Cauliflower Semolina with Dried Fruits Recipe

Semoule de Chou-Fleur aux Fruits Secs

[Cauliflower Semolina with Dried Fruits]

Forenote : in the US, the term couscous is used to mean the North-African wheat pasta, shaped like very small beads. The actual name for this is, in fact, semolina — “semoule” in French. Couscous is the typical North-African dish which includes steamed semolina, as well as vegetables and grilled meat.

I made this recipe using a head of cauliflower I got in my Campanier basket. The poor thing had been in my produce drawer for a while : I received it as the days were becoming increasingly spring-like, and cauliflower was really the last thing I felt like eating. Zucchini, tomatoes, spring onions, young carrots, yes. Cauliflower, well, that was just a bit to wintery.

As an aside, I am considering marking a pause in my Campanier subscription : shopping for fresh fruits and vegetable is more colorful and fun in the summer, there are more types of produce available, and I think I’d rather have the freedom of getting whatever I feel like eating. We also haven’t been consistently happy with the fruit we’ve been getting, it’s been all too frequently just bland. And while I can tolerate an average apple, my nectarines have to be earth-shattering.

But back to the cauliflower : I was at a loss as to what to make with it, but ELLE à table, ELLE’s cooking magazine, saved the day. I was clipping recipes out of the April issue and a recipe for Semoule de Chou-fleur caught my attention : it was served as a side to lamb liver skewers, and it required grating the cauliflower, steaming it, then seasoning it with the lamb’s marinade (brought back to a boil of course, as is the food safety absolute requirement), and some dried fruits.

A sweet and savory recipe sounded like a very original way to use cauliflower, and it turned out very well : the cauliflower was a breeze to grate in my food processor, and it took on a very pleasant al dente texture in the steamer (I used my trusted Asian wicker baskets). The dressing was lovely, with just the right sweetness, and the complex taste of preserved lemons worked very well in this dish.

Citron confit (preserved lemon) is a staple condiment in North-African cuisine, and you can easily make it yourself. I made a jar about a year ago and am just now getting to the end of it. The Hungry Tiger recently gave a recipe for them, which is similar to the one I had used back then. You can omit the preserved lemon in this cauliflower recipe, but I do encourage you to make some yourself, it’s easy and very rewarding.

The original recipe called for mint but I didn’t have any on hand. It was still very good without it, but I’ll try to add it in next time as I think it would nicely round out the color and taste of this dish.

And of course, if you’re on a low-carb diet, as seems to be the case for half the the planet (or at least the Western, spoiled, overfed side of it), this is your chance to make mock-couscous!

Semoule de Chou-Fleur aux Fruits Secs

– one head of cauliflower
– a quarter of a preserved lemon
– 2 dried figs
– 2 dried apricots
– 1/3 C white wine
– 1 tsp honey
– 1/2 tsp harissa (the North-African hot sauce, sub another hot sauce or red pepper flakes – optional)
– 20 g butter, diced
– salt, pepper
– 8 leaves of mint

Grate the cauliflower, in a food processor if you have one. Arrange it in a steaming basket (two if your baskets are small), over a saucepan of boiling water, and steam for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender.

Keep only the skin of the preserved lemon, discard the flesh part. Dice it and the dried fruits finely. Chop the mint leaves.

In a small saucepan, bring the white wine to a boil, stir in the harissa and honey. Let simmer over medium heat until it has reduced to about half the original volume.

When the cauliflower is ready, transfer it to a salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add the butter, and toss to coat. Add in the marinade, dried fruit, and lemon, and toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature, adding the mint just before serving.

(Recipe adapted from ELLE à table n°31 : “Brochettes de foie d’agneau de lait, semoule de chou-fleur à la menthe”)

  • nattie

    We’re having semolina this evening, with herbs and courgettes. No idea what it will turn out like, as it’s a magazine recipe, but I’ll tell you afterwards :-)

  • Mia

    Forgive the off-topic comment, but I may be heading to Paris for my birthday in two weeks … can you recommend any little hotels/pensions that are well-located, or any must-try authentic restaurants? The type of place you described in Eating Out in Madrid sounds exactly like the type of places we’d like (but Paris style). Thanks!

  • Mia, my FAVE hotel in Paris is le Sainte-Beuve in the 6th. website is cannot recommend it highly enough. Small, lovely, fab location.

    And Clotilde I came in here to comment on your cauliflower semolina! So so fragrant I can smell it from here . . .*grin*

  • bluepoppy

    whoops— that website should be .fr and not .com

  • Mia

    thanks for the recommendation, bluepoppy. i found the site and the hotel is lovely, it’s true, but at 168 Euros a night it is unfortunately outside of my price range. i settled on a small hotel (Hotel des Batignolles) in the Montmartre area. it looks interesting and has history so i hope i made a good choice!

  • Mia (sorry Clotilde for this exchange on your comments . .*smile*) I should have said, the standard room at 130Euros is the one I always use (#18 in particular is very lovely) and thought 130 for Paris was a very good rate for such a nice hotel.

  • This recipe sounds and looks lovely. I think we’ll be making it soon — at least as soon as the dreadful price of cauliflower comes down.

    Our equivalent of your little basket plan doesn’t even begin until the beginning of June; I can’t wait until it begins. I’m hoping that cauliflowers will be part of the program.

  • Nattie – Well, how did it go? I’m generally a great fan of mixing some kind of cereal (be it boulgur, quinoa, spelt…) with vegetables…

    Mia – I don’t have hotel recommendations (I rarely stay in hotels in Paris! :), but I know you can find reviews on But I see you have found something that suited your budget, hope you like it!

    Bluepoppy – No apology necessary, quite the contrary, thanks for sharing your hotel recommendations!

    Redfox – I’m not sure where you live, but I think of cauliflower as more of a winter vegetable, no?

  • Gwen

    Hi Clotilde,
    I cooked a variation on this recipe tonight, thank you for the inspiration, for it is indeed an original and delicious way to prepare cauliflower.
    I used more preserved lemon and mint (I like stonrg flavors, I am not into subtlety :). I steamed the cauliflower and dried fruit together (didn’t have figs, so used dates), chopped the herbs and lemon together, and then just added a tablespoon of argan oil and a teaspoon of maple syrup (honey wouldn’t have been liquid enough, since I didn’t use the white wine). Actually I think the maple syrup wasn’t necessary, and since I put so little I probably didn’t taste it in the end. I also added coriander leaves in the herb-lemon mixture, but again couldn’t tell in the final result, so it’s probably unnecessary.

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