Cauliflower - In Season

CauliflowerA member of the brassica (cabbage) family dating back to the 16th century or earlier, cauliflower is one of our healthiest and most versatile vegetables.

With its white curdy head surrounded by a collar of green leaves, it is a lovely plant when freshly picked, yet it is widely undervalued - and that despite the fact that its image in some quarters has had an unexpected boost thanks to its rise to stardom in top restaurant kitchens of late.

But by the time chefs have put it through its paces (most often to become a very fine purée, purées also being in vogue) it bears little resemblance to the everyday vegetable that we all know and many of us love.

Having grown up on a farm in Cornwall where winter cauliflower (known locally as ‘broccoli’) was an important crop, I have fond memories of the many ways my mother cooked it for family meals - and it is a tribute to its goodness and versatility that I still enjoy it and feel that it deserves more respect than it generally gets.

Like other vegetables, it is currently sold at unsustainably low prices. The beautiful big head of cauliflower pictured here cost just €1.99 and - using the recipe below or something similar - this would provide a generous main dish for a family of four, or more if the children are small and/or plenty of other vegetables are part of the meal.

Bearing in mind the current shift in healthy eating advice, away from meat-focused meals to a diet that puts vegetables first, this is just the sort of food we should be eating on an everyday basis and it is much cheaper, quicker and easier - and tastier - than going to the takeaway.

Easy Cauliflower BakeRECIPE: Easy Cauliflower Bake

This is a favourite everyday supper dish that’s dead easy to rustle up whenever you want something quick, tasty and inexpensive. Amounts given for ingredients are flexible and it’s an easy dish to vary. Freshly chopped parsley or a handful of cherry tomatoes can be added as it goes into the oven and, if cooking for only one or two, half can be frozen surprisingly successfully if used fairly soon (within about a week).

Serves about 4 (depending on the size of the cauliflower and choice of accompaniments).

1 good cauliflower
oil or butter for frying
100g approx diced bacon, preferably smoked
1 large onion, sliced
Dollop of wholegrain mustard
Small (150ml) carton of cream, or as liked
Black pepper and sea salt to taste
3 or 4 tbsp grated hard cheese, eg a mature cheddar


1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

2. Trim the cauliflower as necessary, keeping any of the green outer leaves that look palatable. Cut cauliflower and leaves into large chunks. Put into a large pan with a sprinkling of salt, add boiling water and cook for a few minutes until just beginning to be tender but still crisp. Drain well and turn into a large buttered baking dish.

3. Meanwhile, add a little oil and/or butter to a shallow pan and cook the diced bacon and onion over moderate heat until softening. Add the cream and mustard, bubble up until the cream is thickening slightly, then season to taste and pour as evenly as possible over the cauliflower.

4. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until brown and crispy.

5. Serve with baked potatoes or potatoes boiled in their skins, chunky carrots and any other available vegetables. Baked herby tomatoes are very good with this, also a few crisp green vegetables (related ones like sprouts or broccoli are best).


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