Ah, the cauliflowers of our youth. I’m sure you remember the buggers: grey and brain-ish, boiled until soft and claggy by the school dinnerladies; or (worse) bobbing up and down in salty water in your Grandma’s kitchen sink as a legion of little black insects died in unison and floated out of the florets. They never all vacated the cauliflower – I spent miserable hours at the table with the tip of a knife, digging out wiggly, squashy bodies and things with far too many legs, and smearing them on my napkin.
It took me some years to mentally rehabilitate the cauliflower, and I know plenty of adults who still won’t touch the things. Happily, these days you are very, very unlikely to come across an insect-riddled specimen (pesticides are the modern cook’s friend), and grey mush is easily avoided if you’re cooking them at home. Best of all, it turns out that a cauliflower which is roasted or sautéed is totally delicious. It has a great texture and takes on a sweet and toasty flavour a little like roast chestnuts – nothing at all like the bitter, wet stuff you remember from school. Serve as a side dish or as one of a selection of vegetably nibbles. And if you’re low-carbing, which at least two of my friends are at the moment, this is a very tasty way to get your vitamins without carbs.
To saute a head of cauliflower you’ll need:
Olive oil to cover the bottom of a large saute pan
(This may be the shortest ingredient list I have ever posted!)
Separate the cauliflower into large florets (see picture) and slice them lengthways so you have flat pieces of cauliflower about a centimetre thick. Heat the oil in the pan until it is shimmering, and slide the cauliflower in. Brown on one side (four or five minutes) before turning carefully and browning on the other side. Serve spread out on a large plate, sprinkled generously with sea salt.