Cauliflower is a much maligned vegetable.
It’s underused and often smothered and baked in cheese sauce. Not that this bubbling, golden dish isn’t a delight, it’s just that there are so many other ways to celebrate it. If you break the cauliflower into florets, toss them in oil and roast, it will give them a completely different texture and flavour to steamed or boiled. If you want to cut down on your carbohydrates you can make a “couscous” from the florets. Coarsely grate or blend in a food processor until the texture resembles these little pearls. Fry in a large pan with some oil for a couple of minutes then add spices, fresh herbs like mint and parsley, lemon zest and juice, seeds, nuts or pomegranate jewels. Allow to sit at room temperature for a couple of hours before serving.
Whole roasting a cauliflower is a bit trendy now, it is a great way of cutting back on the faff that can be involved in the separation process. Not eating cauliflower leaves is a late 20th century affectation. Remove the inner stalk from the dark, green outside leaves and keep the delicate inside shoots intact. Blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes and fry in oil with garlic. Here the whole trimmed cauliflower is brushed all over with oil, maple syrup and mustard and roasted. It’s finished with cheese and crispy bacon and served on the leftover leaves. No waste and delicious into the bargain.
Another vegetable that tends to scare people is celeriac. It looks like a turnip with wires hanging out at the bottom. The recipe here is for roast celeriac soup but again there is no waste as the peelings are used. Give this root a good scrub and then remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. Toss in oil and then after 20 minutes add finely sliced onions and cook for another 20 minutes. The soup is silky and smooth and this crispy concoction adds a layer of texture and umami to it. Some chopped soup celery and walnuts lend a bit of intensity to cut through the sweetness. Another good use for celeriac peelings is to make your own celery salt. Place the peelings on a tray lined with parchment paper and cook in a low, 100oc oven, until brittle. Whizz in a food processor to fine powder and mix in with salt. Use to season steaks, chicken or vegetables. It’s also a delicious addition for the ultimate Bloody Mary.
What you’ll need
1 medium cauliflower
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 dessertspoon maple syrup or honey
Salt and pepper
100g parmesan, cheddar or gruyere
100g streaky bacon
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Trim all the leaves from the cauliflower and set aside. Place the cauliflower in a baking dish and set oven to 180oC. Whisk the oil, mustard and maple together and season with salt and pepper. Brush all over the cauliflower. Bake for about an hour or until cauliflower is cooked through. Press the cheese onto the cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes.
Take the young inside leaves of the cauliflower and set aside. For the leaves with a coarser stalk, remove the green parts and mix in with the young leaves. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the cauliflower leaves. Cook for a minute and drain. Pat dry on kitchen paper.
Cook the bacon until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan. Chop the scallions and add to the bacon fat with the garlic and butter. Cook for a minute then toss in the cauliflower leaves and cook for a further minute.
Arrange the cauliflower leaves in the bottom of a serving dish. Place the roast cauliflower in the middle. Chop the bacon and sprinkle over the top with the parsley. Slice into wedges to serve.
What you’ll need
1 celeriac (approximately 800g)
3 tablespoons oil
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1.5 litres stock (use a couple of vegetable or chicken stock cubes)
Scrub the celery under cold water and pat dry. Peel the celeriac with a vegetable peeler and set peelings aside for crisps. Toss the peelings in a tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Chop the celeriac into cubes and toss in the remaining oil. Season with salt and place on a baking tray and scatter over the thyme. Place in a 180oC oven and roast until golden and soft. Cook the onion, celery and garlic in the butter over a medium heat until soft – about 10 minutes. Add the roast celeriac, potato and stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Blend to a smooth puree and adjust texture by adding a little cream or water if necessary. Check seasoning.
For the celeriac and onion crisps
Toss the peelings in a tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cook in a 180oC oven for 20 minutes. Peel and halve the onion through the root. Slice as finely as you can. Toss into the celeriac and cook until all are crisp – another 20 minutes should do it.
2 stalks soup celery
4 walnut halves
Remove leaves from stalk. Finely chop the stalk. Blanch in salted boiling water for a minute then drain and dry on kitchen paper. Chop finely
To serve – spoon the soup into 4 bowls and scatter the crisps on top. Scatter over the soup celery and grate the walnuts over the top.