One of my favourite vegetables has just appeared in Tesco! I first came across a Romanesco Cauliflower when it was delivered in a box from one of those organic vegetable companies and if truth be told when I first laid eyes on it I had no idea what it was! When I heard the name I wasn’t massively excited. I mean cauliflower, hardly the most dynamic of vegetables. I don’t dislike it, I don’t like it either but I will eat it. It’s basically a tasteless mush if you overcook it and has an unpleasant bitter taste when you undercook it. Mix it with cheese sauce, top it with bread crumbs and grill it and turn it into cauliflower cheese, now you’re taking. But the reason that dish is so nice probably has more to do with the cheese, rather than the cauliflower.
Anyway, a Romanesco cauliflower may have the name ‘cauliflower’ in the title, it may grow like a cauliflower with leaves around the bottom and a lumpy flowering part in the middle, it may also be from the same family as a cauliflower, but a cauliflower it ain’t. In fact it’s only in the UK where we add the word ‘cauliflower’, in most other places it’s just called Romanesco. I guess that’s because it wasn’t that long ago when cauliflower, carrots and peas were the only vegetable we ate so they added the ‘cauliflower’ to make it less scary for us!
Once you take the leaves off then it bears very little resemblance to a cauliflower, it looks more like broccoli on acid, the kind of broccoli you’d expect to see in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a better raw eat than cauliflower and it’s flavour in much nuttier and more earthy.
As well as eating it raw it can be sautéed, or cooked through. You can add garlic and lemon, stick it in a curry or make Romanesco cheese, as above! Romanesco absolutely soaks up flavour so go nuts!
Here’s an accompaniment to a Shepherdess Pie I made last night. It’s simple and very tasty.
- One Romanesco cauliflower
- One large carrot
- 1tsp dried marjoram
- 1tsp dried thyme
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Break the Romanesco small florets
- Chop the carrots into chunks – Cut the carrot in half then cut it in half again lengthways. Chop each part in half lengthways again, push the halves together then proceed to chop into 1cm cubes
- Place a large pan on the heat and bring the vegetable stock back to the boil. Chuck in your Romnesco and carrot and the herbs and mix it all up. Put the lid on the pan, keep it on a medium to high heat and leave for 10 minutes.
- Serve with a slotted spoon as an accompaniment
Tip: Use a large enough pan so that the Romesco isn’t fully covered by the stock.