If there was one special dish that I first ate in Belgium, cooked by my late MIL which I will never forget was one whole cooked cauliflower head served neatly on a large platter decorated with young carrots and green peas. The cauliflower was then drizzled with a home-made white and silky-looking sauce. It’s simply picasso on a plate! Alas that was 2 decades ago!
My MIL passed away in 2006. She was an amazing cook and she baked flawless cakes and breads, too. I have kept some of her recipes, preserved by her daughters, my Sisters-in-law. Every so often, when my late MIL was still alive, she wanted to teach me to bake breads the traditional way, without a bread machine. I regretted not having the opportunity to learn the tricks of the traits. Sigh! Due to time, work and distance from our place to my MIL’s, there was absolutely no way for me to inherit any of her kitchen tricks. I managed to get by, by following very concised instructions from hand-written recipes passed down to me by her daughters. Both my SILs are good cooks but not as great as their late Mum.
When I was a little girl, I have always associated the colour of vegetables being green, mainly because I grew up in Kuching where Mum used to buy her greens a lot – mustard greens, chai sim (vegetable heart), napa cabbage, snow pea, kangkong (water convulvulus), kai-lan (Chinese broccoli/ kale), Shanghai bok choy, okra (ladies’ finger), kacang botol (4-angled beans), long beans, Sarawak jungle ferns (Midin), paku (fiddlehead) and spinach. Coloured veg were luxury products and were bullish where pricetags were concerned as they were all imported – from China, New Zealand or Australia – such as carrot, cauliflower, pumpkin, leek, celery, fennel, paprika, tomato (which is technically a fruit, I know…) and what have you…
The only way I was used to eating cauliflower was in small florets stir-fried with broccoli , carrots, baby corn, sugar snap peas, shiitake and cloud ear fungus. I have never seen cooked cauliflower served whole until I came to Belgium!
To me, a cauliflower head looks like a brain. The white curd reminds me of the lobes of the cerebral cortex. LOL! Incidentally, my other half and 2 boys love cauliflower. Last Sunday was Father’s Day. It was the second time we celebrated Father’s Day this month! Why? Because in Belgium, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in June while most countries celebrated their Father’s Day on the third Sunday, including Malaysia.
Lucky hubby! He had 2 special meals two Sundays in a row! Last Sunday, I made one of his favourite Sunday meal vegetables, I called Brainy Garden. He used to tell me that each time I made the cauliflower dish, it transported him back to his childhood:-)I’m quite certain my late MIL would give her sign of approval *wink*
To Boil or to Steam?
My late MIL used to boil the cauliflower head to perfection. I have never found the correct timing on when the cauliflower was done using the ‘boil’ method. My cauliflower always turned out too under (hard) or too over-done (mushy)! So out goes the boiling method. I found steaming the whole cauliflower a lot easier, my Goldilock’s test of doneness *wink* You need –
- 1 cauliflower, steamed for 35- 40 minutes
- 400g green peas – I used frozen – sautéed in garlic butter
Due to the blandness of the cauliflower, a nice sauce or gravy drizzled on the brainy head could immediately titillate ones palate. I had no clue how my late MIL made her white sauce, hence, I found one of the best white sauce recipes, aka as Béchamel sauce fom Delia Smith’s Cookbook, “Delia’s How To Cook – Book One“. I have two of Delia’s “How To Cook” Cookbooks.
White sauce is made from a roux (butter and flour) and milk. I like the fact that Delia flavoured the milk with parsley stalks, onion, mace, whole black peppercorns and bay leaf. The infused milk is then added bit by bit to the roux to form a smooth, glossy and creamy sauce. The trick to getting to that stage is in the vigorous stirring and whisking of the sauce with a wooden spoon first and then a balloon whisk and back to a wooden spoon. Patience is key, too! I did not have mace, hence, I seasoned the sauce with freshly grated nutmeg, freshly milled back peppercorns and fleur de sel. Due to copyright, I have not listed down the measurements, but all the ingredients are mentioned.
To keep the sauce warm, Delia recommended pouring the sauce in a warmed jug and cover the surface with a clingfilm to stop a skin from forming. I then placed the jug in a saucepan big enough to hold in the jug and filled the pan with kettle-boiled water. Oh by the way, I have made other variations of white sauces in the past, with grated parmesan or with a sprinkle of curry powder or chilli powder or Dijon mustard. Brilliant!
Instead of using frozen peas, canned peas and carrots make great substitute, too.
I’m also linking this post to #CookBlogShare 17 hosted by Supergolden Bakes
It has been a while since my last link up to Joyce’s blog-hop cooking challenge, hence I’m linking this post over at Cook-Your-Books #24 @ kitchen flavours
Have a great, warm weekend!