I have a large head of cauliflower in front of me.
In another life I would have turned it into cauliflower cheese, molten with dairy and oozing with stodge. I may have even crumbled bacon and breadcrumbs over the top to burnish while it baked. I’d have eaten it with some roast chicken and a very large glass of white wine.
Except we’re still on this slow carb kick. Not so much with the cheese, or the breadcrumbs. There’s a brideslave dress I need to don in three weeks time. The Hungry One has to fit into his good suit. So it’s lots of herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, fish and vegetables for us.
Hence the cauliflower.
“I’m thinking that I’ll grate some lemon and the garlic over the top. Maybe roast it and toss it with some parsley and almonds. What do you think?”
The Hungry One pops his head up. Then says; “well, that sounds like a Tori kind of dish”.
Note. This is not said with a thumbs up salutation for ‘good for you, you’re on brand’. Or even an excited, ‘oh gracious me, that sounds grand’.
He’s now joined me next to the stove and is surveying my comfort objects; the party bag of garlic, lemons and nuts that I keep with me in a kitchen. The ingredients that bring the zesty crunch I like so much. He’s nonplussed.
“It’s just you do those sorts of things lots.”
And like I apologised to him, I should apologise to you.
Just like all I felt like wearing throughout Autumn were striped tops, jeans, black boots and a grey scarf so large that ten year old twins could have found shelter beneath it, these are the flavours I’ve recently felt like playing with.
So this is my attempt to skip sideways a bit.
It’s a basic concept- taking a cauliflower and breaking it down, then roasting it until its nutty flavours deepen, olive oil catches on the crevices and it gets crunchy.
The only essential elements are the cauliflower, oil and salt. Whatever nuts, herbs and spices you add is up to you.
I toyed with inviting in some cumin and coriander, perhaps with some cocoa. That would take it down a Mexican mole route.
I thought about smoked paprika and extra cayenne, for a firey twist on the Mediterranean. But instead, I went for deeply coloured and aromatic. It’s gone south, but I’m not quite sure where.
I added a teaspoon of cinnamon. A teaspoon of turmeric. Both which left my hands looking like I’d been rock painting. Then some sliced chilli.
I snuck in the garlic and the almonds, just because, like blue jeans, there’s not a lot they don’t go nicely with. Once it’s been roasted it’s pleasant if tossed with some herbs. I went with coriander and mint.
I think it would be lovely with some lamb and natural yogurt spiked with garlic or lemon juice.
That night I served it with a green salad, pan fried sea bass and some of the Ginger Carrot relish I made in honour of Prince Harry for the Royal Wedding (I have a sneaking suspicion that if we met Harry, we’d get on well).
Later on, after The Hungry One had a bite he turned to me and smiled. “Well, it’s different. But it’s still on brand. You know why? It’s pretty good”.
Sometimes my husband says the nicest things.
Spiced cauliflower, with sea bass and relish
400 gram head of cauliflower
1 large handful coriander/cilantro
1 large handful of mint
3 garlic cloves, sliced or grated
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 chilli, diced
1 tablespoon of sea salt flakes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
To go with it
2 fillets of sea bass (or other firm flesh white fish with the skin on)
1 tablespoon of olive oil and sea salt for the fish
2 tablespoons of Ginger Carrot Relish (see here)
Mixed leaf salad
Here’s how we roll
1. Tear the protective leaves off the bottom of the cauliflower. Break the florets into pieces the size of a garlic clove. Put the long stems to one side. Don’t let them go to waste, there’s good flavour there. Dice them into thin coins and add them in with the cauliflower.
2. Add the cauliflower to a baking tray. Add the spices, garlic and the sea salt and shake around to make sure there’s a good mix of spices and seasoning on all of the surfaces. Drizzle with olive oil.
3. Place in a 200 C 400 F oven for 40 minutes, until the edges are crisp.
4. Pull out and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Return to the oven for five minutes.
5. Top with the chopped mint and coriander.
6. Serve with sea bass fillets that you’ve dried carefully and pan fried in a hot pan (check that the pan is hot enough by placing half a lemon face down on the pan. If it sizzles, it’s hot enough for the fish). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and a good pinch of sea salt. Cook the fish skin side down for two minutes, until the skin is crispy and the flesh has gone opaque half way up the width of the fillet. Flip the fillet and cook for 40 seconds on the other side.
7. Add the fish fillets, the caramelised lemon and cauliflower to a plate. Eat with a dollop of Carrot Ginger relish and green salad. Or just a drizzle of natural yogurt.