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Apparently the cauliflower has fallen from favour in the UK, as sales are in decline. Maybe because people favour more exotic vegetables and are swayed by the advertised ‘superfood’ status of things like sweeet potatoes. However, the humble cauliflower is not only tasty, cheap and versatile, it is an eco veg, as it can be grown in the UK all year round saving on food miles.
It should also shout more loudly about its own superfood status! Michael van Straten lists it in his Superfood Pocketbook, detailing the cancer-fighting compounds, high levels of folic acid (protects against heart disease and birth defects) and, especially if you include the green leaves, vitamin C and beta carotene. Also a useful source of B vitamins, tryptophan and omega 3! What’s not to love?
Cauliflower is a descendant of the wild cabbage from Asia Minor, and has been popular in Turkey and Italy since at least 600 B.C. (Source: www.whfoods.com). Cauliflowers are not easy to grow, but are ‘satisfying’ apparently, check out the allotment keepers site for advice.
So how best to eat cauliflower? Delish eaten raw with dips of course. Or take a look at Abel and Cole’s excellent cauli recipes.
Or try this 1904 recipe from Early Vegetarian Recipes.
Cauliflower Fried by Mary Pope in Vegetarian Savouries
Boil a large cauliflower in salted water. Cut up into suitable pieces. Lay them while warm in a thick batter for 10 minutes. Mix some bread crumbs with an equal quantity of grated cheese. Take the cauliflower pieces one by one from the batter, cover with the crumbs, and fry in deep fat.
As promised I’ve been trying out Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes from his ‘New Vegetarian’ feature in the Guardian and his caponata has become a favourite for flavour and being relatively simple to do.
I love Caponata, and after a trip to Sicily I checked out the recipe in a lovely book called ‘Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa’ by Matthew Fort, which is also a great recipe and had fewer ingredients, but, I loved the Ottolenghi version for the depth of flavour, helped along by the addition of harissa paste.
I left the red pepper out of this recipe, as it is not included in Matthew Fort’s version, but it would be a delicious addition I’m sure. However, Matthew Fort says of caponata that ‘no two recipes are the same’, so I felt free to mess around with the recipe a little!
Caponata by Yotam Ottolenghi
80ml olive oil
80ml sunflower oil
1 large aubergine (350g), cut into 2.5cm dice
120g celery, tender part only, cut on an angle into 2cm-wide slices
1 red pepper, cut into 1.5cm dice
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp harissa paste
150g tinned tomatoes (I used passata)
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
30g green olives, pitted and halved
1½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
30g raisins (optional)
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp chopped parsley
Heat both oils in a large, heavy-based sauté pan for which you have a lid. Lay in the aubergine and fry for five to seven minutes, until golden-brown, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the aubergine to a colander and sprinkle with a bit of salt. After a few minutes, transfer to soak on a paper towel.
Add the celery to the hot oil, fry for three minutes, add the pepper and cook for two minutes. Transfer to the colander, then to a paper towel.
Sauté the onion and harissa in the oil (add a little more to the pan, if need be) for seven minutes, until soft and golden. Drain off any excess oil from the pan, add the tomatoes and vinegar, stir and bring to a simmer. Add the fried vegetables, capers, olives and sugar, and season. If the mix is too dry, add a few tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the raisins (if using), taste and adjust the seasoning. Leave to come to room temperature, add the lemon juice and parsley, and taste for seasoning again.
TV chef Phil Vickery has been working with Coeliac UK and has called on restaurants to provide more gluten-free options on their menus. According to the charity, there is a huge untapped market of coeliac sufferers, who are virtually unable to eat out. Meanwhile, Phil has a gluten-free recipe book out called ‘Seriously Good’, which includes some great baking recipes. Check out his recipe for Chestnut and Roasted Onion Bread here.
Avoiding wheat and gluten when eating out is a nightmare, especially if you are vegetarian as well! Indian restaurants are a great option with their rice-based dishes. I have also found good food in London at the Leon chain where options are clearly marked, and their website states that ‘research is strongly suggesting that all of us would be healthier if we steered clear of gluten’, so they clearly have a commitment to providing gluten-free options! The Giraffe chain also have a lovely Powerfood salad, which is vegan and gluten-free.
For more recipes, check these two blogs: Gluten free goddess and Gluten free vegan. There’s also a gluten-free category on this website and I’ve posted an article on how to have a Vegan Victorian dinner party, which is also gluten-free!
I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch at Wahaca in Covent Garden (London) yesterday, and have become an instant fan.
The menu is arranged rather like a mexican tapas selection with small dishes to share, although you can have a platos fuertes (bigger plate) instead.
For some reason we were given the winter menu rather than the summer menu which is now up on their website, but no matter, it was great anyway. All the flavours of mexican food, but fresh and light. Their Frijoles were a triumph made with black beans and topped with sour cream, as were their Taquitos – crispy corn tortillas.
I was less keen on the Tortilla Soup, as it was smokey, which is not my favourite flavour, but an excellent innovation in texture served with avocado and tortillas.
This restaurant is now on my list of ‘regulars’ and I can’t wait to go back!