This past week or so has been a funny one, food-wise. Normally I am a bit of a texture-head, loving a bit of crunch, a bit of snap (if not quite crackle and pop). But unfortunately a spring cold rapidly escalated into sinusitis, and all that entails.
I feel a few of you recoiling – sorry.
Fond of the old self-remedy thing I have been fighting fever and aches with infusions of golden turmeric milk and doses of assorted green smoothies (this and this are on heavy rotation) and my beetroot zinger juice. Noodles have also featured highly. And soup. All in quite small amounts for me. Mr A knows it’s serious when I am off my grub! Yesterday afternoon Mr A kindly magicked up a superbly tender and flavoursome roast chicken, with lots of veg and some Yorkshire puddings. That really hit the spot, especially as he makes amazing gravy. I almost instagrammed my two yorkie puds, filled to the brim with golden onion gravy. But it was just so, erm, brown 😉 Not very food to glow! Anyway, the amino acid cysteine in chicken is alleged to be very good for fighting infections and thinning congestion – one of the reasons homemade chicken soup is seen as so healing. Every little helps.
The thing about sinus infections that you don’t know until you get one is that not only does your head feel gigantic (I actually looked in the mirror to see if it was swollen. It wasn’t.) and very sore, but eating is a bit of a pain – and not just because you can’t breath.
Chewing is just too much like hard work.
So I have been eating and sipping soft foods. I have a soft food section here on food to glow, for those who need such things, so I was trying a bit of my own advice for a change. But I also still wanted to play with my food. To experiment.
For awhile now I have been wanting to make cauliflower pakoras. I have seen versions of these crunchy golden nuggets dotted about on the Interwebs and really quite fancied a taste.
Cauliflower as a snack is not new to me though.
An acclaimed Edinburgh takeaway down the street from where we used to live in my carefree 20s had as a specialty battered cauliflower. Actually they battered everything, but actual vegetables were a novelty. While others would order pearly white fish and twice cooked chips, or proper pizza (not battered, or deep-fried, before you ask), I would always want the cauliflower. *look of disbelief from staff* The nuggets were soft and salty, with a crispy flour and polenta crust. I liked them with a few shakes of something called brown sauce – kind of like a Scottish version of A1 steak sauce with added vinegar. Those were the days. I could eat a paper cone of these greasy treats, half a pizza, and still fit in my jeans. *sigh*
Enough mourning over lost waistlines and all that. Most versions of pakora are fried, but a few are baked. And a few more still are vegan. But while they sounded great on paper I just imagined that the result would be a rather chewy affair, rather than the crunchy textured treat I tend to crave. Even unwell I had no desire for chewy pakora. But I did want something easy to chew and a bit spicy.
After a bit of lolling around wrapped in a blanket and complaining about the cold (which I was assured it was not) I found myself hungry and in possession of a wilting cauliflower. I had bought it the week before and hadn’t felt a great urge to do anything with it – until now. I was hungry and I wanted a pakora. Or did I?
Actually, before I was even aware of what I was doing (there wasn’t much space in my head for thinking) I found my hand pulling down a jar of my Creole seasoning, along with some cashews and Doves Farm gluten-free self-raising flour. And – as you do – I had a bag of fairly freshly picked (um, week old) wild garlic kicking about from a foraging expedition that I forced my family to go on as their Mother’s Day present to me.
So, from a mindless craving for cauliflower pakora my addled brain came up with Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites with Wild Garlic Sauce and American Buffalo Sauce. A little bit random, but they did get the thumbs up from my esteemed panel of taste testers (okay, they were very hungry at the time). Even more so when I heated up the leftovers the next day and drenched them in buttery Buffalo sauce. And, as I was wittering on about soft food earlier, they are indeed soft, but also a little crunchy from the cashew crust. You could indeed deep fry these for a proper crunch and chip shop feel. Even serve them in a paper cone.
But you don’t want to do go and do that, do you?
Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites with Wild Garlic Sauce and American Buffalo Sauce
These soft yet pleasingly crunchy bites can go many directions. I’ve used my Creole seasoning blend, but you could just as easily use chickpea (gram) flour and garam masala for an Indian feel – accompanied by a minty raita or chutney. Or perhaps sub in an Italian herb mix, and dip the golden nuggets in a rich red marinara sauce. Basically I just wanted an excuse to use up a cauliflower, and also to make some buffalo sauce, so that’s what I did!
Although I have made these vegan, adding an egg to the batter – mixing in the yolk and then folding in the whisked white – will give the bites an ‘airier’ texture.
As for the sauces, use either dairy or non-dairy yogurt for the wild garlic one, and either real butter or something like Earth Balance for the American buffalo sauce. Note to non-Americans: there is no Buffalo in Buffalo sauce. It is named after the city in New York where it was first made.
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets – trimmed weight 400-500g (5-6 cups), steamed for three minutes then air-dried in a colander
Juice ½ lemon
1 ¼ c self-raising gluten-free or plain flour
4 tbsp Creole seasoning mix (less if yours is salty – mine has no salt)
½ – 1 tsp fine sea salt (only if your seasoning blend is salt-free)
¼ cup chopped wild garlic leaves/ramps OR 1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1 ¼ c soda water/seltzer water, plus a few tbsp. extra
1 c finely chopped cashews or other nuts/seeds (I used sunflower seeds for some of the bites)
1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
2.Toss the steamed cauliflower in the lemon juice. Set aside.
3. Dry whisk the flour, Creole seasoning, garlic leaves and salt. Pour in 1 ¼ cups of soda water and mix to make a thickish batter – a bit thicker than pancake batter. Add a little more soda water if it seems too thick to coat the cauliflower. Gently fold in the cauliflower florets. Let the mix sit for 15 minutes.
4. Line a two baking trays with parchment paper and sprinkle on a thin layer of the cashews. Or you could make little rounds of cashew for each cauliflower bite.
5. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a heap of battered cauliflower and place it onto the cashews. I found that when I let the mixture sit for the 15 minutes (which I didn’t initially do) I was mostly able to gently toss the scoop of mixture into the cashews to coat all around. But just having the bottom on the cashews and sprinkling more on the top is fine too. The images show a mixture of both but upon eating you can’t really tell the difference.
Wild Garlic Sauce: Mix together 6 tbsp plain yogurt of choice + palmful of chopped wild garlic leaves (or 2 tbsp chopped chives) + squeeze of lemon juice + ½ tsp salt
American Buffalo Sauce: Gently melt 2 tbsp butter of choice then stir in 2 tbsp evoo + 4 tbsp hot sauce (Franks’s Red Hot for preference) + ¼ tsp garlic powder + 1 tbsp cider vinegar. Add in 1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
Serve the Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites hot with both sauces and some salad leaves for a light lunch or hearty snack.
Note: If there are leftovers of cauliflower bites, heat them for 5 minutes in a hot oven.
Note 2: Eagle eyes will note that I have also posted Pan-fried Creole Cauliflower Fritters. I promise these are different! I am just a bit crazy for this combination I guess 😉
Miss R’s track of the week: Nick Mulvey – Cucurucu