Spiced cauliflower with mascarpone dressing & pearl couscous

Spiced cauliflower with mascarpone dressing & pearl couscous

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This recipe proves two things. The first is that vegetarian dinners can be incredibly, ridiculously flavoursome and far more exciting than many meat dishes (I know this already, but if you’re trying to convince someone, cook this!), the second is that cauliflowers and cheese doesn’t have to mean rank, fattening school dinner stodge (even if I do actually quite like that stuff, too).

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Roasting cauliflower is such a nice thing – it stays crunchy, tastes nutty and goes all satisfying-looking and golden. It’s certainly much more appealing that flabby boiled cauliflower, and it can really take any robust spice mix you feel like throwing at it.

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I combined it with a fruity, refreshing pearl couscous (in this, the dried fruits are cooked in the pot with the grain to enhance juiciness) and a really subtly flavoured creamy cheese dressing, which added a luxurious element to the dinner. Don’t be put off by including cheese in the dressing. I took a gamble with this and it certainly paid off. Thinned out, with added lemon and olive oil, the mascarpone becomes delicate, with only a hint of cheesiness and is a perfect accompaniment to the cauliflower.

Happily, I think I got some slightly better photos of this dish than I managed to for my last post, so I hope you’ll get a good sense from these of how delicious this was!

You will need:

For the cauliflower:

1kg cauliflower, chopped into roughly equal florets
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 tspn cumin seeds
2 tspn coriander seeds
1.5 tspn mustard seeds
A small handful of chopped parsley
2 tbspn toasted almond flakes
salt, pepper
olive oil

For the mascarpone dressing:

2 heaped tbspn mascarpone
4-5 tbspn water
The juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbspn olive oil
salt, pepper

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For the pearl couscous:

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1 cup of Israeli pearl couscous
1 1/4 cups of boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
75g chopped dried apricots
75g sultanas
1 tspn sumac
Salt, pepper
Olive oil

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Method:

1 – Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
2 – Start by preparing the cauliflower; grind together the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and stir into this mix about a tspn each of salt and pepper

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3 – Toss the cauliflower florets in this spice mix, place on a baking tray and drizzle with a little oil and the sliced chilli
4 – Roast the cauliflower for around 30-40 minutes until crunchy but tender

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5 – Move onto the couscous; put the couscous, apricots, sumac, sultanas, stock cube and a little seasoning in a saucepan and then add the boiling water; cook for 8-10 minutes until the water has absorbed and the couscous is nicely cooked
6 – Now for the dressing; put the mascarpone cheese in a bowl and gradually whisk in the water until it reaches the consistency just thinner than natural yoghurt, then whisk in the lemon juice, olive oil and add a little seasoning to taste
7 – Add a drizzle of olive oil to your couscous to loosen and tip it into a large serving bowl; once the cauliflower is cooked, arrange it on top and scatter over the almonds and parsley, plus a little extra oil if liked
8 – Serve warm with the dressing spooned on top

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