I get a bit evangelical about cauliflowers. Such an undervalued vegetable. They are really difficult to grow and totally unappreciated. It makes me cross that something so delicious and so troublesome to grow can be sold so cheaply in the shops and I tend to get on my soapbox when they are mentioned.
They aren’t as overlooked as they used to be, mind. The clean-eating darlings starting ricing them, then M&S cling-wrapped them to sell as ‘steaks’ and Ottolenghi roasted them whole and covered them in pomegranates (what else). They were catapulted to momentary stardom. But these flickers of the spotlight aren’t without controversy. And fame, or should I notoriety, has come at a price for the poor cauliflower; I fear the media whores and fickle supermarket R&D teams will drop the humble cauliflower as fast as they took it up, returning it to a life of under-pricing and cheese sauce. Yes, I’m afraid the cauli’ may not have the sticking power to hold the fashionistas’ attention.
I am attempting to grow cauliflowers this year. I did so once before when I first started growing – heady and naïve days when I assumed anything was possible. Pah! Little did I know that no matter how I loved and cherished these seedlings, coaxing them into white, floretting promise over several months, they would still brown, shrivel and mold the moment I (oh so briefly) took my eye off them. Needy buggers.
Years on (I’m talking, like, seven years – it’s taken that long), and I’m feeling stronger, more skilled and ready to try again with the caulis. I’ve bought five different varieties (vegetable spread-betting) which all harvest in Winter and I’m buying them in plugs from Delfland Organic. Better plugs than seed I figure, in the hope a good start in life will make them tougher than if they endured my slightly erratic seed caring abilities. I know it’s a bit of a cheat if you’re a purist, but I’m not and, honestly, if I set myself up to fail this time it will mark the end of my cauli’ growing days forever.
So, wish me luck. And in the meantime, here’s a dish that celebrates the loveliness of a well-grown cauliflower. Don’t be tempted to serve this as a side dish. It’s a recipe that puts cauliflower front and centre. So serve it solo and tell your fellow eaters to marvel at the skill of the incredible growers who make fields of these buggers grow and still survive on the pittance we pay for them.