Cauliflower has to be the unmatched MacGyver of the vegetable kingdom and for that reason I’ve decided that it will henceforth be referred to it as CauliGyver, spread the word.
As an aside, I was talking to a friend the other day who referred to MacGyver in a discussion with her six year old and then had to try to explain it to him. You cannot explain MacGyver, he just is. It is a travesty to think of the generations of children, including my own, who will grow up not knowing the mind-blowing ingenuity of Secret Agent Angus MacGyver with his trusty his duct tape and Swiss army knife. Or the spine-tingling excitement of that theme song, and don’t even get me started on that head of hair.
CauliGuyver, like its secret agent namesake, is insanely versatile, particularly as a replacement for traditional starchy vegetable and grain dishes. CauliGyver has featured on my menu as rice, sushi, creamy white sauce for pasta and lasagne, velvety puree, light fluffy mash, comforting soup, roasted whole, in chunks or toast slice style, as tabouleh, savoury muffins and loaves, bagels, pizza base and porridge. With the exception of the last two, all were a resounding success even under the harsh ‘husband taste test’ and have since made it to our regular menu rotation. The cauliflower pizza base was not such a winner, I thought it was pretty good but the highest praise my husband could muster was ‘well… it’s edible’; I think me fucking with a meal as beloved as pizza was just a bridge too far for my poor guinea pig guy. The porridge was definitely interesting and I’m certain it has potential but it hasn’t quite made its way onto my regular breakfast list just yet. Ah well, even the best Swiss army knife has a few random crappy attachments no one knows how to use right?
Cauliflower rice has to top the list here based on both how stupidly easy it is to make and the sheer number of things you can do it.
It’s as simple as this – chop a head of cauliflower into florets and blitz briefly in a blender until it resembles the texture of fine rice. If you don’t have a blender to hand a trusty old cheese grater will do the same job, just grate it straight off the whole head so you’ve got a bit of something to hold onto. And THAT IS IT! To cook simply throw it in a broad based pan with a bit of seasoning, a wee dollop of your choice of fat (I like coconut oil or ghee) and a minimal splash of water, I’m talking 1-2 tablespoons max here, the last thing you want is a puddle soggy rice. Keep it moving in the pan over a med-high heat and it’ll be cooked in about 2 minutes. It’s hard to tell from looking at it as the appearance doesn’t change much but you will smell that unmistakable cooked cauli scent that will tell you it’s done.
Now you have the basis for so many dishes ready to go. Serve it hot anywhere you would rice, like with curries, stews or stir-fries. Let it cool and use it to make grain free sushi with the bonus of an extra veggie portion instead of that nasty white gelatinous nonsense. Throw in a few eggs, whatever veggies and seasonings you have lying around and maybe a tin of salmon or tuna then bake in a loaf tin or muffin cases for an easy lunch or snack option. Or, whip up this gem, one of my favourite warm weather meals in a bowl – CauliGyver Tabouleh.
I love this as a really tasty and refreshing summer side dish but it’s also substantial enough to make a one bowl meal with the addition of a bit of meat. It works particularly well with lamb for a Greek inspired meal, especially with the freshness of the mint. I mean lamb and mint, it’s a time-tested solid combo and there are some traditions even I don’t fuck with.
Get this stuff
1 head of CauliGyver, approx. 800 grams
2-3 Lebanese cucumbers or 1 telegraph cucumber
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
16 cherry tomatoes or 4 large roma tomatoes
1 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
A decent bunch each of parsley and mint
30 kalamata olives
100-200 grams of feta, I like Danish as it’s soft and creamy and melds in well with the other elements – this is an optional extra and easily omitted if you want to keep it dairy free
Do this with it
Rice and cook the cauli as per the amazingly challenging instructions above then set it aside to cool. Dice all of the other veggie elements into small cubes, slice the olives and chop the herbs finely. Check on the cauli and make sure it’s pretty near to cool; this is important so the other veggies and herbs don’t go all wilty and nasty when you combine them, no one likes limp salad. Once it’s ready to go, toss everything around in a bowl really well to combine then crumble the feta over the top and fold it through gently.
Throw a butterflied leg of lamb on the BBQ loaded with herbs and garlic, whip up some tzatziki with natural greek yoghurt, mint and cucumber and you have the perfect summer evening meal right there. You’re welcome.
My CauliGyver white sauce is another epic favourite to replace traditional béchamel sauce and works in so many dishes including zoodles or my vegetarian Lasagnakopoussaka (that’s a lasagne, spanakopita, moussaka mash up in case you were wondering).
I’ll bring you that recipe soon… but meanwhile play this theme song while you’re preparing your next CauliGyver dish, you’ll never look at that awesome veggie the same way again.