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

IMG_0412

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.

BBC Good Food Magazine: Artichoke Bake

Justine Wall BBC Good Food

The holidays have come to an end, small people have been dispatched to school, probably with a little more gusto, on my part, than is wholly necessary, and the piles of linen and washing from holidays continue to inhabit the dining room table, quietly waiting to be tucked back into drawers. It’s a month of slight discomfort; we struggle to adopt long-forgotten routines, week-night wine drinking suddenly seems hugely inappropriate; we mourn the demise of the heat, yet wait impatiently for some non-existent meteorological oracle to assure us that wearing jumpers and jeans and lace-up shoes is now completely acceptable. Although, to be fair, the last part of that sentence is pretty much me even in 30 degree heat: I never find such attire uncomfortable at any time of the year, and can often be caught wearing layer upon layer in glorious sunshine.  And dear friends laugh at me, of course they do, but I have become quite accustomed to that, I can assure you.

September, however, has also brought with it the brand new issue of BBC Good Food Magazine, which has eased the month’s discomfort and made me smile a great deal. The magazine chose one of my recipes to include as part of their Food Stories feature- and it looks so good. I am utterly thrilled with the inclusion, and so grateful to the team for including me. The Artichoke Bake was tested in the BBC Test Kitchen, and shot by Myles New- it looks, of course, way better than my little Plain Kitchen offering did all those months ago. The bake relies on a few trusted store cupboard staples, a well-reduced tomato sauce, and is so easy to make. If you missed it the first time round, I’ve posted the recipe here again: or of course, you can pick up a copy of the magazine!

Happy September to you all- and remember, even though week-night wine may seem inappropriate, it’s not.

Artichoke, Anchovy & Caper Bake

Serves 2, generously

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely shopped

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp olive oil

small knob butter

4 anchovies (salted ones, from a jar, which you have rinsed)

60g capers

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

1 tin artichokes, drained

¼ cup parsley, chopped

¼ cup basil, chopped

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup parmesan, grated

Method

In an oven proof casserole dish or frying pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, anchovies and chilli, and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tinned tomatoes, and turn the heat up till it is bubbling. Allow to bubble, ensuring it doesn’t stick, for 10 minutes. Add the capers, sugar salt and pepper and bubble for a further 25 minutes: this does seem a while, but you need the sauce to reduce somewhat.

Remove from the heat. Stir through the fresh herbs. Halve the artichokes, and nestle these in the sauce. Top with the cheese and pine nuts, and bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven, until golden brown and bubbling on top.

The Plain Kitchen Gluten Free Artichoke bake

The Day After The Night Before

The Plain Kitchen Food Blog Lunch

Food, and eating, are generally the answer to very many of life’s woes, and none more so than when one is remarkably hungover. This was just the case this weekend- Saturday morning arrived, the creeping sunlight through my little bedroom window, and with it, that rather sinister feeling that Friday night’s escapades were going to continue to revisit me throughout the entire day. It had been a very, very fun night- a birthday party at a friend’s, and a late one. Lots of friends, lots of laughing, drinking (not that much eating- and therein lay the problem) and dancing. The dancing bit I was reminded of by someone the next morning. Oh well.

Sleep, water and Nurofen assist, of course they do: but more than anything, for me at least, is to eat. Cooking too, is restorative and comforting, as if I am signaling to my body that all is right with the world, all is sensible and civilized again, and silliness is not to be revisited -for a while, at least.

Barnaby has been going on about Steak Frites of late: he thinks that one visit to a Café Rouge has turned him into the world’s most knowledgeable gourmand, and, I suppose, after his Moules Frites and Snails, he may just be well on his way to becoming a real little foodie. So, Lamb and Chips it was to be: steak was going to be the choice, but a visit to the butcher made the decision for us: the lamb looked far too good to ignore.

I made a simple tomato, basil & mozzarella salad, and a green salad with radishes and cucumbers, dressed in a slightly sweet Dijon dressing. The courgettes were brushed with garlic olive oil and grilled on the barbecue along with the lamb, which I had rubbed with a well pounded mix of fresh rosemary and Maldon salt. The chips, however, were the real little stars here: I parboiled Maris Pipers, sliced and dried them well, and once fried, I had ready a mix of Microplaned garlic, salt and paprika, which I rubbed over the hot chips.

Lots of cups of tea followed, and, along with a trashy family movie on the sofa, we finally began to feel a little more human again. The following day we ended up following a rather similar pattern (minus the hangover). Pancakes for breakfast, and lunch, again a barbecue, consisted of chicken marinaded in yoghurt and paprika, sweetcorn and jacket potatoes on the fire, halloumi, also on the fire, and lots of salads again.

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and happy holiday eating and drinking.