Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cauliflower Every Day 2: Cauli risotto (ai cavolfiori)

I know I said in my previous post that if I ate cauliflower every day its appeal would soon wane, but a couple of days consecutive cauli eating doesn’t begin to approach that point.  Which is good, because just half the head of a good sized cauliflower made enough curry for the two of us, with enough left over for a light lunch for one the next day.  Leaving the other half for a second dinner, which gave me a chance to try out this Jamie Oliver recipe, for risotto ai cavolfiori, taken from his Italy book.  You can think what you like about Jamie Oliver – and, like coriander I can fully understand why he’s not to everyone’s taste – but even back in his most annoying, cheeky chappie, bish bash bosh, scooter riding geezer ‘Naked Chef’ (FFS) phase, I always felt that the food, and his approach to cooking it, was spot on.  In fact that might, ultimately, have been the most annoying thing about him, even then, which was saying something.

These days of course, following all his campaigning work on improving the diet of this and other nations, particularly in our schools, Jamie’s approaching the status of a national treasure.  And he probably won’t even count as our most annoying national treasure either – this being a nation that treasures Bruce Forsyth.  And I have to say, speaking personally, it’s not just for his contribution to school dinners that we should appreciate young James, even if it is grudgingly (and in my case I have to say it’s not): simply being the anti-Gordon Ramsay is reason enough to embrace him.  I’d also have to add his recent book and TV series on British food, which, for all its roast beef and union jack imagery, and Jamie’s own Essex laddishness, turned out to be an open hearted celebration of the contribution made to what we call British cuisine by the many and varied immigrant communities that have come to call Britain home over the centuries.  For that, as for so many other things he’s done over the years, I find myself unreservedly saying ‘good on yer, Jamie.’  Even if I would prefer it if you didn’t address me as ‘Geez’…

That, of course is by the by.  Back to cauliflower: I particularly liked the sound of this risotto recipe, not just because it was a new, non cheesy (Jamie of course does include parmesan, I simply leave it out – you are free to do either, if not allergic) thing to do with cauliflower, but it also gave an excuse to use the word ‘cavolfiore’ which, even by Italian standards is a particularly lovely word.  Perhaps more relevantly I also liked the efficiency of the recipe, using the chopped cauliflower stalk as part of the onion/shallot base for the risotto, and part cooking the florets just by steeping them in the hot stock.

I also loved the sound of the ‘pangrattata’ bit – the anchovy & chilli breadcrumbs, giving crunch and added spiky flavour to a dish that otherwise might risk being bland.  And even though I fried it a bit beyond the ideal golden brown to something more like burnt umber on account of leaving the pan over a low flame when I thought I’d turned it off, this proved to be no disappointment, and is something I’ll definitely be adopting as a regular user up of slightly stale bread from now on.

I followed the recipe pretty much as written, using my own technique for the basic risotto (‘risotto bianco’) which, of course, skips the parmesan, although I did add a crushed clove of garlic to the breadcrumb mix, because why wouldn’t you?  It was thoroughly delicious, and as comfort food goes, I’d suggest it was potentially somewhere right up there with cauliflower cheese.  And that is really saying something.

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