Cauliflower Power

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Cauliflower is not one of the nation’s most popular vegetables – it has a reputation for being a bit tasteless and unexciting, but I want to try to persuade you otherwise. We regularly recommend our clients incorporate cauliflower into their diets, and some of you may have already discovered its virtues, but for those of you that tend bypass in when choosing your weekly veg, I urge you to buy one and give our recipes a try.

Grown widely in the UK, it is in season almost all year round. It comes in many varieties and colours, including yellow and purple, and of course there is the wonderful, fantastic-looking variety of cauliflower called Romanesco, which is a lime green colour, and has a milder, sweeter flavour than traditional cauliflower. All types of cauliflower have some pretty impressive health credentials though, and even if you go for the common white variety that may not be as colourful as some other super foods, it is still highly nutritions, so don’t let its lack of colour put you off.

Cauliflower is nutrient dense, containing meaningful amounts of:

– potassium
– manganese
– folate
– vitamin K
– vitamin C
– vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.

It contains antioxidants that help protect our cells from free radical damage, sulphur and glucosinolates to help with liver detoxification, and being a cruciferous vegetable, it contains sulforaphane, which is linked with cancer prevention, especially bladder, colon, breast and ovarian cancers. Other compounds in cauliflower, indoles and isothiocyanates, are also thought to help protect against cancer.

Cauliflower is also beneficial for digestion, being high in fibre. The same sulforaphane that helps to protect you against cancer, also help to protect the lining of the stomach from the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori, an underlying cause of ulcers, indigestion and even stomach cancer. And not stopping there, the incredible sulforaphane can also help reduce elevated blood pressure, while the indole-3-carbanol in cauliflower helps to lower inflammation in the body.

Surely it is clear to see that cauliflower deserves a place in your diet, but now you need to know what to do with it…

Most people just think to steam cauliflower, or perhaps serve cauliflower cheese. These can both give a delicious result as long as you don’t overcook the cauliflower; but if this is as far as you get, you’re missing a trick as there are many other ways to enjoy cauliflower, it is just so versatile. The key is not to overcook it, otherwise it becomes mushy and the sulphurous smell increases which can be off-putting. Par-boiled and then roasted in the oven until tender with Indian spices is a delicious way to enjoy it, and although it may sound unlikely, cauliflower really comes into its own as a substitute for starchy foods such as mashed potato, bulgar wheat and rice. This discovery can be a godsend for those reducing their carbohydrate intake for reasons such as weight loss or blood sugar problems, or who follow a special diet like I do for autoimmune disease. So you can keep eating your shepherd’s pie and enjoy ‘rice’ with your curries, or make a tabouleh like Maria did for our Waistwatchers group last week, everyone loved it. You can use it to make a pizza base and even in grain-free porridge – I shared some this morning with my husband and we both said ‘yum’ several times while eating it. You can find some recipes to try below. As a quick aside, Maria and I will be sharing our breakfast recipes with you for a whole week very soon, more about that next weekend.

Let us know what you think of cauliflower, and please do share your delicious cauliflower recipes with us too.

Cauliflower mash – serves 4 or enough for a topping for shepherd’s pie
1 head of cauliflower
4 tbsp butter, coconut oil or olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Remove the leaves and core, then break the cauliflower into florets. Steam it until tender (but not over-cooked). Place it into a food processor with the butter (or oil), salt and pepper and puree until smooth and creamy.

Cauliflower rice – serves 4
1 head cauliflower
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 tsp chopped fresh coriander
Sea salt and black pepper

Break the cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until they are broken down into small pieces that resemble rice. Heat the coconut oil in a pan, sweat the shallots until soft, then add the cauliflower and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently until tender. Stir through the coriander, season to taste and serve. You can also steam your cauliflower rice until tender but al dente.

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Breakfast ‘porridge’ – serves 2 generously
1/2 cup cauliflower rice
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (sulphite free)
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 400ml tin coconut milk
1 tbsp flaked almonds to sprinkle over
Maple syrup

Add all ingredients apart from the almonds and maple syrup to a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and the porridge is creamy. Once ready, sprinkle over the almonds and drizzle over maple syrup or raw honey to your desired sweetness.

Cauliflower Tabouleh (taken from the Hemsley and Hemsley cookbook)
2 medium heads of cauliflower, roughly grated by hand or use a food processor (choose the larger teeth on your grater)
1 tablespoon of ghee or butter
1 medium red onion or 1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, diced
3 large handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
1 large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Toppings:  Scatter over chopped radishes, nuts or seeds (such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

Steam your grated cauliflower in a saucepan (lid on) with a couple of tablespoons of water and your ghee or butter. On a medium heat, it should take roughly 3 minutes for the cauliflower to cook (not too soft!), but check there is enough water at the bottom of the pan so that the cauliflower doesn’t burn. Drain any excess water and tip your steamed cauliflower into a large serving bowl. While your cauliflower is cooling, chop all your tabbouleh ingredients and then combine everything together. Taste for seasoning.

Written by Emma Rushe

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