Get creative with cauliflower

The  Staff Canteen

Mention cauliflower as an ingredient to most people and don’t be surprised to be greeted by a yawn. It used to be hard to muster up any excitement about the vegetable, mainly because it was cooked to within an inch of its life. You might recall sad school dinners or members of your family boiling it into soggy squelchy submission, covering in a cheese sauce and, if that wasn’t enough, baking it too.

However, in the late 1980s this member of the brassica family hailing from somewhere around the Mediterranean was treated with great reverence and care by Joel Robuchon. Whilst at Jamin in Paris he began the revitalisation of the cauliflower. Teamed with aspic and Oscietra caviar he created the classic Gelée de caviar a la crème de Chou-fleur. Fast forward several years and Heston Blumenthal took up the cauliflower cause and turned it on its head with a memorable cauliflower risotto with cauliflower carpaccio and chocolate jelly. Ever since then cauliflowers have been gradually and quietly making their way into the restaurant mainstream. It’s helped that cauliflowers come in an almost rainbow-like range of colours. Add to that a variety of textures, shapes and sizes and you have a vegetable with legs! As cauliflower convert, Matthew Fort said: “From violet monsters the size of footballs to pointy yellow ones, aka Romanesco, bone-white cauliflowers and cauliflowers with a greenish tinge. “I realised there were sides and uses to cauliflowers that I had never dreamed of.  And here is a really useful tip that I’ve discovered researching caulis - according to Harold McGee, by pre-cooking cauliflower florets for 20-30 minutes at 55-60°C, they will ‘develop a persistent firmness that survives final prolonged cooking.’ Very useful if you want them to keep their shape and texture.” Now is the perfect time to get excited about cauliflowers as the following recipes show.

Agnar Sverrisson of Texture takes the romanesco broccoli - actually a form of cauliflower with a fractured texture -  to create a deconstructed cauliflower recipe. Cauliflower Textures is all about colour and texture, making it a brilliant talking point for any dining table, with all ingredients getting a chance to shine. The texture of cauliflower is also celebrated by Marcus Wareing of Marcus in his Sea bass with Cauliflower Textures and Polonaise Sauce.  He presents a variety of cauliflower textures alongside perfectly cooked fish, Marcona almonds and polonaise sauce - a classic French sauce, akin to a garnish with the hard-boiled egg and cauliflower shavings.

Laurie Gear of Artichoke pickles a variety of florets for his sublime dish of Pan-fried skate wing, purple cauliflower purée, pickled cauliflower and romanesco, caper and citrus butter sauce. For more pickled cauliflower, you can’t beat the classic mustardy relish PiccalilliJosh Eggleton of The Pony and Trap’s piccalilli recipe is simply the greatest accompaniment to rich terrines and cold meats.

Finally, Nigel Mendham of Mayfair’s Thirty-Six takes three cauliflowers to create an amazing depth of flavour and colour for his Confit pollock with cauliflower, cockles and Parmesan.  It makes a scintillating starter to enchant your diners. For more cauliflower dishes from some of Britain’s leading chefs, head over to Great British Chefs’ cauliflower recipe collection.

Mecca is head of social media at Great British Chefs.  At work, she is known for her chocolate desserts and boundless enthusiasm for social media. She has spent the last 10 years in community management and online marketing at some of the biggest and most innovative internet businesses out there (Yahoo, Justgiving, and Joost).  She also hosts an annual food blogging competition called Nom Nom Nom.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th April 2014

Get creative with cauliflower