As I’ve mentioned here countless times, autumn is my favourite season. Unlike most people, I like cold weather and absolutely love one-pot and soul warming stews and soups. This stew in particular is the kind of dish I often cook when colder days arrive, as it’s quick to make and I most likely already have all the ingredients I need for it in the pantry.
It’s also very versatile: sometimes I use zucchini in place of the cauliflower and, even though I prefer the latter, it tastes lovely too. Other times, I substitute the water for coconut milk (or half of the amount of water) for a richer, creamier version. As with most curries and stews, this one tastes better the day after it’s made. The recipe below makes plenty of food, so I’m sure you’ll end up with leftovers for the next meal. I also really like to serve this dish with steamed brown rice (to soak up the sauce) and plenty of toasted cashews on top.
Red Lentil and Cauliflower Stew
(serves 4 to 6)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
210 g / 1 cup red lentils
375 ml / 1 ½ cups chopped canned tomatoes
500 ml / 2 cups water
175 g / 3 medium carrots, cubed
350 g / 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
salt and black pepper to taste
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the seeds for 5-6 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle and mash them until they’re finely ground.
In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, chilli, spices and carrots and fry for 1 minute or 2. Now add the lentils, canned tomatoes, water and cauliflower and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium, cover the pan and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. At the last minute of cooking, add the salt (start with ½ teaspoon, taste, and increase if you need) and black pepper.
I’m not sure why, having already tried some recipes from Plenty, I haven’t wrote about the book in here before. Plenty is strictly vegetarian (no meat, no fish) but, on the other hand, isn’t particularly vegan-friendly (a large number of the recipes call for dairy and eggs). Anyway, that isn’t really a disavantadge, as I usually find a lot of inspiration in dishes that aren’t vegan already, as part of the fun is to actually try to veganize them – that both mental and practical exercise on how to substitute non-vegan ingredients for plant-based ones, is one of the things I enjoy the most about the process of recreating recipes.
Back to the book: it is filled with amazing dishes from cover to cover (the photography is also great, and there’s an image for every single recipe on the book too) – next on the list, is the Soba noodles with aubergine and mango, already mentioned here – but this one in particular – saffron cauliflower – not only is really tasty, but also couldn’t be simpler (and require fewer ingredients) to make.
I’ve already shared with you my love for cauliflower – one of the vegetables I like the most to work with – and with this recipe on hand, I assure you, there’s no reason why not to eat it more often. I also haven’t modified the recipe that much, so my version only includes some minor tweaks: I ommited the bay leaves the original recipe called for (actually because I forgot them on the counter and only realized that a few minutes before the cauliflower was done roasting), subbed saffron strands for the powdered version (as it was what I had on hand), and added ¾ teaspoon of sea salt. Although the book features a very slightly different version of this dish, you can find its first version online, published on The Guardian’s column the new vegetarian.For a tasty, unusual, side dish, this is it.
The idea for this recipe comes from Heidi’s Simple Cauliflower . I love the simplicity of it and how it works so wonderfully. In my version, I added some corn kernels I had sitting on the fridge (I’ve bought some pre-cooked corn and then cut the kernels off the cob), some chopped corianders, and there you have it. I think the key in here is to cut the cauliflower into small florets about the same size (mine were no larger than 2 centimeters), so that they cook thoroughly in the same amount of time. On the other hand, the addition of lemon juice and its zest is really important to balance the sweeteness of the corn and the addition of salt. As I was eating this tonight for dinner, I had a lot of ideas popping into my head on how it could be easily improved in order to make a more substancial meal: for instance, adding rice vermicelli as well as grilled smoked tofu would make a perfect main course. And if you’re not into vermicelli noodles, I bet some cooked grains such as quinoa or brown rice would not only work well, but also make it heartier. And what about substituing the corn kernels and using chickpeas instead? Or maybe adding some toasted cumin seeds? Or even substituing the lemon zest for orange zest? I mean, take this recipe as a general idea that could (and should) be adapted and taken in whatever direction you’d like. Just do not forget to shout out in the comments on how you have approached it.
(serves 2, as a side)
1 small cauliflower head, cut into tiny florets
1 pre-cooked ear of corn on the cob
1 tablespoon olive oil
a bit of sea salt
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
1. With a sharp knife, cut the corn kernels off the cob.
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the corn kernels, cauliflower florets and salt, and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. It’s important to stir the ingredients occasionally, to prevent them from getting too brown.
2. When the cauliflower and corn are cooked, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, chopped corianders, a squeeze of lemon juice.