The cauliflower is a virtuous vegetable: it has a starchy mouth feel and texture, while being low in calories and high in things like Vitamin C. It does not rate highly on the glamour rating, but it does lend itself to some surprisingly good supper dishes.
I was intrigued to discover it is hugely popular in Sicily. When I visited the island one January, caulis were piled high in all the markets: the purple kind was preferred in the Catania region, while the green variety was in abundance in Palermo, where the picture above was taken. Ever since then, I’ve kept an eye out for what the Italians (and Sicilians) like to do with them.
And actually what the Italians like to do seems to be similar to what the Spanish like to do – at least in Mallorca. Coliflor ofegada, drowned cauliflower, is similar to Puglia’s cima di rapa affogata – one variation of which is with cauliflower; Salerno and Palma de Mallorca must have been on the same shipping routes back in the Middle Ages. The technique in both Spanish and Italian recipes involves sautéing the ingredients before adding small amount of water, covering the pan with a lid and letting everything steam until the cauliflower is cooked but still crunchy.
This is my version, which has evolved over the years to suit the ingredients I usually have in the fridge.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, rinsed and sliced
8 good quality free range pork sausages, chopped into third’s
1 cooking chorizo, about 100g, sliced
8 tomatoes quartered or a 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons raisons
100ml water if using fresh tomatoes
1 medium cauliflower broken into field mushroom size florets
Chopped parsley to garnish
Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat and soften the leek. Add the sausages, chorizo and fry for 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes, paprika, cayenne, salt, raisons and water. Give everything a good stir and let everything bubble for 5 to 10 minutes to let the sauce reduce to a gloopy, not too thick consistency. Add the cauliflower florets, flower side up, and cover the pan with a lid. Let everything steam for 5 minutes before checking for cauliflower doneness. How long the florets take to cook will depend on the size, the cooking rate etc – use your judgement – but it doesn’t take long.
Scatter the parsley over everything and serve with bread if you’re not on a low carb diet.