Some time ago, on Countryfile, I remember being shocked by the content of one of their articles. No surprises that the subject was cauliflowers. There were two shocking factors:
- People don’t buy cauliflowers anymore because they don’t know what to do with them;
- A high percentage of cauliflowers are ploughed back into the ground because they don’t look perfect enough (and because the supermarkets have cut their orders as the cauliflower is too difficult to sell).
To me this is both incredible and criminal. Cauliflower is incredibly versatile and can be used not only as a vegetable on it’s own, but in many dishes. In a world where millions of people do not have enough to eat why are we ploughing food back into the ground because it does not “look” good enough?
Shock aside, the aim of this post is to inspire you to grow / buy and cook cauliflower.
Cauliflowers are a bit of a challenge to grow, the allotment vegetable growing website offers loads of advice. You can start raising your seeds under glass now (beginning of March). Cauliflowers have a long season, depending on the variety you plant (pretty much from March to November). From personal experience pigeons adore young cauliflower seedlings, so make sure you net them!
Cauliflowers come in different colours; white, green and purple – I think there is even an orange cauliflower. If you want to see what Wikipedia has to say on cauliflowers, click her.
I think the one rule to follow when cooking cauliflower is not to over cook it. Mrs Beeton advocated boiling the whole cauliflower for 25 minutes in a pot of boiling salted water (as Helen Peacocke explained in her great tribute article to the Cauliflower, in the Oxford Times, 8/3/12) – clearly this will produce an unpalatable end product. Yotam Ottolenghi uses cauliflower in many of his recipes. He fries it, grills it, roasts it, leaves it raw and bakes it – I am yet to see a recipe in which he boils it.
I love cauliflower cheese, or cauliflower macaroni cheese, or cauliflower macaroni and tomato cheese. For these dishes you do boil the cauliflower, briefly! These are great comfort dishes, don’t take that long to prepare and need very few ingredients.
Cauliflower is also fab in curries, makes great soups (try cauliflower and celeriac, finished with pesto).
Many years ago I worked at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford where there was an amazing Australian chef who had a repertoire of salads to die for. One of them was cauliflower and pine nuts in a honey dressing.
The BBC good food website has 73 recipes using cauliflower as the primary ingredient.
Great cauliflower recipes can be found in the Guardian
Helen Peacocke makes a mean Cauliflower soup with Thai green curry paste.
Although cauliflowers don’t have any super food claims (yet), they are full of great vitamins and minerals and most importantly – CHEAP!