We are currently coming to the end of what organic vegetable box suppliers Riverford aptly call ‘the hungry gap’. It is the time between March and May when the stored fruit and vegetables have run out and the new plants haven’t grown enough to pick. Inevitably that has meant the boxes have had to include some imported vegetables to make up for the shortfall.
There is one vegetable, however, that defies the hungry gap (apart from the welcome edition of purple sprouting broccoli throughout February and March) and that is cauliflower. Great you might think – a home grown vegetable to enjoy through the months before spring really springs into life.
Not for me though. When I decided to start ordering a vegetable box I was fully aware you have to accept what you are given and I said to Will that will be fine because I love nearly all vegetables except for cauliflower – and as soon as I said the dreaded word they started to arrive, and they continued to arrive four weeks in a row!
I don’t know what it is about cauliflower. I think it might be more of a psychological thing rather than a complete aversion to the taste. The smell of it cooking reminds me of being 10 years old and desperately thinking of ways to get out of eating dinner when a cauliflower cheese was bubbling away in the oven – to this day you will not get me to eat a cauliflower cheese.
But I am a firm believer that you can learn to love any food if you give it a chance, and if you cook it in a sympathetic way. So during those four long weeks I tried cauliflower every which way – in soups, as a side, in spicy frittas and in creamy curries – and do you know what, I don’t mind cauliflower that much anymore, in fact I quite like it in a spicy vegetable curry. I actually cooked the vegetable curry three times it was so tasty. So below I give you my mish-mash recipe for a probably very not authentic vegetable curry for all those cauliflower haters out there.
This recipe makes more than two portions but reheats really well the next day for lunch left-overs. Use whatever you have in the house to go with it, I find you need a sweetish vegetable like sweet potato or squash in there though to balance the flavours.
½ a cauliflower cut into florets
1 sweet potato cut into small square chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 or 2 carrots, depending on their size cut into equal sized chunks to the potato
½ can of chickpeas
½ can of coconut milk
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 green chilli finely chopped
2 large tablespoons of Pataks tikka masala curry paste
A small knob of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
Plus, fresh natural yogurt, fresh coriander leaves and ½ a lemon to serve.
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Cook the onion until it starts to soften, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a minute, then add the curry paste and cook for a few minutes until it releases its smells and flavours.
2. Add your vegetables and coat them in the flavour then add the chopped tomatoes, fill the can about a quarter of the way up with water, swirl it around to get all the flavour out of the can and add to the pot. Finally add the coconut milk, stir and put the lid on and let it cook on a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then. The only way to know if this is done is to stick a knife in the vegetables to see if they are soft. The carrots are likely to cook last out of the lot. Depending on how big you have cut the carrot and sweet potato you might want to add the cauliflower into the pot 10 minutes after them so it doesn’t go soggy. When the vegetables are more or less cooked add the chickpeas and warm through (at this stage you could also add a handful or two of frozen peas for colour).
3. Serve with plain rice, dollop some natural yogurt on the top (this cuts through the richness of the dish), sprinkle over coriander leaves and serve with a wedge of lemon.
(You will be left with half a can of coconut milk. Either use in a smoothie the next morning, it goes well with pineapple and mango. Or pour into ice-cube trays and once they are frozen pop into a bag and store until you make another curry when you just drop the cubes into the pot and they defrost into a sauce. Use the half can of chickpeas to make a small pot of hummus for your lunch the next day by putting them into a food processor with some lemon juice, olive oil, half a clove of garlic, tahini paste and seasoning then blitzing. The curry paste keeps brilliantly in your cupboard for months, no need to even refrigerate)