Poor old cauliflower.Excluding only the much-maligned sprout, the cauliflower has some of the worst press in the vegetable world. I think much of it’s unfortunate neglect is perhaps due to it’s lack of colour. How can anything semi-translucent white look truly tasty? A pallid and wan lonesome cauliflower floret, sat-squat upon the sad slots of a stainless steel buffet tray arouses a profound sense of sadness, and pity. It looks ill. It smells a little like paint and sulphur. It is the albino of the vegetable community-an outsider amongst frolicking green florets. It’s eerie milky translucence brings to mind red-top milk- and there’s nothing more depressing than skimmed milk. If disappointment was drinkable-this is what it would look and taste like. Skimmed milk is for people who have no love for life. Almost grey-ish, a ghoul’s face, too pale to even colour a latte that delicious shade of cafe-au-lait.
However, my hate of skimmed milk aside, the cauliflower does possess hidden depths. Treated with love, cooked carefully, properly, it can become a thing of great beauty- truly a Chouxfleur. I am always one to champion the underdog, and my new challenge is to create and showcase some delicious cauliflower recipes that allow this shy wall-flower to take centre stage and show her true colours…..Cauliflower will go to the ball!
So, first is a delicious, quick, filling but not-too-heavy, veggie friendly Cauliflower and Saffron Pilau :
For Two People
150g basmati rice
1/2 head of cauliflower
pinch saffron strands
1 tsp cumin seeds
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp turmeric
2 white onions, finely sliced
Salt and Pepper
1 clove garlic
Lime wedges, chopped nuts, pomengranate seeds
Soak your rice in a big bowl with lots of cold water, an hour before you get started.
Finely slice the onions, put in medium pan with generous knob of butter over a low heat. Toast cumin seeds in a frying pan until they smell good. Grind in a pestle and mortar, then add to onions. Add all other spices straight in the pot and season generously. Sweat all this for abot 20 mins or so. Drain and rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then add it into the pot. Break up your cauliflower into florets and add these to the pot too. Turn the heat up. Boil a full kettle, then pour the boiling water into the pot until it comes to just half an inch over the rice and cauli. Dip a finger in to check for salt-it should taste salty-the rice will mellow the seasoning once it’s cooked-add more if needed. Put a lide on the pot and whack the heat up to medium-making sure no steam escapes (you may need to weigh the lid down). Leave for 3 mintes, then turn heat down low for another 6 minutes. Turn the heat off and DO NOT REMOVE LID for another 3 mins or so-this will ensure perfectly flffy rice with no sticking together.
Whilst waiting for the lid to come off, grind a small clove of garlic in yor pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt. Add 4 or 5 tablespoons of yoghurt and mix well (in the pestle is easiest). Now serve your pilau with a blob of this seasoned yoghurt, some fresh coriander leaves, some chopped nuts and some pomengranate seeds-if you have them. Yum.