Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Cauliflower, Chickpea and Coconut Curry

With its creamy, tight curds, and bright green leaves the cauliflower is a beautiful vegetable that can be both completely splendid or absolutely awful. When it's blanketed in a mustardy cheese sauce, or roasted with a little chilli, to bring out the nutty flavour as the Italians do, there is little to rival it.  Too often though it can be bland, waterlogged, overcooked and sulphurous smelling, sad little beige lumps, sitting unloved on the edge of the dinner plate.

Recently we've seen a cauliflower Renaissance; first Yottam Ottolengi featured it as one of his 'key ingredients' on Radio Four, and then the Hairy Bikers dedicated a whole programme (and chapter of the first book) to it for the Great British Food Revival.  Although now available all year round the brassicas are at their peak during colder months, and one of my favourite ways too cook a cauli is in an Indian style, often with other vegetables and pulses, especially chickpeas and lentils.

When I first moved out of home, and in with my veggie boyfriend at the time, veg curries became a staple. It took me a while (and several pots of spicy, brown sludge) to realise tha,t unlike most meat and poultry based curries, vegetables do not need to be simmered for hours on end.  In fact the key to cooking cauli in curries is to briefly steam and then add to the sauce to finish off cooking, making sure it still  retains some 'bite'.

Cauliflower, Chick Pea and Coconut Curry

1 large cauliflower 
2 tins of tomatoes
2 tins of chick peas, drained
1/2 tin coconut milk (or 50g creamed coconut dissolved in a splash of hot water)
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
nugget of fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp Medium Curry Powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

to serve
Small bunch fresh coriander
Natural yogurt
Lemon Wedges
Naan/roti bread

Cut the Cauliflower into florets and boil or steam for 5 minutes. 
Add the Onions to a casserole, and soften in vegetable oil until starting to brown.  Add ginger, garlic and spices and continue cooking for another few minutes until mixture is fragrant and golden.
Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk and season well.
Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Add cauliflower and simmer for another five minutes,or until cauliflower is just cooked.
Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with yogurt, lemon and steamed rice or Indian bread.

Although it's a great showcase for the cauli, you can substitute pretty much any other veg you've got in the fridge.  And like most curries it tastes even better over the next few days, especially when accompanied by a couple of tandori naan or roti from the local takeaway and a cold lager or two.

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