What's in season - Romanesco Cauliflower
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RECIPES

Words: Guy Singh-Watson   Photography by Riverford

What's in season - Romanesco Cauliflower

Make your own Sicilian Romanesco

 

 
After years in the culinary doldrums, condemned by memories of sulphurous school dinners, cauliflower is back; and quite rightly so. Treated kindly, this sturdy brassica is fit for a feast and is much prized in Italy, Asia and Africa – in fact most places apart from where it grows best: in the UK.
 
Romanesco cauliflower (also known as Romanesco broccoli) has beautiful, fractal-patterned green curds. You might think it is a fancy modern invention – the latest supermarket gimmick – but actually it’s an old Italian variety. It’s at its best from September through to November and can be treated pretty much like white-curded cauliflower, thought it is slightly more crunchy and nuttier in flavour.
 
Approach cauliflower and romanesco in the same way. Strip off the outer leaves until you are left with the curd on the stalk. Crop the stalk as near to the base of the gathered florets as you can. The stalk can be used in most dishes – cut into slices or batons and cook with the rest of the florets. Cut the whole curd lengthways into halves or quarters – this will allow you to clip out even-sized florets. If the leaves are fresh cook them too – the outer ones may need to be discarded but those near the core are sweet.
 
With such a stunning fractal pattern, a head of romanesco is impressive (and very quick and easy) to serve whole: cut off any leaves and trim it so it sits flat in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 200°C/Gas 6 for 1 hour or until golden and tender. Serve with a roast, or as a main with tomato sauce.
 
 
Sicilian romanesco
 
The combination of chilli, pine nuts, lemon and currants is often found in traditional Sicilian cuisine – the influence of trade across the Mediterranean from the East. It gives a lovely sweet-and-sour combination. You can use ordinary couscous but giant couscous, which can often be found in large supermarkets, is even better.
 
Ingredients
 
 Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side. 
 
150–200g couscous, depending on appetite
1 romanesco or cauliflower, cut into even, bitesized florets
a generous slug of good olive oil
25g currants
50g pine nuts
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
zest of 2 lemons
handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
sunflower or light olive oil, for frying
salt and black pepper
 
Method
 
1. Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.
2. If you’re using normal couscous, spread it out in a roasting pan, just cover it with boiling water and a pinch of salt and leave it for 30 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork. If you’re using giant couscous, follow the instructions on the packet.
3. Toss the florets with the oil, salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on a roasting tray and roast for 10–15 minutes until tender and just beginning to brown.
4. While the florets are roasting, soak the currants in boiling water for about 10 minutes to plump them up, then drain.
5. Toss the pine nuts into a small dry frying pan and heat them gently, stirring often, for a couple of minutes until they start to turn golden. Remove from the heat and tip into a small bowl to stop them cooking.
6. Put the couscous in a large mixing bowl and stir in the currants, pine nuts, chilli, lemon zest, parsley and enough oil to give it a good gloss.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then gently stir in the romanesco.
 
Variation
 
This makes a really good pasta dish with cooked penne or fusilli replacing the couscous.
TRY award-winning organic produce delivered to your door
Riverford Organic Farmers deliver boxes of organic fruit and veg, meat, dairy and much more in London and all over the UK. Choose a seasonal Veg Box, design your own or go for a Recipe Box, which will arrive with all the ingredients you need to make delicious recipes like this one in your own kitchen.
 

Try award-winning organic produce delivered to your door

Riverford Organic Farmers deliver boxes of organic fruit and veg, meat, dairy and much more in London and all over the UK. Choose a seasonal Veg Box, design your own or go for a Recipe Box, which will arrive with all the ingredients you need to make delicious recipes like this one in your own kitchen. Visit the website or call 01803 227227 to give a veg box a try!

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