Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate, Yoghurt and Mint

While all our cookbooks are in storage (you may have heard me mention this once or twice), I'm entirely relying on the internet for recipe inspiration. This particular recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, home to some of my all time favourite salads - asparagus and parmesan; butternut squash, chickpea and tahini; roasted red peppers and chickpea. She posted this particular one just a few weeks ago and I was impatient to try it, drumming my fingers until the fates and fridge combined to make it happen. Although I had to bastardise it slightly(skipping the feta because we didn't have any, although I'm sure it would be great, and swapping ground cumin for cumin seed), it still lived up to all my expectations from her blog - fresh, vibrant and unusual. And, of course, photogenic. Well, in her photos, at least.

Quick and easy to prepare, the most challenging bit was getting the seeds out of the pomegranate without getting splashed - and please see below for a tedious exegesis on how I finally cracked that conundrum. As for the results? Well, on its own this salad was nice but a bit underwhelming. I think that perhaps her feta and cumin seeds would make it just that bit punchier and gutsier but as it was, I liked it but didn't fall in love.

Basically, what I'm saying is that this salad was a Lavinia Swire. It was pretty, and nice, and when it arrived I thought it was fresh and interesting. But although you wondered if there were hidden depths - a dalliance with the dastardly newspaper magnate, perhaps? - after a while you realised that no, no there weren't. It was pleasant and very attractive. And I'm sure that, if it were to die, it would do so in a beautifully wan and picturesque fashion. But some dishes are Lady Marys, or Dowager Duchesses, stealing the show and demanding centre stage. This tasted like a supporting role. 

That said, it could be a brilliant bit-part. It would be perfect in a mezze spread alongside something like hummus or baba ghanoush, a flatbread or two and some pickles. Or even better, this would be light and fresh with a hot, spicy tagine. In fact, this salad would be ace stirred through some couscous - with the yoghurt on the side, to drip over stew and salad alike.

In the right ensemble cast, I think this could be a real crowd-pleaser, and even on its own you wouldn't kick it out of the kitchen. But I'm just not sure that it made enough of an impression. Good thing Lavinia kicked the bucket last week - and in such a refined manner, too. Wouldn't you expect a bit more from Spanish Flu than a weak voice and dewy makeup? Could it be that Downton isn't 100% historically accurate? Surely not.

Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate, Yoghurt and Mint
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 1 as a main, 2 if you're having lots of other bits
- half a head of cauliflower, cut into individual florets
- a good shake of ground cumin
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- a few spoonfuls of natural yoghurt
- a handful of pomegranate seeds
- a couple of sprigs of mint

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment. Toss the cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper and a good few shakes of ground cumin (enough that each floret of cauliflower looks faintly speckled). Then spread it out on the tray and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are blackened and the stalks are tender.

While it's cooking, I'll tell you about a new way to get pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate. I used to do it that way that Nigella tells you about - cutting it in half, holding over a bowl and thwacking the back with a wooden spoon until the seeds fall out - but I always found it a massive pain. For one thing, it left the bowl, kitchen counter and your clothes looking like a crime scene, spattered in bright red droplets that you just knew would stain forever. And all the white pithy bits would fall out too so you had to go through the bowl picking them out one by one, which was a huge nuisance. Well, no more! 

This time I cut the pomegranate in half then got a bowl filled with cold water and pulled the pomegranate to bits under water. No drops, no spray, and all the white bits floated to the top and could be scooped off. Then I just poured out the water (using my hand to hold the seeds in the bowl) and was left with a perfect bowl of pure seeds. I'm telling you, it has changed my whole attitude to pomegranates.

Right, coming back from that tangent, transfer the cauliflower to a plate and drip the yoghurt over the top. Scatter with pomegranate seeds and torn mint leaves, then tuck in.

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