed away with messages about things that could have been more positive. My heart sank a few notches and I wondered why .

We talk about de-cluttering and detoxing in our family, quite a bit.  Clear the things or undertakings that are draining distractions or energy suckers. For example; omitting energy-draining foods, clearing unwanted magazines, removing damaged toys, halting diverting activities like too much time on Facebook that waste precious time, deleting fuzzy pictures on the laptop, giving away unused Christmas bits and bobs…and closing our eyes to the people that want to walk in our minds with their dirty feet.

I drank a lot of dill water when I was nursing.  I can’t admit to ever liking it but as a first time mother my protective maternal instinct was at lioness levels and I knew that the dill water helped to stimulate precious milk production and would help keep my new-born baby’s tummy clear and wind-free. That’s what inspired my recipe but do believe that this recipe is boring. Oh no.

What excites me about this recipe is that both cauliflower and Halloumi absorb flavours superbly. They are mellow in themselves and the cauliflower is a giver and receiver of flavour. The Halloumi softens politely and accepts the juices of this dish graciously. No longer chewy, the cheese becomes pleasurably oozy. The fennel stock is distinctly there, but not loudly. The saffron is absolutely showy in the colour and the delicate flavour, but not overpoweringly. The thyme, the lemon, the onion… all accents this dish subtly. There is nothing overwhelming about this recipe. But it is heart-warming. Do it.

Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to serve 4-6

One medium head of cauliflower, separated into large florets

One medium onion, sliced

1 ½ tbsp. fennel seeds

500ml boiling hot water

One can of chopped tomatoes

200g Halloumi cheese cut into thick fingers

A few springs of thyme

Half a lemon

A good pinch of saffron

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. mustard oil


  1. Put the fennel seeds into a jug and pour in the boiling water. Let it settle for an hour or so and when the stock looks like its infused with the seeds, begin cooking.
  2. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion with the salt and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and Halloumi and coat them well with the oil. Allow them to catch a light golden colour, before pouring in the chopped tomatoes and mix it well. Pour in the fennel stock, but not the seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Add 1 tsp. of the fennel seeds and a good pinch of saffron and let them fuse with the stock.
  4. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add a few (4 or so) springs of thyme and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked.


Serve with pasta or rice or mop it up with bread.







29 Responses to “Cauliflower & Halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron”

  1. Anita Menon February 14, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    The colour of the curry is so vibrant. the pairing of saffron and halloumi I have tried (since I live in the middle east) but with cauiflower and rest I haven’t. Sounds really tempting

    • Deena Kakaya February 14, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Anita lovely, the fennel and saffron was accidental but I’m quite surprised at how well they work together xx

  2. Selma's Table February 14, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I love saffron – reminds me of my childhood and feast days! I think that this is an inspired combination of flavours and ingredients, Deena – brilliant!

    • Deena Kakaya February 14, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Thank you so much Selma, who would have thought fennel and saffron would work so well x

      • Selma's Table February 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

        It’s a classic with shellfish over in the South of France! See how amazing your palate is?!!!

        • Deena Kakaya March 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

          Is it really Selma, I had no idea but am so pleased to hear that. I love this pairing! X

  3. Elaine @ foodbod February 14, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I’m right with you about decluttering, I’ve done a lot of that recently! And loving the cauliflower, it’s such a great carrier of flavours isn’t it??

    • Deena Kakaya February 14, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Elaine, how are you? I do like your new profile pic x I am so done with distracting and destructive stuff, onwards and upwards!

      Cauliflower is fast becoming my kitchen favourite. X

  4. Deb February 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Decluttering is an endless job! I straightened and cleaned a cupboard in the pantry and now the “gadget” drawer needs help! Next up is making the vibrant Cauliflower and Halloumi recipe for a sublime dinner!

    • Deena Kakaya February 16, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Deb, great to hear from you. It’s an endless job for me too, but hopefully that means continuous progress and therapy! I hope you’ll enjoy this one xx

  5. Katie @ Whole Nourishment February 15, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    I can completely taste the gentle but at the same time full flavors in this dish, you describe it perfectly. Lemon, thyme, cauliflower and halloumi sound so good together. Yes, I agree there are lots of energy-draining events, people, moods, thoughts, and food that we encounter every day. Deena, I am also sooo conscious of/sensitive to this – though I often fail, I find keeping a single-pointed focus on the people, thoughts, activities and food that feed me positive energy helps push away the unwanted pieces. Good luck!!

    • Deena Kakaya February 16, 2014 at 8:28 am #

      Hi Katie, thanks so much for the generous words. The flavours are indeed gentle but definitely there.

      I know what you mean, I often fail at it too, it appears to be a constant and progressive process for me, hopefully in the right direction xx

  6. mjskit February 16, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    What a creative dish! Even though I’m not that big a fan of cauliflower is looks delicious here. I’ve never tried Halloumi cheese but I’ve been seeing it a lot later. Need to find some and try it. Great dish!

    • Deena Kakaya February 16, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      Hello! Oh do try halloumi, it’s Lightly salty and chewy when raw but when it’s cooked, threw a new height of pleasure. Enjoy xx

  7. Cheesy Biscuit February 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    This is such a wonderful recipe! Looks delicious, I look forward to trying it some time!

    • Deena Kakaya February 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Thank you Karinna, thanks also for taking the time to comment. I’m so glad you like the look of it, it’s certainly bright and fragrant. I hope you’ll enjoy it x

  8. Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche February 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Anything with halloumi is a winner in my eyes! Love it!

    • Deena Kakaya February 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

      Hi Becca, great to hear from you. I’m surprised at how well saffron and fennel pair up x

  9. Joanne February 17, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I am a huge fan of halloumi and have never seen it prepared like this! Excited to try it.

    • Deena Kakaya February 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      Hi Joanne, lovely to hear from you. This one took me by surprise a bit, saffron and fennel work so well with each other and with the sponge like cauliflower and halloumi x

  10. Aneela Mirchandani February 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    I love cauliflower but have never tried Halloumi before. Thanks for this recipe.

    • Deena Kakaya February 17, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      Hi Aneela, it’s lovely to hear from
      You. Halloumi is an excellent sponge for flavours and has a light chewy texture when cooked, I hope you’ll try this one xx

  11. themuffinmyth February 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    This combines some of my favourite things! Am bookmarking several of your recipes for next week’s lunches, and this I think will be one of them. Looks so good!

    • Deena Kakaya February 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      I love this one Katie, the wonderful marriage of saffron and fennel is a revelation to me x

  12. themuffinmyth February 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Oh, I forgot to ask… I don’t have mustard oil. Is there a substitution?

    • Deena Kakaya February 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi yes, peanut oil works well in this xx


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