Cauliflower Puffs

The plain kitchen cauliflower puffs

As you know, I have a few of my mother’s recipe books: she was a meticulous organiser, and also enjoyed cooking a great deal. It certainly was the norm in those days to handwrite your favourite recipes in your notebooks, or, as my mum also did, cut out the exotic sounding ones from magazines and the newspaper, and then, using sticky-tape, pop them into an A4 ring bound scrap book of sorts. I do love looking at these, although these days I have to be very careful with them: they’re quite fragile, and the little cut-out recipe squares now slip from the pages, leaving yellowed strips where the tape once was. What mum also did, of course, was name the recipes using the name of whoever had given it to her: so, we have “Rose’s Trifle” and “Kinky’s Date Pudding” (yes, Kinky and Des were our next door neighbours in Cape Town…), and “Patti’s Paella”, and so on- a wonderful testament to my mum’s wide circle of friends.

Sometimes, the friend in question would be asked to write the recipe in mum’s book: and so it was with Granny Sue’s Blomkool Poffertjies. Granny Sue wasn’t our Granny: rather, she was the mother of one of my mum’s best friends, but we called her Granny Sue. Sue and mum were very close, and mum adored her. Sue even travelled across South Africa all the way from Cape Town when we moved to Kwa-Zulu Natal, and came to stay with us on the farm. I remember her with great affection. Sue was Afrikaans, so all of her recipes were written in Afrikaans too. When it came to translating the Cauliflower Puffs, I was terrified to realise that my Afrikaans is more than a bit rusty- I was once a fluent speaker, and in fact trained to become an Afrikaans teacher many years ago. I suppose if I were to be immersed in it for a few months, it’d all come back quite easily, however, reading Granny Sue’s entries in mum’s book did take a little decoding!

It’s a really easy recipe, and I have altered the original quantities a little. We had these as little starters before Sunday lunch, and I made a very quick dipping sauce of Greek Yoghurt mixed with a little Sriracha. They were utterly delicious- Barnaby wolfed them down, and I think they would make an excellent light supper for small children too. These are, as Granny Sue said of all her recipes, written in capital letters at the end, “Heerlik!”

Serves 4 as a snack

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, stem removed and broken into small florets

250ml full cream milk

2 eggs

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp table salt

Pinch white pepper

Good grinding black pepper

1 ½ cups finely grated cheddar cheese

8 tbsp plain flour

500ml sunflower or other flavourless oil, for deep frying

Maldon salt for serving

Method:

Steam the cauliflower on a fast steam for 2 minutes- no longer. Mix all of the ingredients for the batter well- I use a little whisk for this. Heat the oil in a shallow saucepan or frying pan: you do want at least 7-10 cm oil at the bottom, so that the florets will fry quickly and evenly. Heat the oil until it is at hot frying stage: test a little piece of battered cauliflower first: it should puff up and brown instantly. Place the florets in the batter, and using your hands, coat them well. Then very carefully, place the florets, a few at a time into the hot oil. Fry for a minute or so on one side, then using tongs, turn the, until golden brown on the other side. Drain on kitchen paper, and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Continue until all the florets are done.

Serve immediately.

And, because I am feeling super organised myself today, here’s another little recipe for you all: I came up with it last week, and it’s perfect stuff for the chill we are having: spicy, warm and so full of magic, golden turmeric that it really makes you feel better even just by looking at the golden bowl of goodness.

Cauliflower, Turmeric & Chilli Soup

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Serves 2, generously for lunch, or 4 as a starter

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped up into smallish pieces

50g salted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

1/2 stick celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

3 tsp turmeric

2 tsp Maldon salt

Pinch white pepper

2 tsp red miso paste

600-700ml full cream milk

Coriander to serve

Method:

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, saute the celery, onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter for about 8 minutes or so. Don’t let it brown or catch. Add the cauliflower, and the spices and seasoning. Keep sautéing on a medium heat, stirring constantly to ensure the cauliflower becomes coated with the buttery spices. Pop the lid on the saucepan, and allow to cook on a medium heat for another 10 minutes, but: and heres the trick: every minute, remove the lid, and give it a good stir. Then pop the lid back on again, and repeat. You’re ensuring the cauliflower cooks well, and creates a good steam in the pot, but you are also ensuring it doesn’t brown too much. After ten minutes of doing this, pierce the cauliflower with a knife- it should be soft and giving, and if not, cook for a few minutes longer. Turn the heat down, add the milk, and stir slowly until steaming- it mustn’t boil or bubble other wise the milk will curdle. Once the soup is steaming, remove from the heat, and whizz until smooth using  hand held blender. Taste for seasoning- it will need more salt- and serve with chopped coriander and many slices of hot, buttered toast.

Roast Cauliflower with Pancetta and Almonds

The Plain Kitchen Roast Cauliflower pancetta

I adore cauliflower- my favourite has to be cauliflower cheese, which I never really ire of, but I love experimenting with it, and adding other flavours to the vegetable. Here, the Pimenton adds warmth, the red onions and garlic a sweetness, and the pancetta and almonds a wonderful textural contrast. And really, pancetta just makes everything taste wonderful.

Serves 2 as a light lunch, with something like a salad and baked potato, or 4 as a side

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients

1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets

100g pancetta

2 red onions, sliced

2 fat cloves garlic, microplaned

1 heaped tsp Pimenton

5 tbsp olive oil

30g butter

½ cup whole almonds

Maldon salt, to season

Good grinding of black pepper

Method:

Steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Fry the onion, garlic, pancetta and pimenton in the olive oil and butter. I know this seems like a lot of oil, but cauliflower really does take to olive oil very well, and needs a good few glugs of the stuff. Fry on a medium to high heat for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down, and fry for a further 10 minutes to soften the onion properly. Add this to the steamed cauliflower, add the almonds and seasoning, and mix well. Roast for 30 minutes: keep checking- you want crispy browned tops of the cauliflower, not blackened bits, and this can happen quite easily.

Cauliflower Soup

The Plain Kitchen Cauliflower soup

Years ago my aunt Siobhan, who lives in Cape Town, provided me with this recipe: I have lost the recipe, but what I remember about it is that it was very simple, had no water in it, and used full cream milk in the soup- yet it tasted unbelievably creamy. I have adapted the soup over the years, and include a little gram flour here as I find it coats the cauliflower a little when I am trying to allow the cauli to slightly brown and catch in the pan. I love how this dish relies on so few ingredients: and, as you may notice, strangely for me there is no lemon, paprika, parmesan or cream. It is utterly delicious on its own, but I can’t help thinking how a wonderful cumin or pimento butter may also have a place here. I have yet to do this: I think I like the purity of the soup, if that makes sense.

Utterly easy, and ready in 25 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 large cauliflower head, broken up into florets

1 large white onion (or 2 small medium) peeled and chopped

1 fat clove garlic, microplaned

55g salted butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp gram flour

750ml full cream milk

A few sprigs of fresh oregano (not to worry if you don’t have: the soup will be lovely without it)

Method

In a large stockpot or saucepan, melt the butter and oil till slightly frothy and add the garlic and onion. Sautee for 15 minutes on a medium heat until soft: don’t let them catch. Add the cauliflower florets and the gram flour, and keep frying for about 3 minutes. Put the lid on the pan, and fry for another 8 minutes or so, but keep shaking the pot now and again, as if you were making popcorn. You want the cauliflower to turn ever so slightly golden brown in a few places, but not to fully brown. Add the milk and oregano. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Season with Maldon salt and a very good grinding of black pepper. Using a hand held blender, whizz until a very smooth soup is achieved- keep whizzing until it is super fine.

Serve unadorned- perhaps some black pepper, but that is all.

Cauliflower Cheese

The Plain Kitchen, Cauliflower cheese

Familiar and comforting dishes, like cauliflower cheese, can seem quite daunting, and almost inaccessible, when you first embark on a gluten free lifestyle. You do need to experiment somewhat to find the right recipes for traditional gluten based recipes, and of course, I’ve been doing this for quite some time now: I love a good cheese sauce: use this recipe for anything that calls for cheese sauce. The sauce keeps well in the fridge, and can be warmed up easily in a pan, over a gentle heat, for a few minutes. The bay leaf and mustard are my “mum additions”- I remember my mother adding these to cheese sauces (sometimes wine went in too…)

Serves 4

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, leaves and stem removed and broken into suitable sized florets

50g salted butter

¼ cup plain gluten free flour (I use Dove’s Gluten Free flour)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Marigold Bouillon

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

400ml full fat milk

Method

Steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes, and then place in an oven proof dish. Set aside.

Put the butter in a saucepan, and let it melt. When it begins bubbling, add the flour, and keep stirring until a roux forms, which will take only 2 minutes or so. Add the bay leaf, mustard and marigold bouillon, and stir again. Then gradually start to add the milk, and keep stirring as you do. The sauce will begin to thicken: if you find that it is becoming lumpy, use a whisk to mix the milk in, and this will alleviate the lumps. Once all of the milk has been whisked into the mix, and it has thickened slightly, add 1 cup of grated cheese, and whisk this in until it has completely melted.

The sauce will need seasoning: add your required amount of salt and pepper at this stage, remove the bay leaf, and then pour the sauce over the cauliflower in the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the other cup of grated cheese over the cauliflower, and bake at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crispy.