Tuesday, 21 January 2014

White Flowers and Red Wine

Cavolfiore, Vino Rosso, Caperi, Acchiughe, Cipolla & Pecorino
Cauliflower, Red Wine, Capers, Anchovies, Red Onion & Pecorino

I have to begin by making it clear that I owe the inspiration for this dish completely to my sister, Lina... thanks Sis! It turned out to be one of the most unusual and delicious dishes I have ever made! And you know how I don't usually like to repeat making the same thing twice? Well ha, ha, ha... think again with this one! It is just too incredibly delicious and will have to be made again... and again... and again!

Cauliflower and red wine? Whoever would have thought? Especially combined with anchovies! Not I and that's for sure! But again- this is one of those things, one of those flavor combinations that you try out and then think- wow! How have I managed to get through my life thus far without this? I mean... really?!?!

I decided, (otherwise "I" wouldn't be "me", right?), to elaborate on this old Sicilian recipe that my sister had always told me about, by adding capers, but the original dish relies on anchovies to add the seasoning, and otherwise it is just cauliflower and onion, steamed in red wine for between 15-20 minutes, then carefully flipped over and cooked for the same amount of time from the other side.

That sounds simple... but daunting! Well, at least it did for me! Which was basically the reason that my dish (or frying pan), wandered into the oven for a few minutes to brown-off on top for a few minutes before serving. Because I figured that it would at least look pretty if it became a little gold-brown on top... and then lo and behold- I tried flipping it over and managed it after all! So I guess it was just meant to be!

The ingredients are simple- the only thing I would say is to use the same wine you intend to drink with your meal- and think of the Old Country and use a Sicilian on. A Corvo, like I did, or a Nero d'Avola or Barbera. Oh- or any old red wine- haha! Just joking... but if you use something nice you can enjoy a glass or two whilst it cooks- capisce?

Simply slice the onion length-ways and grate the cheese and you are ready to rumble. In the original recipe, my sister said that a younger Pecorino was used, but I only had this nice mature "Pecorino pepato" with whole pepper corns in it- and it worked pretty well for me! 

I cut the cauliflower into slices that were nice and thick- about 2-fingers thick I would say. That was the last of the prep-work for this dish- except for pulling that wine cork. What? You haven't done that already? Go do it- grab yourself a glass and then we can get back to the recipe...

I added just a tiny bit of olive oil to the frying pan, a few onions, capers and a little cheese, then began to fill up the frying pan in layers as you can see in the picture below. I added onion, capers, the anchovies plucked into little pieces and scattered here and there and a little cheese and freshly ground pepper- just a little of each ingredient. Don't overdo it or overfill it- there is no need and you are much better off having a nice balance to your meal than overloading it with flavor. Let the image below be a rough guide for you... that's what it's there for ;-)

I used a small cauliflower and a small frying pan and ended up with 3 layers of ingredients, which is about right- the only thing to remember to do is to leave a few ingredients to sprinkle onto your top layer so that it looks pretty.

Once you have used up all of your ingredients, give the cauliflower a nice drizzle of red wine all over... I would say this was about a glassful. I added no salt at all, on account of the anchovies, capers and cheese having plenty of salt and richness of their own- the only thing I added was a little extra pepper with each new layer. Also, except for the initial light drizzle of oil to the bottom of the pan, I also did without any extra fat other than the Pecorino- which is a rather dry and not so fatty cheese anyway. So this is even a pretty healthy dish for you as well as being delicious- which is all good news- right?

I turned on the heat nice and high for 5 minutes or so, until the wine began to bubble and steam, but then reduced it down to a low simmer, popped on the lid and let it steam away for 20-25 minutes- just checking every now and then that there was enough liquid in the frying pan.

After around 25 minutes, the cauliflower had steamed nicely and had shrunk down and collapsed in on itself a little- which is exactly what it needs to do- and this is the thing that is going to help it to hold together. Being a coward- I popped mine into the oven after adding just a light drizzle of olive oil, at 300°F for the next 10 minutes. As I said, just so that it would at least look pretty even if I couldn't manage to flip mine over as my sister had done with hers. After 10 minutes, I took it out and added a light drizzle of honey- also an afterthought, also because I thought a nice golden color would make it more attractive- but at the same time, because I thought that the honey would be a great counter-point to the tangy capers and anchovies and a nice addition to the onion.

And all that remains to be said is that I hit the jackpot! Because, as you can see, flipping it over turned out to be much less of a struggle than I imagined- and yes indeed- the flavor combination of the ingredients I used was spot-on!

A tip when it comes to flipping the cauliflower over- place a plate on top of it and then pour off any excess wine- just common sense really- but you don't want to be dripping and splashing wine everywhere. Then, when you have turned the pan upside-down and have the cauliflower upside-down on your plate, set the dish you wish to serve it on on top and then flip them over again. You are better-off washing one extra plate than trying to slide it from one plate to another... trust me!

And trust me that this is as delicious as I am claiming- no matter how weird a combination it may seem to you! Give it a try and as I have said a million times- then you will see why! I hope you do try it and I hope you enjoy! Buon appetito :-)


  1. I once tried something very much like this, but it didn't turn out nearly as lovely as it looks here. I'll have to try popping this in the oven next time!

  2. I chickened-out, Frank, I have to admit! The "secret" in fact is to simply let it cook for long enough, until it collapses-in on itself a little... That's what will help to hold it together. My sister made the original, old-fashioned version which looked very different... But you know me! I like to try to out a little twist on things if I can ;-) Saluti da Francoforte, Francesco