Cauliflower please.

25011-cauliflower-picture-materialThose cauliflowers with their crisp, bright creamy curds look so enticing on the market stall at this time of year.  They beg to be bought and transformed into something both appetising and full of goodness.

So often they disappoint .  That bright white face displayed among all the cheery autumn colours of carrots and pumpkins, and the deep forest green of spinach and cabbage turns a sullen shade of oatmeal the second it’s introduced to a pan of boiling water.  Leave it there a moment too long and it’s watery, tasteless and almost slimy.

But there are recipes in which it shines. On a miserable winter’s day after a few hours out in the cold, you can’t beat a plateful of good old cauliflower cheese made with lots of decent sharp-flavoured cheddar. You can get away with Cantal Entre Deux, but not the ready-grated Emmenthal that seems to be the default cooking cheese round here.

My next favourite is Rose Elliot‘s cashew nut korma – very mild indeed as far as curries go, but tasty and more-ish.  I’ll adapt the vegetables to what I have in the house, but I’m always sure to include cauliflower.  It’s a recipe I try to make a day ahead, because that way, the ingredients sit together in the pan and get very well acquainted overnight.  By the time we eat them, they’ve become good and harmonious friends.  And I get to use two of the chillies I’ve been carefully growing all summer.

There’s a bit of a theme emerging here: it’s all about comfort food.  Perhaps because this week’s been unremittingly horrible.  It’s rained and rained, the wind has blown, and then it’s rained some more.  A fresh crunchy salad involving fine slices of cauliflower, enlivened by finely chopped herbs and a bright dressing simply wouldn’t hit the spot.  Here’s the last suggestion,  from Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume one.

A mildly spiced supper of cauliflower and potatoes

That potato and cauliflower dish bubbling away
That potato and cauliflower dish bubbling away

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 large onions
Rapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic
Ginger: a thumb-sized lump
1 tbsp. ground coriander-a tablespoon
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp.cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
3 tomatoes (or 1/2 tin)
600 ml. water
3 medium potatoes
a large cauliflower
Handful unroasted cashew nuts
6 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp. garam masala-a tablespoon
150- 200 ml. crème fraîche
coriander-a small bunch

  • Peel the onions, chop one of them roughly, then let it soften with a tablespoon or two of oil in a deep pan over a moderate heat.
  • Halve and thinly slice the others and set aside. peel the garlic cloves, slice them thinly then stir into the softening onion. Continue cooking, without browning either the onion or the garlic.
  • Grate the ginger.  These days I freeze ginger when I buy it, and grate from frozen. It’s so easy to deal with this way. Add to the onion and garlic.
  • Stir the ground coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric into the onion. Let them fry for a minute or two, then roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.
  • Add the water and bring to the boil.
  • Season with salt and a generous grind of black pepper.
  • Cut the potatoes into large pieces (as if for boiling) and add them to the pan. lower the heat and leave to simmer for fifteen minutes before breaking the cauliflower into florets and adding to the sauce.
  • Quickly toast the cashew nuts in a small non-stick frying pan until golden, tip them into the pot, cover with a lid and continue to simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fry the reserved onions in a little oil in a shallow pan till deep, nutty gold.
  • Whilst they are cooking, crack the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds, crush lightly and add to the onions.
  • Continue cooking for five minutes or so, then, when all is gold and fragrant, remove and place on kitchen paper.
  • When the cauliflower and potatoes are tender to the point of a knife, stir in the garam masala (the spices in it are already roasted, so it needs very little cooking) and the crème fraîche. Simmer for a minute, then serve topped with the reserved onions and the roughly chopped or torn coriander leaves.

20 thoughts on “Cauliflower please.”

  1. It’s strange, my son loves food, absolutely anything EXCEPT cauliflower which he just can’t abide.
    I love it though, and the recipes look great – but it’s always cauliflower cheese for me!
    It’s been raining a lot here too!

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  2. How odd – I’ve just eaten cauliflower cheese (made with Laguiole, every bit as good as Cheddar!). I also love anything that involves roast cauliflower – totally changes it. Oh, and cauliflower ‘couscous’, which is always a hit with our guests!

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    1. Now then, not only have I not eaten roasted cauli, I’ve never seen a recipe involving it. And neither have I come across Laguiole. I see it’s from l’Aveyron, which means our local cheesemongers won’t often have it. I’ll ask about. And couscous? Can’t get it down Malcolm’s neck. All interesting thoughts though – thanks.

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      1. Ah – you’ve missed a treat with Laguiole! It’s easy to find here – most cheesemongers (the ones on the markets as well as as the supermarket cheese counters) will have it often. And cauliflower couscous is made … not with couscous, but with cauliflower, steamed just for a couple of minutes, then blitzed (on pulse setting) in the Magimix until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Voilà – gluten-free ‘cous cous’ with a taste all of its own!

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  3. Love cauliflower steamed with butter and fresh pepper – cheese sauce, too. But it is just delicious raw with a vegetable dip made with sour cream (creme fraiche I believe) salut!

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  4. ………..ouuuuuu Margaret, your recipe is far tooooo complicated for my housekeeping…….but the cauliflower looks very appetizing – thanks anyway for the hints, AnnAxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  5. When I was a kid, cauliflower was known as ‘the white trees’ (broccoli, of course, was ‘green trees’.) I didn’t actively dislike the white trees, but never liked them either. Of course, the only way I ever had it was boiled within an inch of its life.

    It can be lovely, though, when sliced and roasted with various seasonings. And of course cheese makes everything better! 😉 I’ve also had cauliflower puree – it has the consistency of mashed potatoes – which was nice and creamy. I’m not sure how much actual butter or cream is necessary to make it so – I didn’t want to know and I’ve never tried to cook it this way. I would, though, like to try to puree it and add it to actual mashed potatoes.

    It’s also quite good in a nice spicy vindaloo.

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