The Humble Cauliflower Finally Gets its Time in the Spotlight
I grew up hating cauliflower. My Mum, though a good cook in many respects, would annihilate vegetables by boiling them until they barely resembled their raw versions.
A beautiful roast leg of lamb would be accompanied by over-cooked cabbage and boiled-to-smithereens cauliflower and broccoli which, by the time she was finished with them, were a forlorn grey and a sad shade of pale khaki. Poor Mum; at least the lamb was superb and she always made rich, tasty gravy which could hide a multitude of sins!
Now in my adulthood, cauliflower has stepped into the spotlight and I’m proud to give it the treatment it deserves. Though a very humble vege, it has surged in popularity thanks to the low carb movement. We ‘low-carbers’ love the stuff because we can enjoy it relatively freely and its neutral flavour lends itself to a huge range of applications. Cauliflower mash replaces mashed potato on top of shepherd’s pie or alongside sausages and onions while cauliflower cheese (or au gratin) is infinitely satisfying to those of us who are consuming lots of good fats (I follow a ketogenic diet which is extremely low carb, moderate protein and high – good – fats). Don’t forget roasted cauliflower or adding some florets to your favourite Latasha’s Kitchen curry or stir fry!
Cauliflower rice, where have you been all my life?
Where cauliflower really comes into its own is when a recipe calls for rice. Have you heard of cauliflower rice yet? Allow me to introduce you!
As the name suggests, it is ‘rice’ made of cauliflower. When they’re in season and well-priced, I stock up and make up batches of cauliflower rice to store in snap lock ‘doses’ in the freezer. Whenever I want to use one, I pull it out, transfer it to a bowl and steam it in the microwave. Easy peasy! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through this step by step.
Firstly, when caulis are on special like they were here recently – hello, $2 cauliflowers!! – snap them up. Doing the work once is always better and more enjoyable than having to do it multiple times. That’s what your freezer is for, after all.
Just look at these beauties!
Nice, tight clusters of florets, lovely creamy colour, blemish-free stems and leaves and wonderfully heavy and dense. I bought three and they
were huge! I got out my trusty food processor, a cutting board and sharp knife and assembled my snap lock bags on the kitchen bench. Now onto making the ‘rice’ itself.
- Remove leaves but don’t throw them away. Trim the florets and stems into, let’s say bite-size pieces. Throw handfuls of them in the food processor and whizz!
- In just a few seconds, you’ll have what looks like grains of rice. Now at this point, you can either steam it in a large frypan with a bit of water or stock, with a lid on, until tender. Or you can sauté it in some butter or ghee and add your favourite spices like cumin or maybe some garlic and ginger. You can freeze it like that but I just spoon it completely raw into the snap lock bags and start on the next batch.
- Keep trimming and whizzing then bagging. Lay the snap lock bags flat so that you have what will become flat blocks of cauliflower rice in the freezer. They stack better like that and also defrost quicker and more evenly. Use a marking pen to label the bags with the contents and date.
SO versatile, and suitable for multiple dietary considerations
And that’s it! Cauliflower rice is ready for your next curry, Thai laksa, Vietnamese pho, stir fry, fried rice, pilaf, paella, risotto, stroganoff, pasta sauce or even to serve in exactly the same way as cous cous. Try steaming it in a little stock and adding Middle Eastern spices and a scattering of sultanas or chopped dried apricots to serve with your next tagine or pan fried lamb cutlets. Delish! Even if low carb is not your thing, it’s also gluten free and a way of slotting an extra serve of vegetables into your day. Oh and by the way, anything you can do with cauliflower rice, you can do with broccoli rice.
Hold it! Don’t waste those leaves!
Before you go tossing those precious cauliflower leaves on the compost heap, keep in mind you can do some wonderful things with them. I experimented with them and turned out an exquisite cauliflower leaf curry that blew my own mind! Here’s how:
Cauliflower Leaf Curry
Leaves of 1 cauliflower
Salted, boiling water
½ cup of sliced mushrooms (if desired)
1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons Latasha’s Kitchen Homestyle Curry Paste
½ cup coconut milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
- Trim off any undesirable parts of the leaves (blemished, brown, limp). Separate the tougher ‘ribs’ of the leaf from the leaves themselves, but don’t discard those either. Wash everything thoroughly then shake off excess water. Cut into smaller pieces as you prefer.
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and add the trimmed ‘ribs’. When they are tender, add in the leaves and cook those until they are slightly wilted.
- At this point, you can choose to strain, place on a plate and serve with a knob of butter and some cracked pepper and it will be perfectly acceptable as a side dish to your main meal.
BUT if you really want a powerhouse of flavour … !!
- Heat a frypan (I used the same pot as I used for boiling the leaves and tossed out the water) and add two teaspoons of Latasha’s Kitchen Homestyle Curry Paste. Add a teaspoon of butter and fry to release the curry paste aromas. Add mushrooms.
- Return the leaves and ribs back to the pan and toss through, allowing everything to be coated in the curry paste.
- Add half a cup of coconut cream and stir through for a few minutes, enjoying the aromas as they waft up from the pot.
- Transfer cauliflower and mushrooms to a plate and pour the sauce over the top.
- Garnish with chopped coriander. Spectacular!
This dish can be enjoyed on its own for a light lunch or served as a side dish to get those important vegies into your day.
Cauliflower’s impressive nutrition credentials
Did you know that just one serving of cauliflower will give you 77% or your recommended daily Vitamin C? It’s also a healthy source of Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin B6, choline and fibre. Part of the ‘brassica’ family of vegetables, which also includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and spinach. Brassicas are gaining popularity for their anti-cancer and liver supporting properties and can even assist in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. What’s not to love?