CAULIFLOWER! The cute little white trees with incredible health benefits. In Europe and Australia, we cover them in cheese and in Bangladesh, we cover them in oil - but there are so many other ways to eat them.
The recipes in this column take tips from Spanish kitchens, Persian shops and of course, some innovative recipes from the Bangladeshi 'rannaghor'. Why should you make the effort to venture outside of 'ful kopi vaji' or palau? One of the reasons is the less you cook cauliflower, the better it is for you.
These recipes give you some alternatives that require a bit less cooking time. Whichever way you decide to cook it though, to get the maximum health benefits of cauliflower, either buy it the day you cook it, or keep it in the refrigerator.
If you store it properly, the cauliflower will stay fresh for a week. If you do want to boil it, try to boil in a little boiling salt water; do not overcook it because the nutrients contained in it will be lost, especially the Vitamin C.
What's the big deal about the little trees?
Apart from the fact that they are a sure way to amuse young children, they are also really good for you. Here are our top five reasons why:
They may actually be one of the surest ways to avoid cancer
Cauliflower contains sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. Indole-3-carbinol is known to have efficacy as an anti-estrogen. Together with sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol has been shown to prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, and may provide a toxic effect on cancer cells.
Avoid a running session – grab a plate of cauliflower!
The little trees are a great food to include in your diet if you want to lose weight because they are low in calories and a great source of dietary fibre, so they keep you feeling fuller for longer and help digestion. Having enough fibre in your diet helps to keep things moving smoothly through the intestines. Cauliflower can also help to lower cholesterol levels, giving you another way to beat the bulge. Cauliflower also contains a compound called glucoraphin, which protects your stomach and intestines from certain health conditions such as cancer and ulcers. If you're in a hurry, try grating the trees into”rice" and using it in recipes instead of regular rice, or steaming it and mashing it into a healthier version of mashed potatoes.
Save money on anti-ageing creams and heart medication
They contain a high amount of antioxidants, which are essential for the body's overall health and help to prevent heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Antioxidants are also essential in destroying free radicals that accelerate the signs of aging. They also protect from heart disease, because they contain allicin, which has been found to reduce the occurrence of stroke and heart disease.
Feeling bloated and sore? Cauliflower helps to reduce inflammation
Cauliflower has high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K in cauliflower, helping to prevent the chronic inflammation that leads to conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, and certain bowel conditions.
The little trees are good for little people too
Cauliflower provides a good amount of folate (B9), a B vitamin that is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Folate deficiency in pregnant women can lead to problems such as birth defects and low birth weight.
A royal health boost
Loaded with vitamin C, this cruciferous cousin to broccoli was once revered by a French king. Cauliflower is known to probably have originated in Cyprus from where the Romans took it to France and it became a favourite of Louis the XIV.
Mentioned in the cooking journals of a famous French historian in the 16th century, cauliflowers were used in elaborate and decadent meat dishes. It is still a favourite in French cooking.
Making its way to the kitchens of Asia
Cauliflower was introduced in India in the 1820s. The vegetable was quickly accepted and now our own kinds are grown that can bear the humid weather. Cauliflower worldwide can be found in three different colours; orange, white and purple. The cauliflower offers a blank canvas to cooks because of its ability to absorb different flavours.
Like the potato, it can be used in almost any vegetable dish to add volume, but cauliflower still maintains its unique flavour even among a curry with many other vegetables. The Indian subcontinent gave it a unique spot on the cooking shelf with the universally loved dish 'aloo-gobi', and we here in Bangladesh have also made it popular through deep frying it as a finger food with kalojeera, oil and egg batter.
Whole roast cauliflower with cumin, sumac and lemon
Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Drizzle two small cauliflowers (outer leaves removed) with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, ½ teaspoon sumac and ½ teaspoon ground cumin. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, but turn the temperature down if the cauliflowers start to get too dark. They're cooked when they're lightly browned and an inserted knife meets with just a little resistance. Before serving, drizzle with some more good quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, then scatter with a handful of parsley and a little more salt.
Tips: If you do not have sumac, you can try dried mango powder (aamchur) or a mix of ground black pepper, extra lemon and paprika.
Cumin seed roasted cauliflower with salted yoghurt, mint, and pomegranate seeds
I roasted up a small head all for myself, and added a topping of salted yoghurt (which is simply a good, full-fat yoghurt with a little kosher salt mixed in a few leftover pomegranate seeds which I can buy at my local market already picked out of the husk, and a smattering of bright green chopped fresh mint. It was a perfect light lunch. It could even be dinner, served over brown rice, bulgur, or some other filling, toasty grain, for a warming meal to start out roasting season right.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and toss 1 large cauliflower with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and its edges are toasty, it should take 20 to 30 minutes.
Whisk a pinch of salt into plain (non-sweetened) yoghurt, dollop the yoghurt on top of the cauliflower and toss chopped fresh mint leaves and pomegranate seeds over the top.
Tips: If you do not have baking paper, you can simply use extra-virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the tray.
Creamy winter cauliflower soup
Sauté 4 cloves garlic and 1 small onion (sliced thickly) in 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for a minute or until garlic turns golden, then add 1 large cauliflower and a pinch of rosemary and sauté for another minute. Take it off the stove but leave it covered so it absorbs the garlic flavour.
Bring 3 cups of milk to the boil and let it simmer for up to 3 minutes before adding the cauliflower. Boil it for up to 10 minutes until you think the cauliflower is soft.
Add a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of pepper, a pinch of paprika or roughly ground dry red chilli flakes and a pinch of basil and boil for another 5 minutes so the spices infuse the cauliflower. Use a stick blender or transfer the boiled ingredients into a blender and blend to your desired texture. Serve with a garnish of sautéed garlic (cut into round pieces and fry until golden) with a bit of parsley or dill sprinkled over it.
Yummy cauliflower non-sweet cake
1 large cauliflower
2 cups baking flour and ½ teaspoon baking powder
2 onions and 5 cloves garlic; both should be roughly diced
1 large spring onion
½ cup milk and 50g white cheese or Dhaka Paneer
2 large tomatoes thinly sliced
½ tsp black onion seeds or kalojeera
Chilli flakes to your taste
Pinch of turmeric
Salt and pepper to your taste
Preheat oven at 200⁰ Celsius for 15 minutes. Make the onion mixture: sauté 2 onions (roughly diced) and the white or onionish part of 1 large spring onion (sliced thickly), for up to 3-4 minutes then add 5 cloves of garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
Make the cauliflower and tomato mixture: boil 1 large cauliflower for 3-4 minutes with a pinch of turmeric, sauté it with ½ teaspoon kalojeera for 1-2 minutes (or until it looks cooked) then add 2 large tomatoes (thinly sliced), a pinch of pepper, chilli flakes to your taste and the onion mixture. Cook for another two minutes.
Whisk 5 eggs and slowly add flour, baking powder and ½ cup milk. Whisk into a smooth batter. Brush a baking dish with olive oil then pour the batter into the baking dish. Add the cauliflower and tomato mixture and roughly cut up 50 grams of Dhaka paneer and sprinkle it all over the dish along with the green, leafy parts of the spring onions. Add some sautéed garlic on top and 1-2 pieces of onions roundly chopped on top.
Put into the oven for up to 20 minutes at 180⁰ Celsius or until the centre becomes golden brown. Take out and let cool for up to 10 minutes. Serve it with green chilli sauce or a tangy tamarind sauce.