If you were to survey 100 people and ask what their favourite vegetable is, I’m guessing hardly anyone would answer ‘cauliflower’. It’s not top of my list either to be honest. Overcooked school dinners have given the cauliflower a bad reputation – bland, watery, wishy washy, greyish soggy pulp. Yuk! But, in some foodie circles, cauliflower is having a bit of a moment, it’s trendy and cool; imagine that! Increasingly the humble cauli is being used to reinvent traditionally carb heavy dishes to lessen the carbohydrate load, and lighten up conventionally stodgy favourites.
… in some foodie circles, cauliflower is having a bit of a moment
Cauliflower is extremely versatile. Once it is roasted, fried or pureed, cauliflower reaches its full musky, earthy potential and it goes really well with spicy flavours, making it a perfect starting point for curries in particular. Chilli, cumin, garlic and strong cheeses all work well and emphasise the natural sweetness of the cauli. You can’t beat a well-made cauliflower cheese in my opinion. Vegetables cooked just so, creamy and comforting cheese sauce enveloping them in a hug, plenty of crispy bits from the outside of the oven dish. So, so good! One of the best things about going to our favourite place for a Sunday veggie roast is the delicious cauliflower cheese side dish. I love it.
As well as being a handy, of the moment vegetable to use in a wide variety of dishes, cauliflower also scores big on the nutrition charts too. Packed full of magnesium, calcium, folic acid, potassium, beta carotene and vitamins B, C and K, it’s a nutrition powerhouse. It’s high in fibre, very low in calories and is an excellent antioxidant, supporting the liver and kidneys in their function of removing waste products from the body. It also helps to relieve high blood pressure and constipation. Get eating some, like right now!
Hip and interesting new ways that I’ve seen cauliflower being used include; cauliflower steaks charred on a griddle or barbeque and served with a garlicky parmesan crust; drizzled in a soy and ginger dressing then served with a hummus crust; roasted whole, adorned with cumin, sumac and lemon. A world away from school dinners! Cauliflower is also being used as a rice or couscous substitute, for people who are wanting to cut starchy carbs from their diet and replace them with vegetables or other whole foods. All good stuff.
A world away from school dinners!
One of my favourite ways to use cauliflower is in my easy carbonara pasta sauce. The cauliflower creates a luxurious but light and creamy sauce, and the nutritional yeast gives a deliciously cheesy flavour and added B vitamins. The sauce is vegan, and if you are avoiding wheat so regular pasta is not an option, then the sauce is equally delicious over roasted vegetables or stirred into rice. If you are not a fan of cauliflower and need convincing, this recipe is a winner. It’s also great for getting vegetables into kids, as they just assume it’s a regular cheese sauce #mumwin.
Another way that cauliflower is being used, that caught my attention, is to make pizza bases. One dank and rainy Sunday afternoon me and the kids gave it a go. It was pretty labour intensive, I’m not going to lie (there may have been the odd swear word said under my breath) and I’m not definitely sure that I’ve managed to get rid of all the cauli crumbs from my kitchen worktop yet, but the results were impressive, so I’m counting it as a success on balance! I shy away from making anything bready or dough based because I’m slightly scared of the processes involved, but this was actually *relatively easy, even if it did take for bloody ever! The recipe is gluten free, as the base is just cauliflower, parmesan, eggs and ground almonds, and its low carb too, so perfect for if you are watching your waistline but still need your pizza fix.
Cauliflower pizza base, serves 2
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
- 100g ground almonds
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 50g Parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper and brush with a little olive oil.
2. Put the cauli florets into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. I had to do this in several batches.
3. Cook the blitzed cauliflower in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, to evaporate as much moisture as possible. Your kitchen will smell delightfully of cauliflower at this point. Not great!
4. Spread the cooked cauli on a clean tea towel to cool. Once cool, bring the corners of the tea towel together and squeeze any remaining liquid out of the cauliflower. I needed a hand to do this – I held the tea towel whilst the other half squeezed a fair bit of water out. *Warning – don’t use your favourite tea towel, because the one I used still has a faint whiff of cauliflower after several washes!
5. Put the cauliflower into a bowl (it should look quite doughy at this point) and add in the ground almonds, parmesan and beaten eggs. Mix well to ensure everything is incorporated.
6. Tip the mixture into the centre of the prepared baking sheet and spread it out into a round ish pizza base shape, about 1cm thick, but a bit thicker at the edges.
7. Into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the crust turns golden – this stage smells delicious – all crispy and cheesy, and nothing like the sulphurous pong of cooking cauli that you had earlier on!
8. Now it’s time for toppings. We used a shop bought passata, then added mozzarella, olives and chopped cherry tomatoes. All your favourite pizza toppings would work well, so let your imagination run wild. The kids loved helping with the decorating bit.
9. Bake for another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbling, then plenty of fresh basil or rocket will finish the pizza off perfectly.
10. Now sit down and tuck in – you’ve definitely earned this slice of pizza after all your hard work to get to this point!
I’m not definitely sure that I’ve managed to get rid of all the cauli crumbs from my kitchen worktop yet, but the results were impressive, so I’m counting it as a success on balance!
The kids loved this pizza, as did we. The base stayed crispy, no soggy bottoms here, and even the baby was impressed, shovelling chunks of the base down himself. It was really filling too, in a way that regular pizza often isn’t, so nobody was sniffing around in the kitchen an hour later for more food because they were ‘starving’. And no gluten meant no bloaty tummies afterwards either – brilliant! Although the cauliflower certainly lived up to its reputation as a bowel cleanser the following morning. Let’s just leave that thought there shall we…
I also love to roast cauliflower in the oven, bedecked with spices. Current favourite spice mixes include my beloved turmeric with a little salt and pepper, and coconut oil. I also love heating things up with some chilli powder, or going down the curry route with garam masala. Garlic, olive oil and lemon is also a perfect combination, followed up with a generous handful of parmesan cheese once the cauli is out of the oven. A bit like a grownup cauliflower cheese if you will. 30 minutes in a hot oven with whichever spices and oil you fancy will transform the cauli into something rather special. The edges get all brown and caramelised, and the cauliflower takes on a buttery and nutty taste, emphasised by the spices. Super delicious, light but filling – just what you want from a side dish. Let me know if you have any other favourite spice combinations – I’m always on the look out for inspiration!
Now our taste buds are tingling after all that chat about spices, lets finish off with a classic curry – pairing the cauli with its good mate, the potato, and a smorgasbord of spices. The ingredients list may look a little long, but the method is simple – bit of chopping, bit of stirring and you are rewarded with a fragrant curry which is worthy of a place at any curry night. The cauliflower is the star of the show here; tinged yellow from the turmeric and giving the dish some substance and texture, it is earthy and melt in the mouth, carrying the heat of the spices perfectly. And its not blow your head off hot, but hot enough to make your mouth tingle and your face start to sweat a bit – exactly what you need from a curry. Just fabulous!
…a classic curry – pairing the cauli with its good mate, the potato, and a smorgasbord of spices
Cauliflower and potato curry, serves 4 as a main meal (or 6 as a side dish)
• 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
• 2 onions
• 4 garlic cloves
• 6cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
• Tablespoon of mustard seeds
• Tablespoon of cumin seeds
• 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
• 6 curry leaves
• Teaspoon ground coriander
• Teaspoon ground cumin
• Teaspoon ground turmeric
• Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1kg maris piper potatoes, cut into chunky diced pieces
• 2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
• Large cauliflower, cut into florets bigger than the potato chunks
• Greek style yoghurt and cooked wholegrain brown rice, to serve
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and ginger, stirring for 6–8 minutes, until soft, then set aside.
2. Toast the mustard and cumin seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
3. Transfer to a large saucepan with the rest of the vegetable oil, tomatoes, curry leaves and remaining spices. Cook for a further 5 minutes over a medium heat.
4. Add the onion mixture, potatoes and chillies and season with salt and pepper.
5. Pour in about 600ml water, or enough to just cover the mixture. Bring to a simmer over a low heat, cover with a lid and continue to simmer for 8–10 minutes.
6. Add the cauliflower and cook for another 8–10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
7. Serve with the cooked rice and a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt on the side. Enjoy!
For the resident meat eater, I serve this alongside a garlicky chicken breast, and for extra veggie protein I add some stir fried tofu for me and the kids. The curry would also work well served at the side of some chunky white fish fillets, a baked salmon fillet, or some king prawns. Give it a try and let me know what you think, and whether any of these recipes convert you from being a cauliflower phob into a cauliflower fan.
Any more cool cauli recipes? Message me with the details – I’d love to try your favourites!
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