A Flower For All Seasons

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cauli smallBy Louise Oliver

The humble cauliflower, boiled within an inch of its life or drenched in a lumpy cheese sauce are my school dinner memories of this vegetable. To be honest it was never top of my favourite ingredients nor did I ever really know what to do with it when it was delivered in my vegetable box. That was then and this is now, where this delicious veg in all its colours-white, ivory, cream, green or indeed violet-is now a brassica that I am pleased to see, especially in this spring time hungry gap.

Cauliflower is low in fat, very low in carbohydrates with a low GI but is high in nutrient density. It is packed with vitamin C which is particularly helpful in helping absorb iron, amongst other things. It is also full of dietary fibre and folate. Cauliflower is bursting with phytochemicals such as Sulforaphon which research suggests protects against cancer. Indole-3-Camonol is also contained in this brassica hero, this is a chemical that enhances DNA repair and acts as an oestrogen antagonist slowing the growth of cancer cells. Despite appearing as a hardy vegetable, cauliflowers deteriorate surprisingly quickly and are really at their best having just been picked.

They will, however, store in the fridge for around a week. When choosing a cauliflower you require a hard head and avoid any that are bendy or yielding. One of the main beauties of cauliflower is that it is available pretty much all year round, and is an extremely versatile vegetable in the kitchen. The creamy nutty taste of the cauliflower works in raw salads, as long as they are broken into tiny florets and generously anointed with a punchy dressing. Roasted Cauliflower is also a delicious alternative.Blanch florets in boiling water for a couple of minutes then slice thickly and roast with a drizzle of oil, ground coriander or cumin seed and a little sea salt. Aloo gobi small

Complimentary flavours to the cauliflower alongside coriander and cumin seed are green chillies, paprika, fresh ginger and Garam masala, which is one of the reasons cauliflower is particularly suited to being served in a curry, think of the Indian dish Aloo Gobhi. Yet these strong spices do not mask the cauliflower’s flavour -it still shines through. As cauliflower is particularly low in carbohydrates and is also low on the Glycaemic Index, it is therefore particularly useful to use if you are following a 5:2 diet (or as I like to call it the Fife: 2). It is also handy for those who have wheat or gluten intolerances, as it can be used as a rice and bread alternative in the following dishes.

Cauliflower rice is a speedy and delicious alternative to grains. While pizza dough certainly adds calories and wheat to your plate, using cauliflower pizza as an alternative to your dough may sound a tad crazy but it seriously is delicious- trust me and try it out. Finally with all this talk of Indian spices and curries I couldn’t resist including a tasty Aloo Ghobi dish that is simple to prepare and is a winner with hungry crowds. So really whatever the season, banish those boiled images and instead chose to embrace and rediscover this truly versatile and delicious flower.