It’s hard to believe that the humble cauliflower is now deemed to be trendy and so much in vogue that the once-unfancied brassica has usurped kale as the hipster vegetable of choice. But is it really that surprising? For a vegetable it's endlessly versatile and makes a great centrepiece. You can sauté it, blend it to add smoothness in sauces and a creamy texture to soups, but I also love to simply roast it. Roasting isn't usually the first cooking method you think of for cauliflower but the results are quite delicious.

It can be cut into thick slices and tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and herbs and finished in the oven or roasted whole. It may just be a regular, humble, garden cauliflower, but there's something really exciting about seeing it come out of the oven whole. I often flavour mine with lemon, chilli and cumin and a deep browning occurs in the oven that results in a sweet, nutty flavour. It makes a beautiful edible centrepiece to hack away at, cutting chunks off the main stem, throughout your meal.

As a kid I couldn’t stand the sight of cauliflower on my plate and the odorous smell was enough to put me off cauliflower for a lifetime. Badly, over-cooked vegetables are unpleasant at the best of times, but cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are probably the worst offenders. It’s such a shame as these vegetables are wonderful ingredients when cooked with love and if you’re still haunted by the ghosts of your old school dinners, its time to think again and get back to Brassicas.

Go for cauliflowers with pure white heads with no discolouration, and crisp green leaves. The colour of the base is a good indication of how recently it's been picked - the whiter, the fresher. Most cauliflowers are white, but it's also possible to find green and purple varieties, as well as the sweeter Romanesco cauliflower, with its distinctive pointed florets.

Cauliflower is a truly versatile vegetable and marries well with cheese, almonds, anchovies, bacon and saffron. Like all brassicas, cauliflower smells very unpleasant if overcooked, so brief cooking is essential and also preserves crispness, colour, and reduces the loss of nutrients that will leach into the cooking water when vegetables are overcooked. Cauliflower may turn yellow in alkaline water. For a more attractive colour, add a tablespoon of milk or lemon juice to the water. Do not cook cauliflower in aluminium or iron pots. The chemical compounds in cauliflower will react with the aluminium and turn the vegetable yellow. While in an iron pot, it will turn a brown or blue-green colour. Both are not great food colours, so take care.

OLIVE OIL POACHED SALMON WITH CAULIFLOWER-ANCHOVY PURÉE AND SAUCE ANTIBOISE

Ingredients: serves 4

4 fresh Salmon fillets, skinned (180g each)
300ml olive oil

Cauliflower purée:
1 small cauliflower
100ml milk
2tbsp olive oil
2 salted anchovy fillets

Sauce Antiboise:
4tbsp olive oil
4 basil leaves (torn)
10 fresh coriander leaves
2 shallots (finely chopped)
4 tomatoes (peeled and diced)
½ garlic clove (crushed)
Juice of one lemon
Seasoning

Sauce antiboise: Mix all the ingredients together and leave at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Cauliflower purée: Trim the cauliflower into small florets. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the cauliflower florets, cook gently intil they start to soften and add the milk. Cook over a gentle heat until the cauliflower is just cooked. Add the anchovy fillets and blend in a food processor to a smooth purée. Add a little white pepper.

To poach the Salmon: Heat the olive oil over a gentle flame to a temperature between 60Cº and 70Cº. Add the salmon fillets and poach them slowly for 8-10 minutes until just cooked, they should still be pink in the middle. Remove the salmon fillets and season with black pepper and flor de sal.

To serve: Place a large spoonful of cauliflower puree in the middle of 4 warm plates. Place the salmon fillets on top and spoon over the sauce antiboise. Serve immediately.

SPICED CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Related news

Ingredients: serves 6

800g cauliflower florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamomo
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
100ml milk
100ml double cream
Seasoning

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based pan over a gentle heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat for 2-3 minutes, or until just softened. Do not colour the onions.

Add the ground cumin, cardamom and ground coriander. Cooked for 1 minute, then add the chopped cauliflower, chicken stock and milk. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.

Add the cream and carefully pour the soup mixture into a food processor and blend to a purée.

Pass the soup through a fine sieve, season to taste and serve.

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE

A simple and delicious, cauliflower cheese is classic comfort food and a wonderful accompaniment practically any main course.

Ingredients serves 4

1 head of cauliflower, broken into large florets
40g butter
35g plain flour
400ml milk
1tsp English mustard
100g mature Mahon cheese or cheddar, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over a high heat. Add cauliflower florets, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the cauliflower is almost tender, but still fairly firm. Tip into a colander and leave to drain well.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over a gentle heat for 1 minute. Over a gentle heat, gradually add the milk, a little at a time, stirring well between each addition. Cook slowly, stirring continuosly for 5-6 minutes, then remove from the heat. Stir in the mustard and two thirds of the cheese and set aside.

Arrange the cauliflower in an ovenproof baking dish. Carefully pour over the sauce, ensuring the cauliflower is completely covered. Scatter over the remaining cheese and bake for 25–30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbling.