In a previous life I was hectored into attending a team building workshop with my ad exec colleagues. You know: trust exercises, visions for the future, pushing of envelopes, that sort of thing. Ghastly. We were asked to bring an item that, to us, represented ‘challenges overcome’. One person brought their running trainers, another brought a picture of her son’s graduation, one guy brought the complete works of Proust (he’d finished it). I took a packet of cauliflower seeds.
Because, to me, the cauliflower is the kitchen gardener’s greatest challenge. Fiendishly difficult to grow, it requires skill, a lot of space (each plant needs minimum 1/2 m², ideally 1 m²) and at least 6 months in the ground. And they are tricksy, stubborn little buggers. If you have the wrong soil pH they will be stunted. If you don’t cover the crowns they will brown. If you don’t net them they will be pillaged by mealy aphids or cabbage whites. Heck, if you don’t look at them nicely every Tuesday they will have a paddy.
And yet the cauliflower is one of the cheapest and most un-loved veg harvested in the UK. They cost barely a quid, perhaps two for an organic Duchy of Cornwall one. But still, one cauliflower will feed two gluttons and three if not four modest eaters. One pound! For all that space, time and effort. And all we ever do is sling some cheese sauce on them. It’s a miracle cauliflower farmers stay in business.
So all hail the cauliflower growers of Great Britain, for you have a thankless task and a tough one too. I salute you.
I do not grow cauliflowers. Unsurprisingly. I’m fully prepared to admit that my skill does not extend that far and I’m delighted that in my failing I am able to support the heroic cauli’ farmers of the UK by purchasing my cauliflowers instead.
So, no glut this week. But hopefully a couple of ideas to get us all buying a few more cauliflowers. And not just smothering it in cheese…
Persian(ish) Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice is fast becoming the next avocado on toast. Or, worse, the next courgetti. However faddish it may be, it really rather good if, like me, your figure pleads with you to avoid white carbs. This dish is lovely on its own but perfect with ras-el-hanout roast chicken or spicy prawns.
- 1 tbsp barberries (I know. Cauli’ rice and barberries – you’ve never know G&G so trendy have you?)
- Pinch saffron
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cauliflower
- Seeds of 4 cardamom pods
- Pinch salt
- 4 dried apricots, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- A few pomegranate seeds
Soak the barberries in a little bowl of hot water for 10 minutes. If you can’t get barberries (Waitrose have them now), then dried cranberries are a fine alternative.
Pop the saffron in a small bowl and mix with 1 tbsp hot water. Set aside for a few minutes.
Chop the cauliflower into rough chunks and blitz in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Now you’re ready to bring it all together. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and, once hot, tip in the cauliflower and give it a muddle around the pan. Add the saffron with its water, cardamom, barberries (drained), apricots, pumpkin seeds and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 4-6 minutes until just cooked. Keep everything moving in the pan so it doesn’t brown and check the seasoning whilst it cooks.
Scatter with something appropriate – pomegranate, coriander, pistachios, flaked almonds, that sort of thing – and serve warm.
Other things to do with cauliflower
Nigella’s cauli’ and cashew curry is a cracker.
Ottolenghi’s cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yogurt make a wonderful packed lunch.
The Daylesford Farmshop Cafe do a glorious salad where you finely chop carrots, cauliflower, celery, beetroot, broccoli (pretty much any crunchy veg you’ve got to hand) and drench it in a bottle of french vinaigrette. It sounds simple but it’s out of this world.