Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sicilian cauliflower

Firm, white heads of cauliflower often tempt me to buy them; but, too often, I take them home and turn them into cauliflower cheese. Or, to go with pasta, I mix them with anchovies, chillis, pine nuts and sometimes sultanas -- a Sicilian theme similar to the one in the following recipe, adapted from Jane Grigson (and which would have benefited from chilli). I used less olive oil than the very substantial quantity (250 ml) she specifies; she lists red wine, but vinegar works well; I used more olives; I doubled her quantity of anchovies, because I did not want to be left with half a tin. They are pleasantly savoury, rather than overpoweringly fishy.

1 medium cauliflower
6 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
20 stoned, sliced olives (I used black ones)
1 small tin anchovies
60 g hard cheese, such as pecorino or provolone (but I used cheddar), sliced
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Separate the cauliflower into florets. Pour half the olive oil into a heavy pan or casserole, add half the onion, olives and anchovies, put half the cauliflower and cheese on top with just a little salt (the anchovies and cheese are salty) and grindings of pepper, and repeat the process. Sprinkle the vinegar on top. Cover, and put on a medium heat until the contents of the pan are cooking; turn down the heat to low to medium.

"Do not muddle up the dish by stirring," Jane Grigson cautions. But it is a muddle anyway -- these ingredients do not sit in discrete layers. The cauliflower should be tender in 10 minutes or less. You will probably find that there is still liquid in the pan; if so, take off the lid and raise the heat.

The Vegetable Book is delightfully insouciant about fat (Grigson's cauliflower au gratin is a heart attack on a plate). She recommends that you turn your Sicilian cauliflower on to a serving dish "and sprinkle generously with little cubes of fried bread". We ate ours with rice.


Jo said...

so, best with pasta or rice?

Nicholas Clee said...

Rice, I think. It's a kind of stew, rather than a dressing. But I'm sure that you could serve it with pasta, leaving out the cheese (which you might grate instead, if you like).

Mandy said...

just looking this recipe up. I know riverford do one, and here YOU are. so famous x

Nicholas Clee said...

Gosh: a prominent Google listing under "Sicilian cauliflower". I've arrived! N x