Hipster’s choice

Menu Natural at Marc Fosh Restaurant

It’s hard to believe that the humble cauliflower is now deemed to be trendy and so much in vogue that the once-unfancied brassica has usurped kale as the hipster vegetable of choice. But is it really that surprising? For a vegetable it’s endlessly versatile and makes a great centrepiece. You can sauté it and blend it to add smoothness in sauces and a creamy texture to soups, but I love to simply roast it. Roasting isn't usually the first cooking method you think of for cauliflower but the results are quite delicious. It can be cut into thick slices and tossed with a little olive oil or butter, some fresh herbs and finished in the oven or roasted whole. It may just be a regular, humble, garden cauliflower, but there's something really exciting about seeing it come out of the oven whole. I often flavour
mine with lemon, chilli and cumin and a deep browning occurs in the oven that results in a sweet, nutty flavour. It really does make a beautiful edible centrepiece to hack away at, cutting chunks off the main stem, throughout your meal.

As a kid I couldn’t stand the sight of cauliflower on my plate and the odorous smell was enough to put me off cauliflower for a lifetime. Badly, over-cooked vegetables are unpleasant at the best of times, but cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are probably the worst offenders. It’s such a shame as these vegetables are wonderful ingredients when cooked with a little love and if you’re still haunted by the ghosts of your old school dinners, its time to think again and get back to Brassicas.

Go for cauliflowers with pure white heads with no discolouration, and crisp green leaves. The colour of the base is a good indication of how recently it's been picked - the whiter, the fresher. Most cauliflowers are white, but it's also possible to find green and purple varieties, as well as the sweeter Romanesco cauliflower, with its distinctive pointed florets.

Cauliflower is a truly versatile vegetable and marries well with cheese, almonds, anchovies, bacon and saffron. Like all brassicas, cauliflower smells very unpleasant if overcooked, so brief cooking is essential and also preserves crispness, colour, and reduces the loss of nutrients that will leach into the cooking water when vegetables are overcooked. Cauliflower may turn yellow in alkaline water. For a more attractive colour, add a tablespoon of milk or lemon juice to the water. Do not cook cauliflower in aluminium or iron pots. The chemical compounds in cauliflower will react with the aluminium and turn the vegetable yellow. While in an iron pot, it will turn a brown or blue-green colour. Both are not great food colours, so take care.
At our restaurant we focus a lot of attention on vegetarian food and we offer a seven-course degustation menu encompassing the best seasonal vegetables from the market. Right now we are a serving a roasted and spiced cauliflower dish that we then lightly smoke. It’s a complex dish that really treats this humble vegetable with the respect it deserves; the end results are just amazing too. This week’s recipe is a slightly simpler version for you to try at home.  It’s super easy to prepare and truly delicious…who needs meat?

Whole roasted cauliflower with lemon, chilli & cumin
This is a great vegan alternative and a delicious side or main course.

Ingredients            serves 4

1 large cauliflower (about 900 g)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli, de-seeded & finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
A handful of chopped parsley
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.

Mix all the olive oil, spices, garlic, chilli, lemon juice and zest in a bowl until well combined. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.
Rub the marinade all over the cauliflower, then place on a lined baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Baste the cauliflower 2-3 times with the cooking juices during the cooking process. We don’t like our cauliflower super soft, just al dente, but feel free to bake it longer if you want.

Top the whole roasted cauliflower with some finely chopped parsley, a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt. Serve immediately.