Bread with Scandinavian Dairy; Food, Social Life, and Savings

One of my goals for this year is to put away more savings.  “Duh!” you probably think, “who doesn’t want to do that?”  And obviously, you are entirely right.  Unless someone is born rich, and money’s never been a problem for them, all of us could use a bit of savings.  The trick is – contrary to what those annoying clickbait ads tell you all over the internet, there is no ‘one weird trick’ to saving cash that works, because everyone’s life is very different, and what is a money-saver for one person, results in unnecessary waste of time for another, and exhaustion for yet another, and vice versa.

This article isn’t about that one weird trick, but it’s about something I, and the knitting klatsch I belong to, have began doing lately to be more budget-friendly to our less-financially-endowed members (and to those better off, too – none of us are rolling around in moolah, here, honestly), and the recipe I ended up designing as a side consequence of that.

Skyr bread 6 ETR
Yep, that’s the knitting types, wearing knitted stuff, obviously.  And eating.  Also obviously.

The recipe is for a white non-sourdough bread with lowfat/fat-free fermented dairy products so common in the Nordic countries.  It’s fantastic, if I do say so myself (and I do, and so does the knitting-and-eating crowd), and if you want to skip my pontification, just scroll down to it and enjoy!

So anyway – what led to the creation of this recipe is that some time ago for a number of reasons some of which having to do with coffee shop closing times in Jyväskylä, we decided to move our weekly meetings to a loosely-rotating schedule of hosting one when we can, and putting our names up for dates in advance to do so.  The person hosting cooks or asks for a potluck, everyone else shows up with or without food, and with or without knitting or crocheting, and babbling and stuffing mouth holes ensues.  This in itself is a great way to save money without sacrificing the activity, because the host can feed and caffeinate the entire crowd for roughly the price of a latte+donut or slice of cake in the city cafes, and all of us can cook and/or bake and/or slice fruit and brew tea.

In addition, one of the best (in cold weather, which is 3/4 of the year here in Finland, arguably) ways to feed a crowd for me is a giant pot of non-wishywashy hearty soup or stew (no bullshit cucumber-infused lukewarm water is passed for soup in this household!), and a loaf of bread.  And I do love to bake, and at times, I have the time and foresight and fortitude to start 2-3 days in advance, wake up my sourdough starter, and bake beautiful no-knead wheat or rye sourdough bread.  Aaaand on other weeks I am barely awake, and remember that I am hosting or that I have promised to bring a loaf of bread the night before the meeting.  No time to wake up sourdough starter or faff around, and so I turn to regular baker’s yeast – the dry yeast that I keep around in little sachets in the cold pantry to have on hand in case of emergency or not-so-emergency yeast baking.

But, I do love the flavor of sourdough, and while that can’t entirely be faked, you can make absolutely gorgeous bread without the starter that has at least a hint of the character of true sourdough, but is vastly easier to handle, works reliably, and tastes amazing, because I bake it with a generous amount of one of the traditional Nordic low-fat dairy products such as quark (kvarg, kesella or rahka), or skyr (which can be bought German-made under the generic name “Isk” in Lidl).  However, if you cannot get a hold of those, a strained variety of low-fat yogurt (low-fat Greek yogurt) can be substituted.  The key here is the bacterially-produced acid and protein from the dairy product, combined with a lack of excessive amounts of fat, not because I avoid fat, but because in high-temperature baking (such as used for bread), fat tends to burn and generally not be one’s friend.  The protein adds elasticity and flavor, while the acids (typically lactic or acetic or both) help preserve the bread and add character and flavor profile.

Not being a true sourdough, this won’t keep as long, but eh, I’d not had a problem with it not getting eaten before it goes bad.  The bread will keep fine for a day or two in a plastic bag at room temperature.  The recipe as given will make a very large loaf that would feed 6-8 people a large dinner alongside soup (or a family of 2 for 3 days).  It can easily be halved or reduced by 1/3 for smaller appetites.

So, what do you need to make it?

  • An oven and a cast iron pot with a lid, or a pizza stone and a stainless steel bowl (inexpensively acquired from IKEA) large enough to cover your bread.
  • 800g white bread flour (or ‘special white flour’ in Finland which is about 12% protein).
  • 20g (4 flat tsp) table salt.  Or fancy salt, whatever.
  • 7-12g sachet of dry yeast.  (Use about half if reducing recipe – yeast amount is not precise here)
  • 100g unsweetened dairy product of your choice (quark/rahka/kvarg, skyr or lowfat strained yogurt)
  • 460ml or g (same, but I weigh my water) of cold tap water.

What you need to do:

  • The night before you want the bread, mix up the dough:  combine flour, salt and dry yeast, and mix with a whisk.  Whisk the dairy into the water till no lumps are left.
  • Pour the liquid into flour mix, and stir with a spatula till it forms a lump of dough.  There’ll be some dry bits left in the bowl.  Scrape down the spatula, put it down, and gently work the dough with your hands till no dry bits are evident.  The dough will become fairly smooth and will mostly stick to itself.
  • Leave it in its bowl, seal it with plastic wrap, and pop a tiny exhaust hole with a toothpick or knifetip in the plastic.  If you have a few hours to bedtime, leave it at room temperature till you go to bed (it’ll rise considerably during 2-3 hours), at which point stick it in the fridge or cold pantry if you have one.  I leave mine on the floor near a cracked balcony door when it is -5C out so it’s very chilled but not frozen in the morning.  If you are mixing right before bed, leave it in a cool but not cold room-temperature location.
  • In the morning, lightly flour your work surface, and turn the dough onto it.  It’ll have tons of gluteney strands formed – use a dough scraper or spatula to get it to leave the bowl alone.
  • Stretch and fold the dough a couple of times, cover with bowl and go take a shower or whatever.  Give it 10-15 minutes to rest.
  • Lightly flour a piece of baking parchment or heavily flour a banetton (raising basket).  Form your dough into a ball, and put it in the baking basket seam-side up, or on the parchment seam-side down.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with oil, or dampen a kitchen towel very slightly with water, and cover the dough.  Leave in a warm spot for 1-2 hours until it’s about 1.5-2 times its original size.  You can poke its side to see if it bounces back slowly, in which case it’s ready (fast bounce-back means it can use a bit more time).
  • Preheat oven with your pizza stone, cast iron pot, or just a baking sheet to 200C.  If using baking sheet, preheat to 225C – it has a lower heat capacity.  Read this about handling very hot cast iron and wrangling the dough into it, because I don’t want you to have horrible burns.
  • Once dough is ready, invert the banetton onto a piece of baking parchment (if you proofed the dough on parchment it’s already there), and slash the dough a few times with a serrated knife.  Place the dough carefully (with the parchment) into your cast iron pot (and cover), onto your pizza stone or heated baking sheet (and cover with an inverted steel bowl), set timer to 30 minutes, and reduce heat (in case of baking sheet) down to 200C.
  • In 30 minutes, open the oven, and using an oven glove and/or spatula remove the lid off the pot (put it somewhere heat-safe where you won’t touch it till it cools!), or the bowl off the sheet/pizza stone.  Bake bread for a further 25-35 minutes until it is a medium golden brown (pale gold is not nearly baked enough).
  • Carefully remove bread from the oven.  It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Cool on a rack for at least 2-3 hours before cutting (else you risk gummy crumb and no one likes gummy crumb).

That’s it.  This dough is remarkably well-behaved for a yeast dough, and requires no mixer or other appliances other than the stove to bake it.  Its ingredients are inexpensive, and the payoff is a luxurious loaf that people are happy to eat just with butter or dipping oil, and that makes a pot of soup into a feast.

Skyr bread 5 ETR


Make it, cook up some soup, and invite all your hungry friends for talk-and-eat.  Enjoy more social life at lesser expense.  Save money, make friends happy, and feel a sense of accomplishment when someone asks you where you bought the loaf.  As they probably will.

P.S.  Many thanks to A for taking the action photos!  I really appreciate it!

Cold-Fermented Wheat and Spelt Bread aka “Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and a Really Really Great Squash Soup Recipe

Last two days’ and nights’ wind (I hesitate to call it a storm, it was just a really windy night) tore most of the remaining leaves off the trees around town, and the municipal street cleaners and maintenance have been scrambling to try to pick the piles of soggy wet leaves off the lawns, playgrounds and streets.  The weather has turned from sunny, dry, and cold to cold and wet, which tends to inspire me to bake.  And since it’s conveniently still cold as opposed to deep-frozen (that comes later in the year hereabouts), it has occurred to me that I can use my balcony as a refrigerator annex to house a large (5-liter) bucket of cold-fermented dough.

What is cold-fermented dough?  If you have been reading foodie blogs over the past few years, you may have heard of “artisan bread in five minutes a day“.  The website and the book are both very good resources, although the authors have not (nor do they claim to, that I know of) invented the method – it has been used by pizza and other bread makers for a good long while to handle very wet dough, and the results are generally remarkably good.  I suspect that the reason this method hadn’t been popularized sooner is that few people have enough space in their fridges to permanently house 5L buckets of dough, and also because, while the effort really isn’t much more than five minutes a day, this isn’t an instant-gratification method of baking bread.  For best results with this method, you need to think at least 24 hours ahead.  However, if you do have that much foresight (and balcony, cellar or fridge that can take a large plastic box or bucket), this method is entirely worth trying.  It is very forgiving, it’s hard to mess it up, and it requires very little equipment (no stand mixer – or any mixer, actually).

The basic idea behind this bread is very slightly more advanced than the basic no-knead bread.  This one is no-knead, too, but it does work better for two reasons.  Reason one – unless you are baking with actual sourdough starter, a few more days of fermentation using regular yeast really improve the flavor of bread, so refrigerating the dough after a short rise and letting it ferment slowly works great.  Reason two – dough this wet (we are talking 75% hydration here, which is to say – 75g water to 100g flour ratio) is really hard to handle at room temperature.  However, refrigeration stiffens it significantly, resulting in a dough that has all the advantages of wet dough (open structure, good crust), but handles like a dough with much lower hydration, i.e. far easier.

The procedure for this is simple – you mix all the ingredients (recipe follows) in a large bucket or bowl with a wooden spoon or whatever.  You let the dough rise for 2 hours at room temperature, then snap the lid of the bucket or cover the bowl, leaving just a tiny (pinprick is enough) space for gases to escape, and you refrigerate the dough for 1-6 days.  At any point after the first day of refrigeration, dough can be taken out of the bucket (all or part, depending on how large a batch you made), shaped into a loaf (or flatbread or whatever), allowed to rest, and baked.  No kneading, no judging size doubling, nothing like that.  Yes, it’s easy.

My own recipe for this type of bread varies, but recently the one I’ve been using is this:

  • 1kg total flour, out of which 100-200g wholemeal spelt flour and the rest white bread flour.  You can use a whole kilogram of bread flour of your choice – I just think spelt adds a lovely nuttiness to the flavor.
  • 750ml of water.  This can be cold or lukewarm.
  • 2tbsp (~30g) salt
  • 1tbsp (~10-15g) dry yeast

You can also halve the entire recipe (this makes two good-sized loaves), or double it if you have the space.  Mix the flour, salt and yeast, add water, and mix until all flour is incorporated.  Dough will be shaggy.  Let rise 2 hours, refrigerate overnight  When you go to grab some dough, sprinkle some flour on the surface of the dough, and grab and stretch the amount you like.  The dough will stretch in long gluten strands.  I tend to snip as much as I want with scissors.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface, and give it several folds with 5 minute rests in-between those.  Flour a banetton or prepare a sheet of baking parchment.  I use a banetton because I have one and it makes the bread prettier, but either is fine.

Cold Ferment Proofing

Pick the dough up with well-floured hands, fold it again and shape into a rough ball.  Place in banetton or on the baking parchment.  Add some flour on top, and let rest for a while.  General concensus is that 40 minutes is enough, I tend to let mine rest up to 80-90 minutes, but anything in-between will work.  The dough will expand very slighly while it rests – it will not rise significantly during that period.

Cold Ferment Slashed

About 30 minutes before you intend to bake, preheat your oven to about 230C, with your pizza stone, dutch oven, or whatever baking implement you are using in it.

Once oven is preheated, if you are using a banetton, you’ll need to turn the bread out onto baking parchment.  I do this by covering the top with parchment and a board and quickly flipping it.  If your bread is already sitting on parchment, well, there it is.  With a sharp serrated knife, slash your bread as you prefer.  My slashing today was haphazard because I was angry (not at the bread), but it can be made as neat and pretty as you like.

Cold Ferment Baking sm

Carefully slide your bread onto or place it into your baking vessel and cover if able.  Bake for 25 minutes covered, then remove the cover and bake for additional 25-35 minutes until rich nut-brown in color (in the photo above I have just removed the steel bowl under which I started the bake).  Cool on rack.  Try to not burn your mouth and squash your hot bread by attempting to eat it right away.  It’s easily 100C inside, you know.

Cold Ferment Bread

Instead, while your bread is crackling as it cools and the aroma is driving all your neighbors up the wall, you can make the happily-nearly-fluorescent-orange winter squash soup.

The soup turns out best if you can get your hands on a Hokkaido (Red Kuri), buttercup (not same as butternut!) or kabocha squash.  Why?  I think it has to do with their texture, which is somewhat drier than that of butternut, but butternut is still a perfectly good substitute.  As is Acorn squash (but this one is a pain in the things to peel).  You’ll need a goblet or immersion blender for this.  Or if you are really hardcore hands-on, I suppose it can also be done with a metal sieve and a spoon, or one of those ancient food mills that I don’t own, but you might.

Here’s what you are going to need:

  • Enough winter squash (washed, deseeded, peeled and chopped into 2-3cm pieces) to fill your desired soup pot to within 5-10 cm of the top.
  • 2-4 potatoes (I use 2-3 for a 3L soup pot), peeled, chopped and added in with the squash.
  • 1 large onion, peeled, chopped, sauteed in some oil or butter, added to the same soup pot.
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic and/or a small chunk (2cm) of ginger, chopped and sauteed and added to pot. (entirely optional but nice)
  • Enough cold water to just-nearly cover the vegetables in the pot.
  • 1-2dl heavy cream (optional)
  • Some olive oil to drizzle, and fried bacon or onion bits for garnish.  Or some sambal oelek or other chili paste.
  • 1-2 tsp curry powder, or cumin powder, and/or hot chili powder and/or smoked paprika powder – whatever you feel like at the moment.
  • Salt to taste.  For a 3L pot of soup, I use a scant tablespoon, but I like salt.

What you do:

  • Put everything except cream in the pot and turn the burner on high to bring it all to boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until squash and potatoes are entirely tender, 10-30 minutes depending on how small you chopped them.
  • Take off heat, and puree using your chosen method.  Return to pot.
  • Add cream.  Thin the soup out with a bit of water or more cream if you think it’s too thick.  Reheat.
  • The soup can be left covered on lowest heat setting to be kept warm for several hours or served immediately.

Cold Ferment Bread with Soup

By the time you are done with soup, your bread should be cool enough to cut, or nearly so.  Serve all of this to your hungry and rained-upon guests (they braved this @£$€@! to come see you!), or just eat it all on your own.  Either way, it’s a glorious antidote to the cold, wet and dark.  Happy October!

Submitted to Yeastspotting.

Quick and Easy Kimchi, Fermentation (and stink) Optional


Lately I’ve been on what T has elegantly termed “one of your detours into regional cuisines” – more specifically, I’ve been trying to learn some about Korean food.  It all started with a desire for bibimbap (link to the promised recipe!) – a dish I’d only ever eaten in restaurants, and guess what?  Jyväskylä doesn’t have a Korean restaurant that I know of.  There are, after all, some drawbacks to living on the edge of the Outer Dark in the middle of the forests of Middle Earth.  The upsides are glorious auroras, amazing forests and lakes, and the downsides are – this isn’t really a city.  It’s a large university town, and for its size and location, it is very cosmopolitan – which means that one can get some of the more exotic food ingredients here, with effort, but there isn’t a restaurant for every major world cuisine.

So, no Korean food to be had for dining out.  Obviously I had to make some, and after a first so-so try, I did succeed at recreating the awesome bibimbap that I had photographed, but today’s post isn’t about that – or, specificlaly, it’s about one of the ingredients I used in it, which is probably the best-known Korean food item outside of Korea:  kimchi.

In case you are unfamiliar with it, at its most basic, typical kimchi is a lacto-fermented cabbage (or one of a number of other vegetables) with generous amounts of chili, a bit of garlic and ginger and some umami flavor derived from seafood (dried shrimp, fish sauce, etc.) added in.  The dish has a long and distinguished history in Korea, and I by no means make claims as to authenticity of my recipe, nor attempt to do it justice as the locals may be able to.  However, as a non-Korean, I can still enjoy the flavor, and want to have some on hand, since I like pickles and I like chili, and I love the combination.

What I, and many other non-Korean people I’ve spoken to (I don’t actually personally know any Koreans, or I’d have asked their views as well!), don’t love is the frequently overly pungent scent that lacto-fermentation gives to the dish.  It may be argued that it is an integral part of what makes it kimchi and I am a heathen for even suggesting that it isn’t divine, but there it is – I don’t like the stink of rotten cabbage.  Interestingly, I do enjoy sauerkraut, which is also lacto-fermented, but there is something about fermented kimchi that turns me off.  It is possible that I’d had non-ideally prepared kimchi, but there it is.

Thankfully, there is a solution – one that isn’t mine, but collected over a variety of sources including friends who can cook (thanks, Berin!), and blogs by actual Koreans, or which refer to actual Korean people’s recommendations for making what they call in English ‘quick kimchi’.  The quick part is awesome for two reasons here – one, you can have kimchi overnight, and two – it has all the flavor and heat and umami of kimchi, but without the special smell!  Simply put, it’s salted and seasoned cabbage which doesn’t get fermented – and trust me, after consuming the entire first batch within about two weeks of making it, and promptly making a second batch, it turns out amazing, if I do say so myself (friends who tried it agreed, so there’s that)!

Kimchi will develop a fuller flavor after a few days in the refrigerator, even if you forego the room-temperature fermentation.  I think I liked it best after about a week, but it was delicious right away (the next evening).

So, how do you make it?  It’s actually really simple.

What you are going to need:

  • Jar or jars with tight-fitting screw lids, cleaned and sterilized (washed in a dishwasher at 70C works).  I prefer using larger jars with an opening I can get my hand through – they make stuffing of kimchi into them and squeezing air out easier.  (Note:  one small cabbage, which is what I have used, will easily fit into a 1L jar after processing, leaving a bit of headspace.  The jar in the photo is a Quattro Stagioni 1L jar.)
  • Large nonreactive mixing bowl (I used a large stainless-steel one).
  • Colander.
  • A pair of non-powdered rubber gloves (I use single-use ones) and eye protection (optional but you’ll be happy you did).
  • A small or medium white cabbage.  I used a whole cabbage and it wasn’t tiny, but I sadly didn’t keep the tag to see the weight.  It was small going on medium as cabbages go, less than 20cm in diameter.
  • 5-10 large hot chili peppers (I bought a variety pack with a green, a yellow and a few red ones).
  • 1-2 tbsp Korean (or any other sort of) crushed hot chilies (optional).
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic (now normally I am one of those people who use a head of garlic when the recipe states a clove, but based on what I have read, too much garlic or ginger can make kimchi turn out badly so I restrain myself).
  • a 4-6cm piece of ginger, peeled.
  • A generous amount of table salt (I use the iodized kind because it supports thyroid function and the flavor and texture of salt doesn’t matter in this dish).  One source suggests an estimated 2.5dl of salt for 4.5kg cabbage, but I just went by feel.
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (can be bought in the Asian Food section at most supermarkets these days)

What you do with it all:

  • Clean and chop your cabbage into bite-size pieces.  Yes I know ‘real kimchi’ is made of whole leaves and only cut up for serving, but as I’ve read on a Korean blog, if you aren’t going to keep it for a year, might as well make it easy on yourself.
  • Toss the cabbage in a bowl with lots of salt.  What’s lots?  Enough to make it sort of gritty was the explanation I’ve seen.  Rub the salt into the leaves until they all separate into single layers and don’t remain stuck together.
  • Leave the bowl with cabbage to salt for 2-4 hours.  Visit the bowl occasionally during that time, flip the cabbage and rub the salt in.  Separate any leaves that you find still layered together.
  • After a couple of hours, the cabbage will take on a wilted look and there will be juice collected at the bottom of the bowl.  Drain the juice out and wash the cabbage in water a few times to remove excess salt, then drain it in a colander.  Wash and dry the bowl with a towel and set aside.
  • While the cabbage drains, put garlic, ginger and chilies into a food processor (you can also use a mortar and pestle but that’s not for the faint of heart) and chop finely.  Add the fish sauce and puree a bit longer.  You will need to use a rubber spatula or a spoon to push the mass down the sides of the food processor bowl a few times.  The mass won’t become a paste, but it’ll start to stick together and the pieces will be no larger than small chili flakes.
  • If you like your food really hot, feel free to add 1-2 tbsp crushed hot chilies (Korean if you can find them, or any hot chilies will do).
  • Here’s where I break out the gloves and eye protection.  If you’ve ever gotten a chili burn under your fingernail and didn’t enjoy it, you’ll want to use the gloves, too.  I figure the eye protection is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Having put on gloves and goggles, transfer the cabbage from the colander back into the dry and clean bowl by handfuls, squeezing excess liquid out as you go.
  • Scrape the chili-fish sauce paste into the same bowl with a spatula, and using your hands, rub it into the cabbage, mixing it thoroughly until every leaf is coated.
  • Using your hands, stuff handfuls of cabbage into jars, compacting it as you go to remove as much air as possible.  Wipe the edge and screw threads with a damp cloth or sponge, and put on the lid.
  • Now, at this point this can go one of two ways.  You can be like me, wash the outside of the jar with water and soap (because it will get coated in chili paste, trust me), towel it off, screw the lid on tightly, and stuff it into the fridge.  It’ll be ready to eat the next day and it’ll have all that lovely flavor and heat of kimchi sans the ahem, pungent scent.
  • If you are more hardcore and prefer said scent, then after washing and toweling the jar, unscrew the lid just enough to let air out (still closed, but not screwed tight), and leave the jar of kimchi on the counter out of direct sunlight for up to a week before screwing the lid shut and sticking it in the fridge.  (Note, I haven’t done this myself so I cannot pinkie-swear to it, but those I’ve asked about this recipe, have done so with good results.)

That’s it.  Enjoy your kimchi in whichever way you like – as a side to Asian food, in fried rice, in bibimbap, in kimchi pancakes or stew.  Just a warning – this is easy, this is cheap and it’s addictive.  You may be picking up another cabbage at the store in no time at all!

The non-fermented kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks without any deterioration while being used.  Use a clean fork to get as much as you like at a time out of the jar.

Things Food Bloggers Eat – 5: Roasted Cauliflower with Leftovers and Opinions

Cauliflower and Chorizo

It’s a Sunday morning, and poor T has to work a full day because of the sudden stuff that needs to be done before such-and-such-day piling up onto him as it does occasionally.  For me, that means being deprived of his wonderful company, and also making a quick ‘workday’ lunch that he can poke his nose out of the office for and eat quickly, then go back to work, rather than an hours-long brunch affair.

All of which is by way of explanation why today’s post is yet another one of those not-exactly-recipe posts demonstrating how I typically put together a quick meal in my “things food bloggers eat” series – and showcasing one of my favorite go-to vegetables for making random leftovers into a meal: cauliflower.

I don’t need to sing long praises to cauliflower – it’s low in carbohydrates, it’s high in fiber and minerals and vitamins (like all of its cousins in the Brassicaceae family).  In my opinion, it’s also one of the most easily palatable of them (yes, turnips, I am looking at you – now go away!), and one of the more versatile.  The internet abounds with recipes for making fake cauliflower rice and other such things, but I tend to dislike foods being made into pretend-other-foods (meat substitutes, dairy substitutes, rice substitutes) because they are never as good as the real thing, no matter what Pinterest descriptions exclaim, and because they do a disservice to the food that is being mangled into being something else (mushrooms, beans and cauliflower to name a few), when these foods can and, in my entirely biased and prejudiced opinion, should shine in their own right.

When I eat vegan or vegetarian dishes (and for all I am a self-proclaimed carnivore, I do that on a regular basis), I want them to be vegan or vegetarian because they need no meat, rather than because I abused some poor beans into a semblance of a burger.  Leaving aside all the morally ambiguous thinking that goes with that, I’d rather have beans cooked the way beans are best cooked – and if I want a burger, I’ll buy some nice and preferably well-treated-while-it-lived meat and eat a damn burger.

But I digress – back to cauliflower.  The reason I love it and always try to keep a head or two in my fridge (and, like many other Brassicas, it keeps for weeks, especially if store shrink-wrapped with no water trapped inside it) has nothing to do with fake gluten-free carb-free pizza crusts or rices it can be made into, and everything to do with the fact that you can make a whole lot of really really delicious things where it can be the star, not the stand-in for something an orthorexiac is afraid of on any given day.  Heck, you can just cut it into florets and mix some Turkish or Greek yogurt with a bit of pressed garlic and a drop of olive oil and go at it raw with the classic Middle-Eastern dip at its most basic (provided your date for that evening is garlic-friendly and willing to indulge as well).  You can lightly roast it and then blend it with some cream or stock for an awesome soup, you can throw it into a salad – raw or lightly sauteed, or you can make a head of cauliflower and random leftovers into a meal like the one in the picture.

All you do in order to create this awesome, warm and crunchy salad is – preheat oven to 180C.  Grab your cauliflower, and chop it into florets.  Dump into a large mixing bowl.  Look into fridge and take out random greenery, and some other random vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, anything that can be eaten lightly roasted or raw), and any say, bacon or sausage that’s laying around in it.  Or some cheese, cheese works too.  In my case, upon excavation of the colder part of the fridge, I unearthed a couple of part-cured chorizo sausages, a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley (another keep-around favorite which works as either parsley-the-herb or parsley-the-salad greens and stays fresh way longer than baby leaf salad), and a box of some fried aubergine slices left over from Friday’s dinner.

Drizzle a bit of oil of your choice on your cauliflower in the bowl, add whatever spices float your boat or might go with whatever else you have found (I sprinkled a generous amount of hot smoked Spanish paprika there), a bit of salt, and toss the cauliflower to coat.  Dump into a (foil-covered if you hate to wash them) oven dish.  Chop your sausage into large pieces or cut the bacon, and nestle that in-between the florets.  Stick into the oven for 25 minutes (set the timer).  If you have cheese instead of the sausage, grate the cheese.  When timer goes off, add any other leftovers (such as aubergines), the cheese, or vegetables you want roasted lightly (baby tomatoes, slices of bell pepper) to the pan and return it to the oven for 10-ish minutes.  You can turn fan on and heat up to about 200C here.  When timer goes off again, take it out, divide between plates, and toss the greenery you found on top.  Poke it into attractive shape with a fork if you are going to take a photo – or don’t, and just shovel it all into your mouth.  If you want carbohydrates* with it, a nice piece of bread with a dab of butter alongside this would be lovely.

Time spent – about 35 minutes, out of which the part that required effort is maybe 5 minutes at most.

So there you go – cauliflower with leftovers and opinions.  Take or leave the opinions – they are mine, obviously, not yours – but make the cauliflower!

Cauliflower and Chorizo

* I am not against eating carbohydrates, especially for the people who need more of them (people’s carbohydrate needs vary hugely with metabolism), but since I am sensitive to them, I tend to go heavily on the vegetables and proteins while avoiding excessive amounts of refined sugars and starch.  So when I prepare food that is low on carbohydrate content, I let the fast-metabolism-gifted T have bread with whatever else I made.  And since in Finland it’s easy to get gorgeous 100% wholegrain sourdough rye rolls at any supermarket, I don’t shy away from it that much, either.