Monday, 7 May 2012

KITCHEN STUFF part two. by Adèle Geras

Goodness me, is there no end to the trouble I would go to in order to put up an interesting post? Last week, I decided to make my paternal grandmother's cauliflower dish and also to take photos of it to put up here. I have no photos of Messoda Weston and so the cauli will have to stand as a kind of emblem for her.

When I knew her, she lived in a small three up, two down house in a village near Cardiff called Rhiwbina. She shared the house with my aunt and my two cousins and I used to go there during school holidays. She had one frying pan with no handle, and used a folded-up teatowel to hold the edge of it while she cooked. She always ate after everyone else and would never sit down at the table with us. When she was a young woman, she lived in Port Said, Egypt with my grandfather who worked at Simon Artz, the Harrods of the Middle East. My father and his three siblings swam daily in the Suez Canal.

It's been years since I made this dish and as soon as I started frying up pieces of cauli I understood why. You do have to keep adding more and more oil as it does get absorbed and I try to avoid too much of the stuff for obvious reasons. Still, there's nothing nicer you can do with a cauliflower so for an occasional treat, it's well worth going to to the trouble.

Start with the cauliflower cut up so as to create as many flat planes as possible as shown above. It's difficult to fry the curvy bits to a satisfactory brownness, so the more surfaces you can create that can be brown, the better. Put the leaves into a big casserole dish to line it and add a few bits of garlic in between the leaves so:

Then shake some flour on to a plate thus and season it well with salt and pepper. Mix well to distribute seasonings:

Beat an egg in a dish wide enough to allow you to dip the cauliflower florets. No picture of this.Dip each floret first into the egg and then into the flour, then fry the cauli in vegetable oil. I used rapeseed but sunflower or olive would be okay too. You do have to keep adding a bit more oil to the frying pan so do not put bottle away in the cupboard after your first glug.

When they're nice and brown, lay them on the leaves in the casserole.

Then squeeze the juice of a lemon into about a quarter of a pint of hot water and pour over the cauliflower in the casserole. Simmer the whole thing for about twenty minutes or until a knife goes easily into the white part of a floret.

When cooked to your satisfaction, transfer to a nice dish and serve. It's also wonderful cold the next day if you happen to have any left over.

I hope some of you will make this and come back to this post and tell me how you liked it.

12 comments:

catdownunder said...

I wonder what would happen if you used rice bran oil? It seems to brown things more quickly and is lighter than other oils.

adele said...

What a brilliant idea! DO try it and tell me if it works well. I've never come across Rice Bran oil and will investigate.

Nicola Morgan said...

Delia, eat your heart out, Adele! That sounds brilliant. Thanks for sharing it and going to the trouble of illustrating with pics!

H.M. Castor said...

What a wonderful post, Adele - the cauliflower looks delicious! And the fact that your grandmother would not sit down at the table & would only eat after everyone else is poignant - was this social convention, or did she come from a background where there was a risk that there might not be enough food to go round? I've read a book about poor East End households in the late Victorian period (one branch of my family background) & there the mother seemed very often to eat last (if at all) because of the lack of food.

Book Maven said...

This is like Claudia Roden's Egyptian caulifloer recipe, which my husband makes regularly to have with kebabs in his case and falafels in mine. Except that all the cooking is done in the frying pan and no water or oven bit. So it stays a bit crisp on the outside. I love it!

I had an aunt by marriage who would never sit and eat at the table with us when serving a meal and it always made me acutely uncomfortable.

Wish I had met your grandmother, though. And how pleased she would be to live on in your life through her recipes!

Nicky said...

I think in my family the cook ( usually the mum) always serves herself last in case there isn't enough to go round. I still do that - in case I've messed up on portions. Thinking about it I don't think my maternal grandmother ever ate with us when she cooked. The working men and boys always got the heros portion too. Is it welsh culture? Great post Adele - may well try that.

Sue Purkiss said...

A friend of mine who lived in the North East told us his mother always served him and his father first, then had her meal afterwards

great post, Adele - thank you for going to so much trouble! Am not overly fond of plain cauli, so must try this.

adele said...

Yes, indeed, it was a question of HAVE THE MEN HAD ENOUGH? Or the children, or grandchildren or whatever. Also, she never ate much at all and was very skinny indeed. In those days, people didn't pay much attention to eating disorders but she may very well have had one, unbeknownst! Her sister, Simmi, about whom I ought to write a novel, was ENORMOUSLY FAT so maybe it ran in family and Messoda was aware of it...you can make up such wonderful things, can't you? And Mary, the Claudia Roden sounds brilliant. Must try that.

Leslie Wilson said...

I must make this

Eleanor said...

I've just made a low-fat version of this, and it was delicious.

The essential difference is that the cauliflower is roasted, not fried.
Here's what I did:

You need exactly the same ingredients as in Adele's recipe, but only a tablespoon (or less) of oil, and the addition of a teaspoon of turmeric or paprika (to help the colour along).
You will also need a baking tray and some silcone paper.

Cut the cauliflower as Adele says.
Then, in a large bowl, mix together the egg, flour, oil, salt and turmeric to make a paste.
Put the cauliflower chunks in the bowl and stir them around (best done with hands) so that they get covered in the paste.
Spread them out on the lined baking tray and roast in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about a quarter of an hour, until browned.

I expected that to take much longer, but it turned out that 15 mins was enough.

Then continue the recipe as Adele says.

Because the browning stage turned out to be so quick, I ended up keeping the finished product warm in a low oven for about 15 mins while the rest of the meal caught up. I didn't seem to do any harm.

It tasted lovely. I don't know what the original tastes like, of course, so perhaps Adele might have a go at this version and give us a report?

I dare say that you could leave out the egg and the flour if you really wanted to, but I think they probably help hold the whole thing together at the lemon stage.

I learned the trick of covering roasted veg in paprika to colour them from Blue Peter, when they made oven chips one bonfire night. That was years ago, so I suppose this counts as an historial discussion.

I had intended to use paprika for this dish, but it turned out we hadn't got any, so that's where the turmeric came in. I also meant to measure everything carefully, but the top fell off the jar as I was tipping the turmeric in, so I ended up with rather more than one tsp in the mix. It doesn't seem to have done any harm. It's really just colouring, and doesn't taste much.

Eleanor said...

I've just made a low-fat version of this, and it was delicious.

The essential difference is that the cauliflower is roasted, not fried.
Here's what I did:

You need exactly the same ingredients as in Adele's recipe, but only a tablespoon (or less) of oil, and the addition of a teaspoon of turmeric or paprika (to help the colour along).
You will also need a baking tray and some silcone paper.

Cut the cauliflower as Adele says.
Then, in a large bowl, mix together the egg, flour, oil, salt and turmeric to make a paste.
Put the cauliflower chunks in the bowl and stir them around (best done with hands) so that they get covered in the paste.
Spread them out on the lined baking tray and roast in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about a quarter of an hour, until browned.

I expected that to take much longer, but it turned out that 15 mins was enough.

Then continue the recipe as Adele says.

Because the browning stage turned out to be so quick, I ended up keeping the finished product warm in a low oven for about 15 mins while the rest of the meal caught up. I didn't seem to do any harm.

It tasted lovely. I don't know what the original tastes like, of course, so perhaps Adele might have a go at this version and give us a report?

I dare say that you could leave out the egg and the flour if you really wanted to, but I think they probably help hold the whole thing together at the lemon stage.

I learned the trick of covering roasted veg in paprika to colour them from Blue Peter, when they made oven chips one bonfire night. That was years ago, so I suppose this counts as an historial discussion.

I had intended to use paprika for this dish, but it turned out we hadn't got any, so that's where the turmeric came in. I also meant to measure everything carefully, but the top fell off the jar as I was tipping the turmeric in, so I ended up with rather more than one tsp in the mix. It doesn't seem to have done any harm. It's really just colouring, and doesn't taste much.

adele said...

This is wonderful! Thanks Ellie. I have printed this out. And will make very soon and report here and on twitter. Am about to tweet this recipe....