Food and Drink

   

In Season: Cauliflower

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There are some beautiful cauliflowers available at the moment. There are so many ways to use them — I buy one a week at this time of year. Use all of the cauliflower except the very central core as most of the flavour is in the stem not the flowery part. Don’t overcook them or the flavour will change, as for all brassicas.

You can’t beat the old favourite ‘Cauliflower cheese’ for a satisfying winter dish, on its own or with mashed potato to accompany red meat. We usually cook a whole cauli when I make it and a little too much mash. What’s left over we use the following day by whizzing it in the blender with some chicken stock for a delicious instant soup.

Try some sliced tomatoes under the cheese before baking. You can even sprinkle finely chopped bacon over the cheese for a winter meal on its own.

For something different, instead of Mornay sauce, hard-boil an egg or two, allow them to cool then grate them or push them through a sieve, add hot melted butter, lemon juice and some dry breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and seasoning. Spoon this warm ‘Polonaise’ sauce over the boiled cauliflower pieces.

Cauliflower also loves curry and you can’t go wrong using your favourite Indian curry paste. Sauté onion, add the curry paste then the cauli, some tinned tomatoes, yoghurt and maybe some peas near then end. Alternatively, use a Thai curry paste with onion and garlic and cook in coconut milk.

All of these dishes we make regularly at home, but the favourite is Cauliflower Risotto:

Ingredients
½ a head of cauliflower
1½ cups arborio rice
750 ml chicken or vegetable stock (bought ready made will do, but if you make your own you will certainly see the difference)
1 onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves Garlic (crushed)
250 ml white wine (‘Cardboard Estate’ will do but again, using a decent bottle will be much better)
200 g parmesan (grated, do not use ready-grated, it will be harsh)
1 good tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons olive oiil
3 slices prosciutto (if you like)

Method:
Simmer the cauliflower in salted water until it’s barely cooked. Lightly brush the prosciutto with oil and crisp in the oven. Heat the stock.

Lightly sauté the onion in the olive oil, turn up the heat and add the garlic a sauté for a couple of seconds. When its nice and hot add the rice and fry it until it changes to translucent in colour. Add the wine — it should sizzle up with the heat — and cook it until the wine evaporates. Turn down the heat and add enough stock to make a soupy mixture.

Now you need to stir constantly, with the mixture barely bubbling, adding more hot stock as it is absorbed into the rice, maintaining the soupy consistency. As you add and stir, add and stir, keep an eye on the rice because you don’t want it to cook all the way through, it needs to be ‘al dente’, that is to have a tiny white speck of uncooked rice in its very centre. Add the cooked cauliflower after about 5 minutes. Now add seasoning — not before, it toughens the rice grains.

As soon as the rice is ‘al dente’ add the parmesan (reserving some for garnish), the butter and spoon into bowls. Cut, or break up, the crisp prosciutto into little pieces and scatter over the top and finish with remaining parmesan.


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