A striking handful of the cauliflower’s white blooms are always a welcome sight on my plate, but it is yet another vegetable that has sadly been sullied with the often long-held memories of grey, mushy florets or bloat-inducing cauliflower cheese. I thought it was about time that we learn to fall back in love with this nutritious and versatile food, and so I have created a few new recipes to inspire you.
So what is good about cauliflower? Well, one serving of cauliflower will give you just 14 calories, but this comes with some gut-healthy fibre, calcium, potassium, vitamin C and even folic acid (1). It has gained popularity recently as an alternative to rice, potatoes and flour (such as in cauliflower pizza), because it can be cooked in a variety of different ways to mimic these ingredients, but with significantly fewer carbohydrates (and of course, is gluten free).
But cauliflower has other benefits, too. It is packed with phytonutrients, those beneficial chemicals that, although are not essential to life like vitamins and minerals, are thought to positively impact on our health. These phytonutrients include antioxidants that have been found to neutralise the activity of DNA-damaging free-radicals (2), and are therefore of interest for their potential ability to help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer (3). They include glucosinolates, phenolic compounds and anthocyanins.
One study found that different cooking methods affected the levels of vitamin C and antioxidants in the cauliflower. Blanching and boiling were the worst culprits (sometimes losing up to 50% of their antioxidant content), and although there were still some losses, steaming came out top (4). The message is therefore to go for minimal cooking, and ideally try to avoid cooking them in water where some of the nutrients can leach out.
A healthy, undamaged cauliflower head is a remarkably durable vegetable, and can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge, so is an ideal stand-by ingredient to have at home in case you need to whip up a speedy dinner. Leaving a few of its leaves on acts as an additional layer of protection, and can themselves be used as surprisingly delicious addition to cooking with the florets. Don’t forget that there is more than just the white variety too – you can get green, romanesco and even purple cauliflowers!
I do hope that you, and your family, will enjoy these new ways to get some more delicious, and nutritious, cauliflower into your diets.
So, here are my 3 delicious things to do with cauliflower:
Spiced Z’atar Lamb & Cauliflower Bowl
This is my take on a traditional Middle Eastern dish, usually served on hummus but cauliflower blended with tahini makes the perfect rich creamy base for this spiced Z’atar lamb. Serve on one large sharing platter, or in individual shallow bowls. I top mine with a chopped salsa for freshness, but this works equally well with just some red onion slices.
You’ll Need (Serves 4)
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 3 tbsp tahini
- juice of one lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard, English or dijon
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, or ghee
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp mild allepo chilli flakes
- 600g minced lamb
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp z’atar (if you can’t find this, use 1 tbsp thyme)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 or 6 grinds of black pepper
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- a handful of mint, chopped
- a handful of parsley or coriander, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and diced
- ¼ cucumber deseeded and diced
- ¼ red onion, diced
- Break the cauliflower into florets and boil or steam until a sharp knife runs through with ease, about 10 minutes. Drain well and whizz in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients for several minutes until creamy smooth, check for seasoning.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the chilli flakes and garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the lamb. Cook the mince breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest, z’atar, cinnamon, seasoning, apple cider vinegar and 100ml water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 6-8 minutes until the liquid has all but gone. Stir in the fresh herbs and remove from the heat.
- Serve with a generous swirl of cauliflower puree around the edge of the dish and a tumble of spiced lamb in the middle. Top with the salsa, or just some sliced red onions.
Cauliflower Steaks & Beef Burgers
This is an easy way to make a handsome burger base out of cauliflower. They are great with these beef burgers but if that’s not your thing try my Green Burgers (Cook. Nourish. Glow. page 306-7), or simply have on its own with your favourite salad.
You’ll Need (Serves 4)
For the Cauliflower Steak
- 3 tbsp coconut oil, or ghee, melted
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 cauliflower heads
For the Beef Burgers
- 500g organic minced beef
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp English mustard
- ½ tsp salt
- black pepper
- 2 tsp coconut oil or ghee
- Sliced tomato
You will also need a cooling rack placed over a baking tray – if you don’t have this straight onto a baking tray is fine.
- Pre heat oven to 200 fan.
- Cut the whole cabbages into 2.5 cm slices, you should get 2 complete slices from the centre and some lose florets. Mix the melted coconut oil and paprika together, and brush over the slices and loose pieces and place on the rack. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, until it is slightly browned.
- Meanwhile, mix all of the burger ingredients together and shape into 4 patties roughly 10cm and 2cm. Chill until ready to cook.
- Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium hot, brush the patties with a little melted coconut oil and cook for around 4-5 minutes each side, making sure they are cooked through.
- Serve the burgers on the cauliflower steaks with your choice of extras. The loose florets are great as finger food on the side, or save these for a salad.
Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini & Miso Dipping Sauce
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 cauliflower
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp miso
- 1tsp coconut nectar or honey
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1-3 tbsp water
- Pre heat oven to 200 fan.
- Break the cauliflower into florets and toss in the coconut oil. Spread in a single layer on a large baking tray and roast for 18-20 minutes, until golden and cooked.
- Meanwhile combine the tahini, miso, coconut nectar and apple cider vinegar and whisk to a smooth paste. Add 1 tbsp of water at a time until you have a hummus-like consistency, perfect for dipping the florets.
- NDL/FNIC food composition database home page (2011) Available at: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov (Accessed: 8 March 2016).
- KÖKSAL, EKREM, and İLHAMİ GÜLÇİN. Antioxidant activity of cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L.). Turkish Journal of Agriculture and Forestry1 (2008): 65-78.
- Cabello-Hurtado, F., Gicquel, M. and Esnault, M.-A. (2012) ‘Evaluation of the antioxidant potential of cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) from a glucosinolate content perspective’, Food Chemistry, 132(2), pp. 1003–1009.
- Volden, J., Borge, G.I.A., Hansen, M., Wicklund, T. and Bengtsson, G.B. (2009) ‘Processing (blanching, boiling, steaming) effects on the content of glucosinolates and antioxidant-related parameters in cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. Ssp. Botrytis)’, LWT – Food Science and Technology, 42(1), pp. 63–73.