The best ways to cook cauliflower

The name ‘cauliflower’ stems from the Latin for cabbage, caulis, and

colewort, the medieval term for brassicas. The famous herbalist John

Gerard named the plant a ‘coley flower’ in his list of garden plants of


By the 18th century, the word cauliflower was slang for the

white wigs worn by dignified clergy and physicians. Incidentally, the

head of the plant is only white because it’s protected from the sun by

its own self-blanching leaves.

Melanie says: ‘Our cauliflowers might be small this year, but there’s something satisfying about watching the tight florets emerge from the pale-green leaves. When boiled, it’s easy to disregard cauliflower as a bland vegetable, yet, if roasted or fried, it takes on a new identity. It’s capable of holding its own against strong flavours that emphasise its sweetness, which is especially true of well-spiced Indian dishes such as aloo gobi’

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Tandoori-roasted cauliflower with spiced chicken breasts

Serves 4

2tspn ground cumin
2tspn turmeric
2tspn ground coriander
2tspn garam marsala
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (or more if you like it hot)
2tbspn grated ginger
A handful fresh coriander
600ml Greek yoghurt
1 large cauliflower (or 4 small ones
if your harvest is like mine)
4 chicken breasts, skin on
3 lemons
A splash of olive oil
25g butter
2 red onions
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
A handful of fresh coriander to serve


Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Mix the ground spices together and divide the results in half and set to one side in two bowls.

Using a blender or food processor, whizz up the red onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and coriander. In a large bowl, combine one half of the ground spices with the blended ingredients, then add the Greek yoghurt and mix together well.

Cut the cauliflower into large florets and add them to the bowl, ensuring the pieces are entirely coated with the yoghurt marinade.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavours to infuse the cauliflower.

Take the chicken breasts and put them in a freezer bag with the juice of one of the lemons, a splash of olive oil and some seasoning.

Again, place them in the fridge for at least an hour.

Take a large roasting dish and place the cauliflower pieces into it, spooning the marinade over them as you go. Add the chicken breasts to the roasting dish, skin side up. Sprinkle the skin of each chicken breast with the dry spices and add a small knob of butter. Put the quartered lemons (and give them a quick squeeze as they go in), the red-onion wedges and garlic cloves into the roasting tin. Season the whole dish and roast until the chicken is cooked and the cauliflower tender (about 35 minutes).

Serve scattered with fresh coriander, accompanied by buttered rice, naan bread and a salad, and use the pan juices as a sauce. This is a great dish to make ahead, so it’s perfect as an autumn kitchen supper with friends.

More ways with cauliflower

Whole, roasted cauliflower cheese

Remove the coarse outer leaves and then place the whole cauliflower into a saucepan with 11⁄2in water in the bottom. Steam, with the lid on, for 15 minutes, topping up the water if necessary. Take the cauliflower out and drain for 5 minutes in a colander.

Transfer it to an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and add seasoning before roasting in a hot oven for 25 minutes. In a bowl, mix 1tbspn olive oil, 50g capers, 230ml soured cream, a handful of chopped mixed herbs (such as parsley, basil and oregano) and seasoning. Take it out of the oven and spread it with the soured cream mixture to cover the entire surface and sprinkle with grated cheese (any hard cheese will do). Return to the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cauliflower is almost tender and the top is golden. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Cauliflower salad

Using a mandolin (or a sharp knife and a little patience), cut a cauliflower into wide, thin slices. Arrange on a plate with smoked salmon and scatter with toasted pine nuts and dill. Serve with a sweet mustard dressing made using equal quantities of mayonnaise, grainy Dijon mustard, runny honey and dill.

** Originally published in Country Life in December 2013.

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