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Cauliflower is cabbage with a college education** …

Posted in Food

cauliflower-1sofabrother is currently trying the Banting diet . A contentious eating plan, devised by a SA Professor of Exercise and Sports Science called Tim Noakes, which promises that eating a high fat, moderate protein, green veg, brassica rich, low carb, sugar-free diet will result in fast and sustainable weight loss.

Noakes has come under fire because the previous diet he recommended was a high carb, no fat, low protein affair that is diametrically opposed to this one. But, hey we can all change our minds. Apparently he is living proof that the (new) diet works: the man is in his late 60s and still runs marathons … though I spotted him in our local supermarket the other day and he looks rather gaunt. And that’s a polite description. Obviously hasn’t drawn the same conclusion as Catherine Deneuve who said “After a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your figure .” (To which writer Barbara Cartland added: “My advice is to keep your face and sit down.”) 

In a rather unique twist, Banting has made a star of cauliflower in SA. Farmers in the Free State, the bastion of meat and potatoes, can’t believe their luck. The rich and meat-laden meals that make up a lot of the suggested recipes in the Real Food Revolution cookbook need a complement. Polenta, potato, pasta etc are out of the question – so cauliflower has become everyone’s dream date. Cauliflower rice, cauliflower quinoa, cauliflower bake, cauliflower steak, cauliflower cheese, soup, mash, puree and of course steamed, roasted, boiled and baked.

It’s not just with bant-crazy safricans: my great pal and keen foodie, Eddie Clarke, tells me that in the UK cauliflower “Is the new hip vegetable.” And a quick canter through Food 52 revealed cauliwonders from all around the world …. patties, paella, bagels, curries, hummus and pickles all made with the veggie. All culminating a completely OTT grilled cheese courtesy of The Iron You (in which the ‘bread’ was also made of cauliflower). Very versatile this brassica … who knew?

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The Iron You’s toasted cheese sarnie.

The weather was magnificent in CT this weekend and sofabrother suggested a sparerib braai. Our BBQ ribs are often accompanied by big bowls of mayonnaise-laden, oniony potato salad and cabbage coleslaw (more mayo). The former is out for Mark, and the latter is not my fave. So I had to come up with something different for the side dish.

I’m a simple cook – and many of the recipes I had discovered had way too many steps for me. And I wanted something that would cut through the sweetness of the rib-glaze. I had two small heads of cauli in the fridge – but what to pair them with?

31-IMG_1246My search sent me to The Flavour Thesaurus. If you haven’t ever seen this great book by Niki Segnit – check it out, she has fascinating suggestions as to what flavours work with what. Signet recommends pairing Cauliflower with garlic and capers. So I decided to roast my heads with a clove of jumbo garlic, which I then squeezed into a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and doused the cauli while it was still hot.

When it cooled down I scattered some fried capers over the salad and a couple pinches of red chilli. The roasting emphasises the nutty flavour of the cauli while the garlic, lemon and capers cut through the sweetness and brought a little sophistication to the dish. Don’t worry about smelly breath from the garlic, the roasting tames that right down. I wish I had had walnuts, Segni says those work perfectly as an add. If you have, feel free to roast a handful and break them into the salad when you add the dressing.

photo 3Roast Cauliflower with Lemon and Capers. (Serves 4 as a side dish):

Two small or one large head of cauliflower divided in two
2 cloves of jumbo or 4 cloves of regular garlic
1/3 cup (25 or so) capers, brine squeezed out and laid on paper towel to dry
1 fresh lemon
olive oil
salt
pepper

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

Cauliflower
Break your Cauliflower into florets – any big ones, cut in half
Toss the cauliflower in olive oil to coat and lay out on a metal roasting tray, sprinkle a touch of salt
Add your garlic, giving it a quick coat of the oil as well.
Roast in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes. It needs to have taken on some nice colour, crisp and still be firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.

Dressing
Onto a flat plate pour a good glug of olive oil, squeeze 1/4 lemon into it and sprinkle in a little salt
Mix together with a fork until emulsified
Squeeze the roasted garlic into your dressing and remix until smooth and creamy.
Test for acid and salt… adjust to your taste.
Pour over the still warm cauliflower and set aside to cool.

Capers – just before you serve
Drain and rinse the capers. Pat dry using paper towels.
Heat a small glug of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat (you’ll need about ½ inch/1 cm).
When the oil is hot enough add the capers, cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp and slightly brown on edges, stirring frequently.
Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towel.

Assemble:
Sprinkle the hot, crisp capers over the cauliflower
Add a couple pinches of red chilli flakes at the last minute.
And serve immediately.

(Quote – the inimitable and apparently non-cauliflower loving Mark Twain.)

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3 Comments

  1. I use cauliflower to thicken my soups, it has now replaced mashed potatoes and is great as a main course, cut into “steaks” and roasted.

    January 22, 2015
    |Reply
  2. Not to sound vain and all, but I’m kind with Barbara Cartland. 🙂 At my age, it makes total sense.

    January 22, 2015
    |Reply

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