My lovely friend in Boston recently made me a present of Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s ‘Jerusalem’ and a what a welcome gift that was; if I hadn’t bent over backwards to buy the book in the first place (it was first published in the United Kingdom in 2012), it was because I knew at some level that it was the sort of book that could ‘wait’. I had leafed through it admiringly in a book store in London but the draconian Ryanair baggage limitations for my flight back to Rome put a stop to my buying it (that Ryanair has such a lot to answer for ). I minded, of course I minded, but I could see even then that the recipes are the kind that will endure in time, and not the fleeting flight of modish fancy … and thus I could wait in eager and, thoroughly unusually for me, patient anticipation.
My friend and I set about cooking a couple of the recipes together when visiting another lovely friend in Vancouver last month … and I cheerfully thought to myself that my patience had been richly rewarded. Cooking together with like-minded people (i.e. those who cook with love) ranks very close to the top of my favourite things to do in life. One of the recipes we prepared was the cauliflower and hazelnut salad that is the subject of my post today. It doesn’t follow the recipe precisely and that’s because I didn’t have either maple syrup or allspice at home (I used fig jam instead).
I started out making the recipe energetically enough, all one-two-one-two hip-hop military footstep drill but, alas, without either of my friends to bolster me on, I was almost cursing by the end of it. What? What? Why? How? Huh? How is that? Now, WHY didn’t they say that at the beginning! Oufff. Puzzlement and pouting spouting from my person and irritation rising. I don’t doubt that Tamimi and Ottolenghi’s ears were reddening by the minute as I mentally remonstrated with them and remembered just WHY I started this food blog in the first place. It was because – aside from featuring recipes that my children could use while they were students in London – I just do NOT understand written recipes unless there are plenty of photos to accompany the instructions. Maybe it is some kind of gastronomic dyslexia, who knows? Maybe I am just not a ‘manual’ sort of person and that’s why I loved ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycling Maintenance’, and found it so soothing.
Right, enough of that and on with my interpretation of the recipe which, believe me and pace the original authors, makes much more sense in terms of do-ability.
This is a close-up of the end result … very inviting, very juicy, just like a salad should be. Start by removing strands from the celery sticks and then slicing them at a slant. I was following instructions here … next time I’ll just slice them straight. A beautiful pomegranate, its red arils ready to be removed from their casing. This takes a bit of time, so be warned. Here is a link on how to open a pomegranate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iHbSzM63Hs Then weigh about 20g of flat leaf parsley. I expect that coriander leaves (cilantro) would be equally delicious too. Set aside.Here is the Sherry vinegar and, lacking maple syrup, I used some caramelised fig jam to make a dressing. Here is the dressing: extra virgin olive oil (evoo), white wine vinegar and fig jam. Set aside. Okay, now it’s time to cook. Here are the cauliflower florets. Evoo has been drizzled over them, and salt sprinkled too. Put them into the oven for about 30 minutes.Here are 55g of hazelnuts. The recipe said they needed to be toasted in the oven, on a lower heat setting compared with the cauliflower, for 17 minutes. I got around that by putting them in for only 10 minutes, together with the cauliflower (i.e. ten minutes before the cauliflower’s end cooking time). Out of the oven. Time to assemble the salad.
ASSEMBLING OF THE SALAD
Place the cauliflower on a large plate or salad bowl. Allow to cool. When the hazelnuts have cooled down sufficiently … Chop them up. I have this little kitchen toy to do it for me. If you don’t have one, just wrap the hazelnuts into a nice clean T-towel and bash them about with the bottom of a heavy glass or with a rolling pin. Sprinkle the hazlenut granola over the cauliflower. Excuse this atrocious photo … it was a reminder to me that I was to sprinkle some cinnamon over the cauliflower. The phone rang just then and by the time I got back, I’d forgotten to take another ‘proper’ photo. (Don’t you just hate it when the phone rings as you are in the middle of something ‘fiddly’ in the kitchen?). Now add the celery. Then add the pomegranate arils. The quantity was twice the amount called for in the original recipe but I had gone to so much trouble to de-aril the pomegranate in the first place that I wasn’t about to not use them all. Also add the parsley – as much or as little as you prefer. Final touch: season with good sea salt. Finish the dish off with the dressing and voilà — you have yourselves a beeee-eautiful, rich, vastly enjoyable Winter salad that is truly a delight for the eyes as well as the palate. Here is the one measely photo that Tamimi and Ottolenghi deigned to include in their recipe book, shame on them (tee hee). And here is their deceptively ‘easy’ recipe – ha ! Caveat emptor … this salad is not difficult as such but does involve a lot of clear thinking and a bit of planning ahead.