Cauliflower as ugly duckling: a history
Cauliflower is the ugly-duckling-turned-swan of the food world. This is indisputable.
You may be thinking, “Whoa, hang on a sec. Isn’t kale still king? Aren’t we still talking about kale?… Hey, should I be making cauliflower crisps now?”
Yes, yes and here you go.
But, whereas kale is a relative newcomer to the average Joe dinner table, cauliflower has until recently been the steamy, grey horror served up only to be scraped into the bin. School dinner ladies, chefs, grannies, mums: they were all in on the conspiracy to besmirch the now-lauded cruciferous wunderkind. Boiled until the consistency of setting wallpaper paste and the aroma of rancid gym socks, poor old cauliflower has spent a long time treading (boiling) water. And now of course top chefs are building main dishes around this curdy, white wonder.
So, what happened?
Yes, how is that it that, from 2000-2010, UK sales of cauliflower fell 35% ; and industry mag, The Grocer noted that cauliflower suffered from being seen as “old-fashioned,” “difficult to cook,” and lacking in versatility, cauliflower staged such a remarkable reversal of appeal?
Cauliflower as Ryan Gosling*.
The trajectory gets stranger. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, 2015 was hailed the year of the cauliflower, and continues into this year. To wit, The Washington Post two weeks ago produced the fear-inducing headline, “Cauliflower is so hot right now you may not be able to afford it — or find it”.
On seeing this news I can almost picture dumpster-diving Manhattanites (or, more accurately, their nannies) fishing around for tossed out caulis. 😉
So, basically, it as if the oboe-playing kid who sat at the nerd table grew up to be Ryan Gosling.
I can’t be sure but I would bet that the annoyingly-pervasive but slightly useful fad for carb-restricting diets, fasting and other forms of self-induced deprivation has lead the change. (How crass must we seem to those with barely enough food to feed themselves and family?)
Do you agree?
Contrary to those who have said it is not versatile, near-limitless delights can be made with the humble cauliflower. Appropriately frugal in both expense and calories, cauliflower is a fairly magical vegetable. With little effort the pretty pale curds can be transformed into mashed potato , couscous, rice, savoury cake, sweet (chocolate!) cake, “Buffalo bites“, “tater tots” and pizza, as well as being an equal partner in the UK’s number one comfort food, cauliflower cheese.
And, so it happened, the cool paleo and low-carb kids befriended the lowly, stinky cauliflower and have been clamouring for it – whole, roasted and burnished with spice – ever since.
A tale of happily ever after? Probs not, but let’s enjoy it while we can – along with real rice, real potatoes, real crisps, real chocolate cake. 🙂
Easy Umami Cauliflower and Pasta
When going as simple as this recipe, quality ingredients are a must: buy the best olives, almonds and olive oil that you can afford. Also, I used quinoa pasta, but I also really like both spelt pasta and Italian, egg-enriched Durum wheat pasta. If you can get chickpea pasta, that’s really delicious, too.
Make extra: If you like, make twice as much of the umami cauliflower and add-ins, adding it to leftover or pre cooked quinoa or freekeh for a most unusual and satisfying brownbag lunch. Enjoy. xx
1 medium cauliflower – about 500g trimmed, prepared weight (include some tender stem too)
2 tsp lemon juice + extra for serving if you wish
1 rounded tsp Marmite or other yeast extract spread – optional for Marmite haters of course!
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp (and extra for serving if you wish)
1 tsp fennels seeds, lightly crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
16 best quality green olives (I use Nocellara “Sicilian Queen”), stone out and halved
60g raw almonds, chopped OR blanched Marcona almonds (my preference)
50-75g dried pasta – I used quinoa spaghetti
1 tbsp (+) fresh Greek oregano leaves or chopped regular oregano
What you need: 1 baking tray; small sauté pan, large saucepan
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
2. Add the Marmite (it is quite sticky and gloopy) and lemon juice to the sauté pan or a small saucepan (or bung in a bowl and microwave for 15 seconds) and heat just enough to make it easier to mix; whisk in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
3. Lay the cauliflower on the tray and quickly pour over the Marmite oil before it separates, and toss well; sprinkle over the crushed fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Pop the tray in the pre-heated oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until starting to brown in places, turning halfway through if you like (I don’t always and that’s fine).
4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet directions, shaving off some time to make it al dente*.
5. While the pasta is cooking and cauliflower is in the oven, wipe out the sauté pan, add the remaining oil and heat over a low-medium flame. Add in the olives and almonds when the oil is hot; sauté until the almonds are starting to brown.
6. Divide the cooked, drained pasta between two plates and top with the cauliflower, followed by the olives and nuts, then garnish with the oregano. Squeeze over some extra lemon and drizzle over more olive oil if you like. Serve.
Hate Marmite? Just leave it out, it will still taste grand; maybe add some vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese for more umami, yellow or red miso, or stir in some nutritional yeast flakes – about 2 tablespoons.
Little tweak: Add dots of organic ricotta (dairy or non-dairy/cashew) for a subtle creaminess.
* Resistant Starches: Pasta – and other starchy carbohydrates – generally has less impact on blood sugar levels if al dente or cooked and reheated from cold. The latter especially is very good for producing very desirable resistant starches. This article from authoritynutrition.com explains resistant starches and their benefits, although some of the claims are a bit premature, imo. And I wouldn’t recommend eating raw potatoes. 😉 Other, scholarly, articles on RS are online, but require a subscription to access.
Here are all of my cauliflower recipes, including this amazing Mediterranean one and this Middle Eastern “shawarma” one.
Roasted cauliflower recipes from others:
Sicilian Orzo with Cauliflower and Saffron – The Veg Space
Paprika and Cocoa Roasted Cauliflower – Tin and Thyme
Caramelised Cauliflower – Foodie Quine
Spice-Roasted Cauliflower & Broccoli with Couscous Salad – Family Friends Food
Miso-Roasted Cauliflower – Veggie Desserts
Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup – Feeding Boys
Whole Oven-Roasted Cauliflower – The Flaming Vegan
Romanesco Cauliflower Pasta – Lovely Appetite
Gratuitous image of Ryan Gosling. You’re welcome. 😉 (image credit not found)
23 thoughts on “The Rise and Rise of Cauliflower + A Recipe for Umami Roasted Cauliflower and Pasta”
If I ignore the marmite, that looks delicious! We had cauliflower tonight, cooked with caramelised onions, anchovies and white wine. It’s such a delicious vegetable, I’m glad it’s getting its moment in the spotlight 🙂
Haha! Miso, vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese or nutritional yeast will give the extra umami. Cauliflower deserves to be up there with kale, I think. 😉
Great post Kellie, it really made me smile. Having grown up on cauliflower cheese, I’ve always loved cauliflower, but it’s been exciting discovering so many new ways to cook it in recent years.
Oh this looks very tasty. Love cauli
I love cauliflower… always have. Thanks for the fab information, and a great recipe xx
I love cauliflower! it is a very versatile vegetable. We here in India make potatoes and cauliflower together as a dry curry and also cauliflower fritters are yummmm!
I looove aloo gobi AND cauliflower fritters!
So low in calories and so rich in nutrients. An amazing veggie.
You could replace the Marmite with miso, it’s wonderful with cauliflower.
Of course! I guess I use miso so much that I couldn’t see the woods for the trees! Added as an option. Thanks for the reminder, Sandra. 🙂
Such a great post! And yes, Ryan Gosling. Just yes.
I am loving that cauliflower is becoming more popular, as I am a big fan. Especially when it is roasted. I usually roast it in garlic and balsamic.
Kellie! I love this blog and have followed you for a while. First time commenting. I am SO GLAD that I scrolled down to the end of this post — the shot of my man Ryan made me laugh out loud — great start to the morning. I’m an ex-expat American — back in the USA (for now) after 20 years, off and on, in England — I miss Britain sooooo… Thanks for the chuckle, and all the best. Keep the great posts and recipes coming!
Two things I never thought i’d see written about together… cauliflower and Ryan Gosling… but yet it works!!! LOVE this post Kellie and thanks so much for including a link to my soup. Roasted Cauliflower has become a regular addition to my diet these days… so so delicious.
This sounds absolutely amazing, and the added dose of Ryan Gosling doesn’t hurt either 😀 I love that cauliflower has become trendy because it forced me to try it again, and a childhood hate has turned into one of my favourite veggies 🙂
oooh, I love the idea of these little roasted bits of cauliflower, so pretty too…. isn’t it funny how a vegetable you always loved and grew up with has always been a favourite in our family and when people say that ‘cauliflower is trending’ I just think – ‘well, it’s always been popular with us.’ Also, they grown fields and fields of it here in the UK, so it’s local and that’s always a good thing!
Hello Kellie I have recently discovered your blog via Instagram and I love your delicious recipes and beautiful photos. Over the past few months, I also have discovered the joys of roasted cauliflower. What a difference! Who knew cauliflower could be so tasty and nutty 🙂
Cauliflower is better than Ryan Gosling IMO, maybe just because I’m not the biggest fan of Ryan Gosling XD umami-roasted cauliflower sounds amaaaaaazing!
I need to get on this cauliflower hype before its too late and another veg is the Instagram hero! This recipe looks gorgeous, as does Ryan Gosling.