“First of all, as to cauliflower, here is a tip. If you are not lucky enough to cut your own fresh from the garden, do this: remove a sliver from the thick woody base and sit the cauliflower in a bowl of warm water with a teaspoonful of sugar. If you do this overnight, you’ll be amazed how the cauliflower has freshened up by the morning, and it will keep fresh for several days”
-Paul Roche, Cooking with a Poet
Roche goes on to recommend cooking the cauliflower whole and simply by:
- Boiling the leaves, ribs and excavated-out core, covered in a big, salt-spiked, filled saucepan, for a quarter of an hour.
- Then add the cauliflower whole and continue to boil, covered, for another eight or so minutes (it should still resist a knife). However – for coloured cauliflowers it’s best to either roast whole or steam – otherwise the colour (its whole raison d’être) with leech out. For roasting, coat in lemon-zest, seasoned butter and bake for 1¼ hours in a preheated 180°C oven. Steaming a whole head will take about ten minutes.
- Drain, put the cauliflower, whole, into a warmed bowl and reassemble the more tender leaves etc around it.
- Grind a generous amount of white pepper over it and anoint generously with olive oil.
“The white outer ribs and the deep green leaves give you the contrast of two textures, two colours and two flavours,” he explains, “what is more the cauliflower’s delicate, sulphury sweetness is undistracted by sauces and cheeses”.
I tried his technique out most successfully with a very violently purple-hued cauliflower, and it looked stunning – the purple cranium and the green leaves each complementing the other’s jewel-like colours. Purple is the colour of emperors, and this specimen was certainly fit for any number of them.
I was careful not to allow the water to cover the top of the cauliflower as it was cooking because it bleeds its colour into the water.
You can also get orange and green cauliflowers – they all taste the same as the ‘normal’ type, but in the case of the purple and orange the natural colour contains additional antioxidants. The purple colour comes from anthocyanin, which may help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting.
But it’s not to do with health, the main point of these coloured varieties is to make a statement… but the the best is the purple, the orange is a bit lurid and the green … well, romanesco is far more beautiful and also a cauliflower – why bother?
For a further touch of exoticism I added some crumbled egg yolk (the best egg to use is a Clarence Court Burford Brown which has a lovely sunset gold yolk) and finely chopped black garlic.
I bought this amazing purple cauliflower as part of a whole collection of eye catching vegetables which I found at Bridget’s Market in Bridport.
Are you a gardener? If you want purple, as here, try either Sicilia Violetta (compact head and sweet nuttiness) or Purple Graffiti.. ..if lime-coloured, then Trevi.
Fantastic! Listen to Beethoven’s piano concerto No 5 in E flat major (The Emperor) while you cook this. See below.