I made a cauliflower dish for lunch the other day. It was roasting in the oven, the salsa verde was patiently resting, the pine nuts were on the right side of toasted, when I looked in the fridge to see what else I could grab for us to eat alongside.
Aside from a wedge of Brie and a packet of olives, the shelves were empty – unless you want to be served the entire raw contents of the vegetable drawer.
Some days, lunch comes together satisfactorily. Other days, less so.
Take our Sunday lunch this weekend. Thanks to the beautiful weather, the fact it’s March, and quite frankly, winter seems to carry on for years and enough is enough, we tried something different to a roast and had a leek and feta tart. With all hands on deck, all the sides emerged in perfect unison – a big bowl of coleslaw full of colourful cabbage and raisins, baby gem lettuce salad with lemon dressing, crispy roast new potatoes, and the pièce de résistance, the tart. A spring lunch which we ate, heads down, no conversation, chewing eagerly, it was that good.
And although the roasted cauliflower lunch came together after some hastily made and plated sides – a favourite salad of green beans with breadcrumbs and egg, baked potatoes – when we eventually sat down we realised the cauliflower dominated within its field and could have handled the lunch all on its own. And there simply wasn’t enough of it.
Cauliflower is a much beleaguered vegetable these days with many people opting for it smothered in cheese sauce. While I would never say no to cauliflower cheese, I also think roast cauliflower is a taste opportunity which shouldn’t be missed. The texture becomes soft and creamy, and the caramelised edges add a touch of rich crispness. Cauliflower is therefore a perfect vehicle, proudly supporting its bedazzling companions – in this case pine nuts, sultanas, and salsa verde.
Salsa verde has many different forms all with various herbs, capers or no capers, gherkins or no gherkins, but the basic principles are fresh herbs, olive oil and acid usually in the form of red wine vinegar. However, when has anyone stuck to the rules? For this recipe, I mixed together a slurry of roughly chopped coriander, garlic, capers, green chilli, olive oil and lime juice for a bit of a punch and as a salty tangy drizzle to be mopped up by the florets.
Meanwhile, as the chunks of cauliflower caramelised I opened the oven to sprinkle them with pine nuts and sultanas. The pine nuts darkened to shades of gold and the sultanas puffed up like little balloons, delivering a burst of sweetness with every bite. Hungrily spooned onto plates, and devoured in mouthfuls there was once again that lunchtime silence as we concentrated on our food and found it to be very good.
Cauliflower, pine nuts and salsa verde
- 1 medium cauliflower
- Handful of fresh coriander I know these is a bit vague but packet sizes are different depending on the supermarket. I actually weighed the amount and it came to 8g
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp capers
- ½ a green chilli
- Juice of ½-1 lime
- Olive oil
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 20 g pine nuts
- 30 g sultanas or raisins
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F. First make the salsa verde so the flavours have time to amalgamate. Roughly chop the coriander, including the stems, and scoop it all into a bowl. Crush the garlic, then add finely chopped capers and green chilli. Squeeze in the lime juice and just cover it all with olive oil. Add a big pinch of salt, mix together and taste. Add more salt and lime juice if necessary.
- Peel away the cauliflower leaves and chop off the rooty stem. Slice the cauliflower into strips then break each strip into chunks. Tip onto a baked tray and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper until evenly coated. Top with the thyme sprigs then slide the tray into the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
- When there is 5 minutes of cooking time left, lift out the tray and sprinkle with pine nuts and sultanas. Return the tray to the oven for the last 5 minutes, then serve drizzled in salsa verde.