Crazy over cauliflower
THE WORLD’S going cauliflower crazy with food-lovers and medics proclaiming it as, without a doubt, the ‘greatest low-carb vegetable ever’.Analysts are studying its virtues as websites and wise scribes wax lyrical about how the humble ‘caulie’ has become the food trend of the century.
‘Cauliflower moves to the centre of the plate’, declared New York Magazine, crowning it the ‘vegetable most likely to be mistaken for a piece of meat’. Then came the cauli grains, riced cauliflower, cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower gnocchi and eventually cauli memes. ‘If cauliflower can somehow become pizza …’ the website Food52 said inspirationally on Instagram, ‘you, my friend, can do anything’.
It has been nothing short of spectacular, suggested Rachel Sugar for vox.com: “If you weren’t paying attention, cauliflower seemed to rise out of nowhere – you weren’t eating it, and then you were. But to the people who track these things, both chefs and trend forecasters, the rise of cauliflower is a perfect illustration of how food trends evolve.”
Executive chefs in Bahrain have been stunned that one of their mainstay elements in many cuisines has become a celebrity ingredient … and have risen to the challenge with traditional and inspirational offerings of their own.
French Executive Chef David Miras of the Crowne Plaza Bahrain admitted: “The cauliflower craze took me by surprise, because to me it’s always held a prominent status, not only from a chef’s point of view but also as someone who originates from cooler climates.
“It may have recently reached cult status with the ‘Californian foodies’ but for the vast majority of us it’ll always be a trusty ‘comfort food’ that we’ve grown to appreciate. However, what we chefs love about these sorts of fads is the resulting creativity and plethora of iteration using timeless ingredients.
“My findings, nevertheless, suggest that the tried and tested classics still win the contest … so I’m doing a ‘Gratin de choux-fleurs’ for lunch today!”
This traditional French dish of cauliflower with melted cheese gets some added ‘ooh la la’ with additional broccoli, garlic, thyme and nutmeg.
Cauliflower has long been a staple across India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangledesh since time immemorial and, as such, has been oft celebrated at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s Nirvana Indian restaurant.
Executive Indian Chef Mahipal Singh explained: “The cauliflower has lots of benefits. This is one of my favourites because I am vegetarian as well. Cauliflower Tikki, for example, is a very popular snack, usually eaten with naan bread and chutney for breakfast or lunch as well, or just with tea in the evening.”
He added that the dish also remains popular in school cafeterias and is enjoyed to break fasting at Iftar during Ramadan.
Chef Mahipal is also convinced there are many health benefits to eating cauliflower believing it helps to fight cancer, takes care of your heart, improves the cardiovascular system, prevents oxidative stress, helps to detoxify the body, prevent stomach disorders, fight respiratory problems, is good for the bones and skin and even helps treat nervous disorders.
Executive Chef Brian Becher of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, is another big caulie fan with a plan.
He said: “I love the versatility of all varieties of cauliflower. This is one of the few vegetables that can be used in place of a starch in most cases or as a substitute for rice or even pizza crust. And, it takes on flavours so well. For example, Chef Tetsu and I will be serving Beluga Caviar with a Cauliflower ‘Hummus’, served on top of a Black Lemon Blini for the Spago Pop-Up Weekend in November.”
More culinary secrets will be revealed on the hotel’s Facebook page closer to the time.
Cauliflower’s sudden global No I status, according to Suzy Badaracco, president of the trend forecasting company Culinary Tides, was born of several things such as the global downturn, a related move toward more vegetable-centric eating and the popularity of health plans like the Keto Diet that involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake.
What makes cauliflower so popular is that it has a similar texture to potatoes, but without all the carbs. Interestingly, it contains almost as much vitamin C as oranges. Finally, it’s neutral in flavour which means that you can cook and season it any way you like.
The Keto Diet has become one of the most popular methods worldwide to shed excess weight and improve health. Research has demonstrated that adopting it can promote fat loss and even improve certain conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline. Creative cooks on it have gone beyond cauliflower rice or cauliflower mash and introduced cauliflower pizza, cauliflower hash browns and even cauliflower lasagne to the evening meal choices.
Here’s some executive chef cauliflower recipes to try at home.
Cauliflower Tikki (Gobi Tikki)
Ingredients: (For four people)
Chopped cauliflower 1kg
Roasted cumin seeds 5gm
Tamarind chutney 50gm
Green chili 5gm
Sweet yoghurt 50gm
Chili powder 5gm
Kastoori Methi (Fenugreek Leaves) – 5gm
Garam Masala 5gm
Method & Cooking:
Chop and mix the cauliflower in a bowl and mash them. Add the coriander, garam masala chili powder, Kastoori methi juice and salt and mix. Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and shape them into patties. Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the tikkis until they are golden brown on both sides. Serve with tamarind chutney and sweet chutney.
Countryside Cauliflower and Broccoli Gratin
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Ingredients: (For four people)
Small broccoli head 400gm of florets
Small cauliflower 400gm of florets
Clove of garlic, chopped 1
Sprig of thyme 1
Pinch of nutmeg 1
Salt and pepper
Prepare your cauliflower and broccoli by cutting off the florets. Wash them thoroughly.
Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes. Sieve through a colander and deep the blanched broccoli in iced water to preserve its green colour.
Next, cook the cauliflower in boiling salted water for 20 minutes.
Once cooked, drain together with the broccoli.
In a saucepan, melt the butter with the flour and the clove of minced garlic and mix until forming a ‘roux’. (Paste like texture, take care not to let it brown out as this will give a dark colour to the sauce)
Add the hot milk little by little and whisk until the “roux” fully dilutes.
Then add the Comté cheese and nutmeg, cook over very low heat while stirring regularly, until the preparation begins to thicken.
Then stir in salt, pepper and thyme. Pour this sauce over the cauliflower and broccoli.
Bake for 20 minutes at 180 ° C, until the top is well browned.
Accompaniment: This gratin will accompany meat, fish or poultry. It can also be your main vegetarian meal.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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