cauliflower

Cauliflower with saffron, raisins and pinenuts

cauliflowerpinenutssaffron

As a family we have given up TV for Lent. This is very hard but has resulted in us being slightly more productive in the evenings and doing wholesome family things like playing board games.

I have also become a vegetarian for Lent. This is not really a trial for me but it may be hard for my husband. I do the lion’s share of the cooking and so he is now forced to eat less meat too. I’ve suggested that he cooks up a load of sausages on a Monday and eats all my vegetarian creations with ‘a sausage on the side’.

My 8 year old daughter, who is already a vegetarian, and who wanted to take things one step further, has renounced her bed for Lent and is currently sleeping on the floor!

I’m not sure what all this says about a family who are not even religious. Perhaps it shows that we like a challenge. Or maybe it’s a sign of guilt and a cathartic need for self punishment!

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been experimenting more with vegetables. I had been hoping to bring you an exciting Ottolenghi recipe from his vegetarian bible ‘Plenty’, but the one I tried this week irritatingly didn’t work even though I followed the steps with precision.

So instead here’s a very nice recipe from a comical (and not very good) book – Gregg Wallace’s ‘veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’. It remains on my book shelf only because it’s signed by the man himself who wishes me ‘Good Kitchen Times’.

veg

This isn’t even his own recipe but one nicked from the ‘Moro cookbook’.

‘Cauli from the Sam Clarks’

Serves 2 as a main course (with leftovers for lunch)

  • 1 small cauliflower broken into tiny florets
  • 50 strands of saffron (life is too short to count saffron strands so I estimate that this is a good pinch)
  • 75g of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 5 tablespoons of pinenuts, lightly toasted (this is a lot so use less if you wish – pinenuts are very expensive)
  • Salt and white pepper to season

Pour 4 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron in a bowl.

In another bowl soak the raisins in warm water (with the water just covering the raisins).

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for 1 minute. Drain and rinse the florets in cold water, then drain again.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove them from the pan leaving a little oil behind.

Turn the heat in the frying pan up to hot and add the cauliflower. Fry until there is some colour on the florets (about 3 minutes). Then add the onion, saffron water, pine nuts.

Drain the raisins and add those too. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the water has evaporated and season well with white pepper and salt.

Best served warm (rather than piping hot) which seems to enhance the flavours).

Any leftovers taste fantastic mixed with a little cous cous and eaten cold for lunch.

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Cauliflower ‘rice’

cauliflowerx

I get rather annoyed when beautiful, skinny women (Hemsleys, Gwyneth, Ella D) eulogise low carb diets and spiralizing as the only way to be perfect and healthy (just like them). So I was secretly pleased when the courgette shortage was declared. Nobody should be eating courgettes in February anyway – they’re a summer vegetable.

In my view a good diet is a balanced one which involves all the food groups (unless you have a genuine allergy), and periods of eating sensibly interspersed with the occasional indulgence. But I say all this as someone of average weight who wants to remain so.

I acknowledge that it’s rather different if you need to lose a significant amount of weight and if this is the case then it seems that there is evidence that low carb diets do work (but admittedly  this view is based on watching one episode of ‘How to diet well’ and knowing one person who has recently lost weight on the Ketogenic diet!).

I’ve always been a outwardly sniffy but secretly intrigued by the idea of cauliflower ‘rice’ as an alternative to real (carbohydrate loaded) rice. So in an experimental frame of mind I bought a cauliflower and decided to attempt the ‘rice’ idea following a guide on the BBC Good Food website.

I was sure I would hate it but it was actually perfectly fine (Ben even ate and quite liked it).  The term ‘rice’ though is rather misleading. The size of the grains you get is more like couscous and the texture has a real bite to it – not at all like the soft texture of rice.

The other thing to note is that the resulting ‘rice’ does taste (unsurprisingly) very cauliflowery. It does not have the bland and neutral flavour that goes with anything like real rice. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that you do need to be quite careful about what you pair it with. My idea to serve it with a Thai pork, cashew and lime stir fry did not work. However, a dhal or Indian style chicken or lamb curry would go brilliantly.

The other thing would be to add spices and herbs to the cooked cauliflower (as you might flavour couscous) and then serve with a simply cooked piece of meat or fish. And I’m wondering about a cheat’s risotto whereby you stir through some grated cheese and butter after roasting (not good on a low fat diet but fine on a Ketogenic one). I will continue experimenting.

Think what you like about ‘faux carbs’ it’s nice to have something to do with a cauliflower other than ‘cauliflower cheese’. And unlike courgettes, cauliflowers grow in this country all the year around so there should never be a shortage.

Cauliflower ‘rice’

Serves 2 – 4

Take one small cauliflower, remove the leaves and hard core and cut into quarters. Then cut each quarter into four again and blitz in a food processor/mini chopper until it resembles couscous (I had to do this in several, small batches but it didn’t take too long). You can store it in the fridge now until you are ready to use it (it will save for up to 2-3 days). If you don’t have a food processor then you can battle with a regular grater but you will get bigger chunks.

I then followed the Good Food website advice and roasted it in the oven for 12 minutes at 200oC. I spread the cauliflower in a thin layer on a baking tray with a little coconut oil and mixed it in the tin half way through the cooking time.

Apparently you should always season after cooking or the salt turn the cauliflower to mush.

Alternatively, you can stir fry it quickly in a wok, or cook it in the microwave, covered, on full power for 3 minutes.