Cauliflower power: Skye Gyngell adds the cauli's creamy white curds to salads and purées

It may be Britain's most unfashionable vegetable, but the cauli's creamy white curds work so well in salads and purées, says Skye Gyngell

Creamy white clusters enfurled by the palest green leaves: cauliflower is both flavoursome and beautiful. From silky smooth soups to simple purées and salads, this humble, very English vegetable can be a wonderful addition to any table.

When buying cauliflower, look for firm, creamy plump curds – its tightly wrapped flowers – without any dark spots, along with fresh-looking leaves.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Salad of cauliflower, black olives, feta cheese and tomatoes

Serves 4

200g/7oz feta
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 head of cauliflower, broken into one-inch florets
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch of mint, leaves only
50g/2oz black olives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the feta into thin slices and sprinkle with the oregano. Now cook the cauliflower florets for four minutes in boiling water, then drain and place into a bowl. Allow to cool slightly then drizzle over the oil and vinegar and mix together well. Once the cauliflower is back to room temperature, add all the other ingredients to the bowl and toss lightly. Season to taste and arrange artfully on plates. Serve at once.

Seabass with cauliflower purée and marjoram butter

Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower
20g/3/4 oz unsalted butter
200ml/7fl oz double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 x 200g/7oz fillets of sea bass, skin left on
Olive oil for brushing
70g/3oz unsalted butter
1 small bunch of marjoram

Boil a generous-sized pan of well-salted water. Cut the cauliflower into regular-sized chunks and plunge into the water for 10 minutes or until it is soft and falling apart. Remove from the stove and drain in a colander. Place the cauliflower, butter and cream into the bowl of a food processor and purée until very smooth. Taste and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place.

Place a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Brush the sea bass with the olive oil and cook skin-side down for three to four minutes or until golden-brown and very crisp. Turn and cook for two minutes on the other side. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Put the butter and marjoram in the pan and cook over until the butter has melted completely and just coloured slightly. Remove from the stove, divide the purée equally between four plates, place the fish on top, and spoon over the warm butter. Serve at once, accompanied by a wedge of lemon.

Cauliflower with Dijon mustard and sourdough breadcrumbs

This is a quick, simple and delicious way to serve cauliflower, similar in many ways to cauliflower cheese, but lighter. Pair with roast chicken or any other white meat. Sourdough has a lovely flavour; make the breadcrumbs by pulsing broken-up slices in a food processor.

Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower
20g/1oz unsalted butter
200ml/7fl oz double cream
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
5 sprigs of thyme
25g/1oz freshly toasted breadcrumbs
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the cauliflower into generous-sized florets; try to keep the stem on, as it has a wonderful, slightly firmer texture. Boil a large pot of well-salted water, add the cauliflower and cook for three to four minutes – it should be just tender when pierced. Drain and set aside. While the cauliflower is cooking, put the butter, cream, mustard and thyme into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the cream is boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for two to three minutes. Season generously with pepper and add a pinch of salt. Put the cauliflower in a serving dish and pour over the cream. Sprinkle over the crumbs and Parmesan and serve.

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