12 January 2012

Cauliflower: winter food...

...even if the weather is not wintry. The mild autumn and even milder — relatively speaking — beginning of winter must have created perfect conditions for the cauliflower crop. I've never seen the big white flower buds more beautiful at the supermarket, and the prices are lower than I can remember over the past seven or eight years.

The problem with cauliflower is that it's easy to get into a rut. Gratin de chou-fleur in a béchamel sauce and a lot of grated cheese (Gruyère or Comté) melted over the top is so good that it's tempting to cook cauliflower that way every time. But there are other options: raw cauliflower served with a home-made mayonnaise is really good. Cooked cauliflower in a vinaigrette dressing too. Or cream of cauliflower soup.

A Thai-style curry of cauliflower with coconut milk,
shrimp, and rice noodles

For something entirely different, though, what about a Thai-style curry of cauliflower? I don't think I'd ever made such a dish. I found the idea while looking around on the 'net for unfamiliar but delicious-sounding recipes for the plump unblemished head of cauliflower I had bought at SuperU for just one euro.

The cauliflower has been plentiful, inexpensive,
and beautiful this winter.

It's a really simple recipe. The most time-consuming part is cutting up the cauliflower. First I cut it into big fleurettes, but that didn't seem right for a curry. So I cut each large fleurette into much smaller pieces. In all, it probably took about 20 minutes with a sharp knife to get it all cut up. You could do it much faster by just chopping the cauliflower with a large knife, and the result would be just as good if not as pretty.

Reduce the cauliflower to its individual fleurettes or buds
for quick and even cooking.

After cutting up the chou-fleur the way you decide to do it, it's just a matter of blanching the fleurettes in simmering water for five to ten minutes. Some people like their cauliflower well cooked and tender, while others prefer it with a little crunch. This first step is just a blanching, so don't overdo it.


... and blanched

While blanching the cauliflower, make a curry sauce. Dice up an onion or two, or some shallots, and sauté them in a pan in butter or vegetable oil. Add a tablespoon or two of curry powder, or smaller quantities of individual spices to make your own: half a teaspoon each of cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and so on. Salt and pepper. Garlic. Toast the spices in the pan with the chopped onion.

The curry sauce made with onions and coconut milk

Pour half a cup or more of coconut milk over the onions and spices and let the sauce cook while you drain the blanched cauliflower pieces in a colander. In Saint-Aignan, coconut milk is available in the supermarkets, no problem. I think you could use cream, or half cream and half milk, or yogurt to make the sauce if you don't have coconut milk.

Gently fold the blanched cauliflower pieces into the sauce
and let it cook for a few more minutes.

Add the blanched cauliflower to the pan and gently toss it in the sauce. Add some broth or some more coconut milk as necessary to make enough sauce for the cauliflower to cook it for a few minutes. After five to ten minutes, depending on how cooked you want the vegetables to be, it's done. A squeeze of lime or lemon juice, or some kaffir lime leaves added during the cooking, will give it a nice freshness.

You'll see in the pictures that I added a few shrimp to the curry. I added them about five minutes before I thought it would be ready. They were raw and they cooked in the sauce. You could also add sauteed pieces or strips of chicken breast meat to the sauce instead of shrimp. Or what about scallops? Langoustines? Or tofu?


  1. Have you tried creamed cauliflower, Ken.
    Cook cauliflower until it is mashable. Steaming is best as it keeps more flavour in. Mash gently with a fork and season, then fold in enough cream /creme fraiche to give it some 'unct' but not make it runny.

    Serve over baked / jacket spuds, or boiled spuds with the skin on, or over some poached fish.

    The flavour is quite delicate.

    WV is 'sembai' which sounds like a good curry name.

  2. Cauliflower (almost) any way of preparation is fantastic.
    Curried, THAT we have to try.

  3. You've just reminded me I bought some frozen raw prawns to do Thai curry with. I think I know what we are having for dinner... Luckily it's market day so I can nip out and score a cauli.

  4. That looks great. I have been craving curry lately. I think I'm going to try this today!

  5. We're definitely in the gratin de chou-fleur rut; we love the stuff and have it at least once a week.

    Your recipe sounds terrific; I'll try in a few days.

  6. My sister seems to adore cauliflower, so I hope she has read your post today :))

  7. Cauliflower & Roquefort soup - sublime!

  8. Tim, the cauliflower puree sounds delicious. I'll do it.

    Sharon, thanks for the idea.

  9. Judith's sister, reporting in -- this sounds delicious! It's true, I love cauliflower, so thanks for posting this. And it is winter here in Vermont -- a foot of snow yesterday. I really enjoy your blog, Ken!

  10. Hi Betsy, nice to hear from you. Hope you enjoy the curry. Ken


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