Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Flowers as Good as Gold

Cavolofiore al Forno con Spezie Ecuadoriane e Spelta
Ecuadorian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower & Spelt

Cauliflower. Boring old cauliflower. Rather bland, unloved and underrated, especially when it is simply boiled, but for me, even more so, when the only thing people can think of doing to it, to make it "more appealing", is slathering it in cheese or some rich, buttery, greasy sauce... eeew!

Nay, I say- and thrice nay! Especially having discovered that the most wonderful way to prepare cauliflower and to make it transcendent in it's natural flavor is always the easiest... Who knew that simply baking it from raw would make all the difference?

Ok- so probably you DID already know, but I have to admit that I only tried it myself just one short year ago. The reason it tastes so much better is totally logical of course, as boiling vegetables always mean that their flavor seeps out into the water that we then pour away and is lost. And sure, you can steam vegetables, which is better maybe... but nothing can beat keeping all of the juices and therefor all of the flavors IN.

To prepare this little dish, I began by soaking the spelt, which was to accompany the roasted cauliflower, whilst I got ready with the rest. Into a bowl it went with enough water to cover it, for around 20 minutes, which allows it to soak up some water and to soften up in advance to cooking it. You may argue that you can simply boil it a little bit longer, the the thing is, soaking gives all grains a nicer, chewier consistency, it's as simple as that!

So- on with the cauliflower, which I cut into slices of about 1" thickness- not too thin. I turned on the oven to the highest setting, to have it nice and hot and ready, then popped the sliced cauliflower onto an oven tray, drizzled it with just a little olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Into the oven it went, still at the highest setting, and onto the stove top went the spelt to begin boiling away.

I added a good handful of finely chopped parsley to the spelt, along with a finely sliced shallot, and for one serving, about 1 teaspoon of a delicious Ecuadorian seasoning... which I of course bought in the Frankfurt Kleinmarkthalle. I bought it from Mrs. Wong who runs the Asian and Latino stand in the middle of the market hall, intrigued as to how it may taste... but even she had never used it! So it sat on my self for a couple of months until having its debut this evening... and the best thing about it is the fact that it would be a simple spice mix to make for yourself- because the ingredients are pretty simple and all delicious!

This "el Saboro" spice mix consists of a little garlic, cumin, achiote, allspice and oregano... so sure, it was easy to simply spoon some of the powder out of the bag this evening, but would hardly have been that much work to simply whizz these few things together in a blender. In any case- these spices went in with the spelt and the heat was turned down to a gentle simmer for the next 20 minutes or so...

In the meantime, the cauliflower was gently beginning to soften up and to turn brown at the edges- time to sprinkle it with the same spices as the spelt, to flip it over and to pop it back inside for another 10 minutes. Of course, in the meantime, I stirred the spelt and added liquid as necessary, in the form of a simple vegetable broth.

I would say that the cauliflower needs between 10-15 minutes from each side and that the spelt takes the same time... although what is a good thing to do is to be a little more patient after 30 minutes and to let both the cauliflower finish roasting in it's own residual heat and the spelt to continue roasting and soaking and softening up nicely whist I decided on a plate to serve it up in...

The result is a flavorful, soft but firm and not disintegrated cauliflower, with nice, dark, crispy and delicious roasted edges and the delicious rich flavors and golden hue of the Ecuadorian spice mix... and a nutty, chewy and rich base of spelt as a healthy alternative and a change from the same-old same old...

I really enjoyed it and I have yet to meet anybody who doesn't find cauliflower much, much better when it is roasted instead of being boiled... and am around 99% sure that you are going to like it too. If you are that 1% then I apologize- but make sure to push your plate over towards  me so that I can finish it off for you!

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