One of my favourite ways to cook potatoes is what we used to call fondants (although I’m not sure this is technically the correct term), where you cut them in half and place the flat side down in a wide frying pan, then half cover with water, add butter and seasoning and then loosely cover with foil. You then boil the water until the potatoes are cooked, at which point you remove the foil and continue to cook them until they’re golden and roasted on the bottom.
It’s a great way to cook any kind of root vegetable because any flavour that is drawn out of the vegetable during the cooking process isn’t lost; the liquid is reduced down to coat the bottom of the vegetable as it caramelises. I wanted to try the same technique with cauliflower, because it has such an attractive shape when you cut it directly through the middle of the stem. It looks great, and is delicious too.
The puree is surprisingly simple: just the trimmings from the cauliflower, rapeseed oil, salt and water. Cauliflower puree is traditionally made with milk, butter or cream and as a result is pretty rich and heavy. This one is amazingly light.
- 1 medium cauliflower
- rapeseed oil
- sea salt
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 granny smith apple, cut into 5mm dice
- a handful of red seedless grapes
- 1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
Trim the green leaves from the cauliflower, then cut in half directly down the centre of the stalk. Cut each half into a slice about 1.5cm in thickness. Set the slices aside while you prepare the puree. Finely slice the remainder of the cauliflower. Get a heavy, wide-based pot or deep saute pan, add 3 tablespoons of rapeseed oil and place over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced cauliflower and a generous pinch of salt. Boil the kettle so you have some hot water at hand. Saute the cauliflower, stirring frequently, for about 5-10 minutes. You want to fry the cauliflower as hot as you can (without getting any colour on it), to draw maximum flavour from it. When it’s almost cooked, add enough water to half-cover, then boil until it’s completely dry. Repeat this 3 times. After the third reduction, add enough water to loosen the cauliflower and pour it all into a blender. Blend on full power, adding a little more water if it’s too thick, for about 3 minutes or until completely smooth. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
While the puree is cooking, you can start on the roasted cauliflower. In a wide frying pan (or two small ones), place the slices of cauliflower flat-side down and add enough water to half cover them. Add a generous couple of pinches of salt, the butter, thyme and garlic. Loosely cover with foil, leaving space at the edges for the steam to escape. Place over a high heat and boil for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is about three-quarters cooked. Be careful because it will overcook easily if you don’t keep an eye on it. At this point, nearly all of the water should be gone. Remove the foil and keep cooking until all of the liquid has gone and the cauliflower is golden and roasted on the bottom. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before carefully removing with a spatula.
Meanwhile, get the garnish ready; slice the grapes and mix with the diced apple and coriander. Just before serving, saute the spinach in rapeseed oil with a little pinch of salt. To serve, spoon the puree into the middle of the plate and spread out into a circle. Arrange the spinach in the middle and then place the cauliflower on top. Garnish with the apples, grapes and coriander, and drizzle some rapeseed oil around the edges.