It’s autumn again. My favourite time of the year. I’ve lived in this part of the world for many years now but I am still fascinated by the concept of watching nature in action – the drama of the leaves turning colour, the madness of the wind whipping away at everything in its path and the way the season turns right before your eyes. It isn’t like that in the tropics where it’s pretty much the same for weeks on end. Here it changes 4 times a year. Even 4 times a day. Sometimes 4 times an hour.
No wonder the weather is such an endless topic of conversation for the English. It’s a conversation starter (“Lovely weather, isn’t it?”), a conversation `bulker-up’ (“They say this is going to be the coldest winter in 40 years” “Really?”) an awkward-moments filler (“Will the sun come out today, you think?”) and a conversation ender (“Bye then. Enjoy the weather…while it lasts”). Personally, I love it. It beautifully brings to the fore the inherent friendliness and politeness of the English, but also their inborn reserve and their unwillingness to cause offence – I mean what could be safer than discussing the possibility of rain?
Autumn makes me feel inadequate. Ha – got your attention, didn’t I? No, really. It does. I look at the unbelievable and incredible colours of the leaves and feel like I `want’ to do something with them. I `want’ so badly to be a creative person, I `want’ so desperately to capture those colours in my art – paint a canvas or design some flowing robes or a stunning piece of jewellery – anything, just anything to be able to capture those rich deep hues for myself and subsume my soul in their depths.
But not all of us are meant for all things. So I just do what I do – I cook. So this week I decided to cook colour. At my local fresh veg stall I found a head of purple cauliflower, gorgeously garish, peeking out at me. I just cannot resist purple anything. So in the bag, and in the pan. Apparently purple cauliflowers (like other purple fruit and veg) are high in protective antioxidants called anthocyanins, the same as those found in red wine…oh I like, I like.
What did I do with it? I called out to my Indian/Punjabi cooking roots for inspiration, so here is my Purple Gobi, simple and easy, warm and comforting.
PURPLE GOBI (Prep time 5 mins, cooking time 10 mins, serves 3-4)
* Purple cauliflower – 1 (cut into bite-sized florets and washed well)
* Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
* Fresh ginger (optional) – minced fine
* Frozen peas (optional) – a handful
* Cooking oil – 2 tsp or more
* Lemon juice – a good squeeze
– Heat oil in a pan until really hot. I use cast iron, so I can get it pretty hot. But if you are using non-stick, be cautious. Just use medium heat.
– Add in the cumin seeds and wait for them to pop. They’ll probably do so instantly so be ready with your cauliflower beforehand. You don’t want them to burn and turn bitter waiting for you to finish cutting up your cauliflower. Popped cumin helps in digestion because the high heat releases its essential oils. Unpopped cumin passes right through the digestive tract without delivering on it’s wonderful properties.
– Add in the cauliflower and sauté for 3-4 mins. Maybe you want to reduce the heat at this time, but it’s important to cook cauliflower fairly quickly so you don’t have an awful Luciferian smell filling your kitchen (there’s rude word for it, but not on my blog!). That typical smell of cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli cooking is caused by the breakdown of the sulphurous compounds they contain. The answer? Cook quickly and don’t overcook it.
– Add peas, salt and ginger, sauté another few mins. Turn off the heat, cover and leave for 3-4 mins. I added the peas only to add some color to the dish but I think they also ended up adding a nice taste.
– Open the lid, add in the lemon juice, and maybe a splash of oil (olive or any other cooking oil) to it. The cauliflower could be as raw or as tender as you like it. Serve as a warm starter or a side.
How does it taste? Pretty much like regular cauliflower – only a bit mellower, a bit sweeter. Enjoy the cool air and the warm dishes of the season!