Recipes: Vicki Ravlich-Horan | Photography: Brydie Thompson

This winter kale has a rival. The new darling of the vege world is the humble cauliflower. No longer maligned to an over-boiled side dish that has to be served with lashings of cheese sauce for anyone to enjoy, cauliflower is now taking centre stage as the key ingredient in gluten free pizza bases or carb free rice and mash. Forget boiling it. To get maximum flavour and truly enjoy this vegetable in its own right you need to roast or pan fry it. Or fool the fussiest eater by turning it into faux nuggets.

I am not professing these are healthy, but they are a great alternative to a chicken nugget and a sneaky way to get some vegetables eaten. Serve them as a side, after school or party treat. They will of course go down well with tomato sauce but are also delicious with aioli or a cheese sauce.

PARMESAN CAULIFLOWER POPPERS
3 cups cauliflower florets (approx 1cm each)
½ cup flour
salt
2 eggs
1 cup panko crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
oil for deep frying

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a good pinch of salt and plunge the florets in for 2–3 minutes before placing them in ice cold water. Once cool, drain and then dry on a clean tea towel or paper towel.
Place the flour and pinch of salt in a zip lock bag (I save the ones from the supermarket bulk bins for these purposes) and the cauliflower. Close and shake to ensure the florets are completely covered in flour.
In a small bowl beat the eggs. In another, mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Now using one hand dip the cauliflower in the egg, then using your other hand dip them in the crumbs.
In several batches deep fry at 180°C for 5–10 minutes or until golden brown.

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GOLDEN CAULIFLOWER
Gluten Free, Paeleo, Nut Free, Egg Free, Vegetarian

This simple method of cooking cauliflower completely transforms it into a scrumptious savoury veg everyone will love.
Slice the cauliflower into approx 1cm thick pieces.
Melt some olive oil and butter in a pan and add the cauliflower in one layer. Fry over a med-low heat for 15 minutes or until golden brown before turning and cooking the other side for a further 10-15 minutes. Season well and serve with a tomato chutney or Kasundi.

CAULIFLOWER MASH
This is a great alternative to mashed potato, especially if you are cutting back on the carbs.
Serves 4 | Gluten Free, Paeleo, Nut Free, Egg Free, Vegetarian

½ cauliflower
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup milk
2 cloves garlic

Cut the cauliflower into florets and, along with all the other ingredients, place into a pot. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is very soft.
Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid, then add this back in with the cooked cauliflower and puree. A stick blender does this best but if you don’t have one a food processor will work.
Check for seasoning before serving.

CAULIFLOWER RICE
Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

A great low carb alternative to rice, you can prepare cauliflower rice ahead of time and freeze for a quick and nutritional option for your next curry, stew or salad.
Simply chop your cauliflower into large florets, removing the thick main stalk. Blitz these in a food processor for approximately 30 seconds or until the cauli resembles rice. Depending on the size of your food processor and/or the cauliflower, you may want to do this in a couple of batches. No food processor? A grater will work too.
At this stage you can portion and freeze the ‘rice’ or cook it by microwaving, roasting or stir frying.
To microwave place the rice in a bowl, cover with cling film and cook on high for 3-4 minutes.
To roast, drizzle an oven tray with a little extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, spread the cauliflower over and stir. Season or add extra herbs and spices if you wish before roasting at 200°C for 12-14 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
To stir fry, heat a little oil in a pan, add the rice and cook, stirring often for 5-10 minutes. Sweating off some onion, garlic and ginger first, then adding the cauliflower will make it even tastier!

Tip – Add blanched cauliflower florets to your macaroni cheese.

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