I first became acquainted with this style of dish – a healthier sweet and sour, for want of a better description – after Andrew came back from a working weekend clutching a hand-written recipe, and near-demanding that we make it.
To him it was called Cressida’s Chicken, named after the sister of the hostess for whom this was a speciality. In this instance, a starchly-uniformed live-in cook prepared it – how the other half live! – and everyone present clamoured for the recipe. This was many years ago, but the recipe has finagled its way into my repertoire, and over the years has been adapted to our more veggie-minded ways. I now know that its proper name is Marbella Chicken, the stand-out dish from the 1982-published Silver Palate Cookbook. Perhaps you are already acquainted with this accessible gourmet cookbook?
Upon first scanning the ingredients I was tempted to ask Andrew whether his impression of the dish was coloured by consumption of the host’s undoubted fine wine cellar. But I knew that it hadn’t, and that nothing but food and fine Scottish water had passed his lips. Still – capers, olives, prunes!, brown sugar, wine? Really?
I dutifully prepared it (okay, I was intrigued and would have made it anyway) and was astonished, not only with the simplicity of it all, but the heady result of combining – to my mind – rather incompatible ingredients and then dining on something so sigh-inducingly good. Nearly every time I have made it for others, I am – like the original conduit of this recipe – induced to share the recipe. I imagine the original recipe created a similar wave among host-cooks and diners, and it is this ripple effect that is still being experienced today. A kind of naive, culinary social network.
Of course, make the original recipe, but I have tweaked the heck out of it to create a similarly textured but completely vegan version, for not only my family, but you and yours. It is spiky and full-on, as the ingredients might suggest, so I like pairing it with soft, silky polenta, creamy mashed potatoes or baked rice. In one of the images I have it alongside an upcoming recipe using the leftover cauliflower to make a luxurious version of paleo-staple, cauliflower mash. This would be a bit cauliflower overload for most of you. Really, just spoon it over your favourite comforting carbs and you can’t go wrong.
What favourite recipe have you successfully adapted over the years?
Roasted Cauliflower Marbella
This is quite a full-flavoured recipe so should be paired with something quite plain, such as mashed potato, polenta or rice. To give it more satisfying protein, perhaps roast or stir-fry some planks of tofu, warm and mash some white beans, or grill fillets of white fish and include with the cauliflower steaks. I have used freshly-pressed apple juice instead of the original recipe’s white wine, but do use wine if you wish.
2 heads of cauliflower or one extra large cauliflower, leaves removed and stem trimmed flush with the cauliflower
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
20 oregano leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (the good stuff, like a Cabernet Sauvignon one if possible)
50ml extra virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp
100ml fresh apple juice (tart), water or wine
150g (4.4 oz) prunes, quartered (divided use)
15 green olives, halved
3 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 bay leaf
Fresh parsley, to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Place a rimmed baking tray in the oven to heat.
2. Slice the cauliflowers through the core to make 3-4 thick ‘steaks’ from each cauliflower. Some of them will not be perfect, but that’s okay. It will still taste fab.. Brush all over with the 1 tbsp of oil and place each steak onto the preheated tray. Roast for 10 minutes, then carefully turn and continue for another 10 minutes.
3. While the cauliflower is roasting and browning nicely, place the garlic, oregano, vinegar, remaining oil, apple juice (or water or wine) and about 2/3 of the prunes into the bowl of a mini food processor (or use a hand blender) and puree. Now scrape the puree into a saucepan, along with the olives, capers, bay leaf and remaining prunes and bring to just under the boil, then turn down to simmer. Let this thicken, adding a little more water as necessary for it not to get too thick for a pouring sauce.
Soft Food Diets: blend the cauliflower to make a mash and blend the sauce to top the cauliflower mash.
One-Pot Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Chickpea Shawarma (vegan/gluten-free)
Arabic Eggplant and Walnuts with Cauliflower Couscous (vegan/gluten-free)
Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites with Buffalo Sauce (vegan/gluten-free)
Roasted Pumpkin Hummus with Cauliflower-Walnut Crumble (gluten-free)
Cauliflower and Green Olive Tapenade Gratin (gluten-free)
Cauliflower Recipes From Others
Herbed Cauliflower Rice – by Recipes From A Pantry
Paprika-Spiced Cauliflower with Four-Cheese Dip by Tinned Tomatoes
Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake by The Muffin Myth
Cauliflower Brunch Frittata with Chimichurri by Whole Nourishment
Roasted Cauliflower Manchurian by Deena Kakaya
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Pistachio Harissa Pesto by The Spicy RD
and the wild card… Chocolate Cauliflower Cake with Salted Cinnamon Caramel Icing by Veggie Desserts