I do good brunch. Forgive my hubris, but I do a bloody great brunch. This is one thing I know for sure. I devote a lot of energy to it. It is my favourite meal of the day and I have it most days. It is one of the perks of working from home (there are a few downsides too, trust me). I have never been one for eating straight out of bed in the morning. I have a coffee and a couple of hours later I turn my attention to the stove. It is often egg based, eggs are one of the most magical things in the world.
When my brunch is egg based, I think about what I want to dip into it that day. Earthy marmite buttered toast soldiers, bright asparagus wrapped in bacon or ham, something dippy, something firm, something that tastes great. I have made soldiers of sesame crusted tuna and salt and pepper tofu, shaped into perfect egg soldier size, perfect for dragging through a glorious runny yolk.
This Sunday my first thoughts went to a simple sourdough soldier, quick and earnest, it would get the job done. I also spied my tub of yeast flakes, something I love since my university vegetarian days (YES, really!), something used as a cheese substitute by vegans, but loved by many for the joy it brings on its own. I had a cauliflower too, and all I could think about was how awesome that would be cut into steaks and fried in butter with an egg on top and a yeasty crumble. I would baste the cauliflower gently with butter as it cooked. And, what about crisp sage leaves, to bring it to the next level?
Cauliflower is having a moment. It is everywhere right now. Carb avoiders love it and turn it into cauliflower rice and cous cous (which are pretty much the same thing, just blitzed cauliflower, and they taste good), and even make pizza bases from it, stringing it together with cheese. This makes sense, cauliflower and cheese covered with pizza toppings, and more cheese? What is not to love? (Although don’t ever give me one instead of real pizza, please). I still love it as a simple cauliflower cheese, I love it spiced and fried to dip into a runny egg (turmeric, cumin and chilli work really well).
Yeast flakes? Cheesy joy and a complete protein packed with vitamins and minerals. It is not a surprise that yeast flakes are favoured by vegans for the cheesy nirvana they deliver, they are a wonderful ingredient which should be embraced by all for their wonderful unique and intense flavour. Yeast flakes an umami bomb, they have such intense flavour they taste like they could not possibly be good for you. Yeast flakes are also loved by exercise fanatics as they are a dense with nutrients. (Someone please save me if I ever start eating powdered protein or something similar. Where is the JOY?!).
A big tub of yeast flakes will go a long way. Combined with butter and chilli they make a terrific spread for toast. Like try and have just one slice of that, I had four. Combined with nuts they make a terrific crumble topping for anything savoury. Pounded to a powder and mixed into a béchamel or beurre blanc you get something deeply addictive. And they are very good for you too, packed with vitamin B.
Note – don’t confuse yeast flakes with bakers yeast and brewers yeast. They are different animals! I use these yeast flakes from Engevita enriched with extra B12.
- A cross section slice of cauliflower, approx 1 inch / 2.5cm thick
- One egg
- 50g butter (and more in case you need it)
- 4 heaped tbsp of yeast flakes (see note above)
- 50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped, bashed or blitzed in a food processor
- 3 tbsp small pieces of chopped cauliflower
- 6 sage leaves
Melt the butter and fry the cauliflower in it over a medium heat turning occasionally in a large frying pan or skillet. This will take about 15 − 20 minutes.
For the last 5 minutes, first crisp your sage leaves by frying them in the butter until they speckle, turn darker and start to stiffen. Remove and keep to the side.
Add a bit more butter if needed, then add the small cauliflower pieces, hazelnuts and yeast flakes.
When the cauliflower is almost there, poach your egg. The trick to poached eggs is to use very fresh eggs (try your farmers market, by the time they get to the summer market they are often a week old) and to only just simmer the water, don’t let it boil. Light bubbles like champagne barely breaking the surface is all you need. If you are worried your eggs aren’t fresh enough add a little vinegar to help tighten the white and swirl the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool before dropping the cracked egg into it. I always find it easier tic rack the egg into a ramekin or cup before hand. Poach to your liking, I like a set white and very runny yolk.
Season to taste. Serve the cauliflower steak with the egg and crumble on top, and a scattering of the sage leaves.