We're delighted to bring you the first of a new monthly feature: Eat the Seasons!
Seasonality of ingredients is super important to us, and we are therefore championing a different fruit or vegetable each month while it's at its best. That means all sorts of chat relating to whatever beautiful vegetable or fruit we've chosen that's bursting from nature right now, as well as one recipe specially written by CED, paired with our visual Instagram step by step guide.
Hopefully it will inspire; remember that your food will taste SO much better if it's cooked with local ingredients which are in season...and seasonal ingredients cost less too! (For our global followers, we are based between the UK and Italy so the feature is based on European seasons.)
We start in November with the noble Cauliflower! Cauliflower is a star ingredient and a massively underrated vegetable.
We often associate the winter with dull and uninspiring veg and sometimes people find it hard to think up of tasty and varied things to cook with them. But king cauli is super versatile, vibrant and marries beautifully with a number of different flavours.
What to look out for?
A good quality and fresh cauliflower will be extra sweet and tasty. To be sure of freshness, buy one that’s really firm and not starting to look a bit sad and limp. Also try to pick one that’s bright white and not starting to discolour and brown on the outside of the florets.
What does it go with?
Cheese is a real crowd pleaser, but there are also so many other options. Try it with anchovies - boil some chopped cauliflower well, then add to a pan with plenty of anchovies, garlic, parsley and olive oil and mix with pasta. Spices and curry flavours are a match made in heaven with cauliflower (think cumin or garam masala). As a member of the brassica family, it will also go great with salty pork flavours, as with our special recipe at the bottom.
Don't throw away those leaves! Roast 'em up in a hot oven with olive oil and salt for 20 mins or so until the leaves are browned and wilted, and the white rib of the leaf is tender. Delicious!
What does the nutritionist say?
Our featured nutritional specialist Emily Moreton tells us: Cauliflower is a great source of Vitamin C, just a quarter of a small sized cauliflower will give you 43 mg of Vitamin C, which is your entire daily requirement!
You could have a go at a fermented Piccalilli, if not for the potential health benefits for your gut microbes, then for the electrifying colour and tangy crunch. Cauliflower is a core ingredient in the yellow preserve piccalilli which uses vegetables of the garden with Indian spices and makes a great addition to a Christmas cheese board. Although the scientific literature is quite limited at the moment around fermented foods, anecdotally speaking this doesn’t mean to say that they don’t have any health benefits, we just need more evidence.
What are our favourite ways to prepare it?
Roast your cauliflower in a very hot oven and it will start to colour, char even. As it goes brown it will develop a delicious nutty flavour; try roasted cauliflower with a tahini sauce! Simply boiled and cooled it’s also great in a salad with a tangy dressing and herbs. It also makes a simple and luxurious soup, as with our delicious recipe below.
What did you say?
We asked on our Instagram what you love to do with the cauli. 'Roasted' was the answer we saw most. Of course, we got lots of cauliflower cheese shouts...I mean who doesn't love it doused in cheddary bechamel?! The curry combo was also very popular....two words: aloo gobi! We had some other really inspiring answers...poached in butter, deep fried, dipped in aioli, and au gratin!
Recipe Time: Our Cauliflower Recipe for Eat the Seasons.
This soup is a beauty. It won't take you all day and has relatively few ingredients. It's not excessively heavy but it feels super indulgent as it's silky, thick and bursting with luxurious flavour. The nuts and crispy pork add texture and contrast; feel free to leave out the pancetta if you are veggie. If you like truffle, you can also drizzle a little truffle oil over it at the end! If you want to bring a cauliflower '2 ways' kind of vibe to the soup, you can also roast a few florets in the oven and then serve on top of the soup with the other garnishes!
Click HERE for the visual recipe guide on our Instagram!
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Pancetta and Roasted Hazelnuts
- 100g pancetta or gunaciale, cut into lardons if not bought chopped. (Guanciale is cured pig cheek, and in Italy it's not a proper Carbonara or Amatriciana unless you use Guanciale! But it's hard to find so pancetta is also fine.)
- Handful of hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 white onion, finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small/medium cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
- 500ml milk
- 500ml water
- 50ml of cream
- Handful of grated Parmesan
- Glug of extra virgin olive oil
- Chives, chopped, to garnish
- Salt and pepper, to season
- Fry the pancetta, or guanciale in a frying pan on a medium heat until nice and crispy. You don't need any oil in the pan to cook it, it will release its own fat. Once brown and crispy, remove from the pan and put on some kitchen paper.
- Put the hazelnuts in the pan in which you cooked the pancetta and toast the nuts on a medium heat for around 5 mins until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
- Add the onion to the pan; there should be some pork fat left in the pan, depending on the fattiness of the pancetta. Add a good glug of good olive oil to help with frying the onions (unless the pork was super fatty and the pan is already swimming with oil). Add a good pinch of salt and fry on a medium heat for around 10 minutes, until the onions are well softened. Add the garlic and fry for a futher 2 minutes.
- Pour the contents of the onion pan into a deep saucepan, then add the cauliflower, milk, cream, Parmesan and water. The cauliflower should be just covered in liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes, depending on how small you chopped your cauliflower. We are looking for the cauliflower to be completely soft and cooked through, not 'al dente', otherwise it won't blend to a smooth soup.
- Once you are happy the cauliflower is well cooked and soft, pour the mixture into a blender and blend until luxuriously smooth. You can also put a stick blender in the pan and blend that way. Season well with salt and pepper and check the taste; it needs to be well seasoned to make it sing - you can also add more Parmesan if you feel it needs it! If you're feeling a bit naughty you could also whisk in a little butter ;)
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with the pancetta, hazelnuts and chives. Enjoy with some freshly baked bread and butter!