The Cauliflower Chronicles: Cauliflower and broccoli ‘tater tots’.

Here’s what you’ve definitely all been waiting for – the second installment of The Cauliflower Chronicles: my attempt to conquer my most-hated vegetable by any means necessary.

After the popularity of my cauliflower rice recipe last time, I was bombarded with suggestions. Which was awesome! We were all geared up to make a cauliflower crust pizza this week when tragedy struck and our oven door spontaneously exploded. Fortunately I was already out of the room (eating, obviously), but it smashed to smithereens and has yet to be replaced.

Luckily, just a few hours before it decided to break itself (and my heart), I had whipped up a batch of tots! But not tater tots…. cauliflower tots. Mmm. I cannot confirm whether or not these will make your oven explode too. The glass didn’t actually crack until about 2 hours after cooking but I don’t want to be held responsible for any glass-related mishaps you may encounter. Really.

Actually I cheated a tiny bit and made cauliflower and broccoli tots. I couldn’t think of a way to reduce the cauliflower-ness of these without just adding a load of cheese. And after ranting on about eating on the healthier side of things, I didn’t think that would be the greatest approach. Although I did use a little bit of light cream cheese.  Apologies, as ever, for my freestyle approach to measurements…

Cauliflower and broccoli tots

cauliflower broccoli tots recipe

Ingredients

300g of cauliflower and broccoli florets (small)

1 tablespoon light cream cheese

2 eggs, beaten

100 grams (apprx) dry polenta (or rice flour)

50 grams breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper

olive oil

 

cauliflower tater tots recipe

1 – Heat the oven to 180 degrees. See? It’s not even a crazy enough temperature to test it to any sort of exploding limit. Honestly.

2 – Steam the vegetables for about 5 minutes. They don’t need to be mushy for mashing but they do need to be cooked. Drain well.

3 – Chop up the steamed veggies in a fine meal. Or, like me, get bored before you hit the “fine meal” stage and decide that a choppier texture would be more ‘rustic’. Continue to kid self.

broccoli cauliflower tots recipe4 – In a large mixing bowl, add the beaten eggs, cheese and seasoning and mix to combine.

5 – Add the polenta a few tablespoons at a time, stirring until a stickier mixture forms. Not entirely dough-like, but stiffer. Repeat with the breadcrumbs.

6 – Lightly oil and line a baking tray and dollop a spoonful of mixture at a time. I used the spoon to create the shape I wanted just by gently nudging the mixture straight off after lightly shaping and compressing it on the spoon with my hands.

broccoli cauliflower tater tots

7 – Bake at 180 for about 12-15 minutes, or until the tots start to look golden brown.

baked cauliflower totscauliflower and broccoli totsServe as a side or a snack! Great dipped in barbecue sauce or ketchup. And best eaten fresh and hot, otherwise they do tend to turn a little bit rubbery. And almost certainly not for saving in your pockets for later, Napoleon.

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An ode to Kilburn High Road

Apologies for the lack of recipes but our oven door exploded and I’m still torn between feeling grumpy about not making the things I wanted to this week and seeing it as a stove-top only challenge. However…

I was delighted to be asked to review The Kilburn Passion for West Hampstead Life last night. Kilburn was the first part of London I ever rented in. I won’t say “lived in” as the distant reaches of Zone 4 I grew up in did still have tube stations and was technically London, but that’s where I lived with my family. Kilburn was the first corner of London I chose for myself and made my home in.

I started writing notes on my phone (annoyingly, sorry) as I walked along Kilburn High Road. Perhaps knowing that I was about to watch a highly-regarded performance focusing on the vignettes of life along this stretch of tarmac, (review coming soon), but it’s not the first time Kilburn has moved me to poetry. I once turned up late for a friend’s birthday at the North London Tavern because I had started recording a sort of spontaneous history documentary in to my phone as I walked from Willesden Lane to the pub.

But I’ve moved away. Walking along my favourite high road now feels foreign and strange and unwelcoming – like it knows I betrayed it by moving to the other side of Hampstead Heath. Where I once strutted confidently past hoards of bargain-hunters pouring out of Poundland, knowing where to avoid loose paving stones or bus stop build-up, I now stumble along getting stuck shuffling behind slow-walking shoppers with tartan trollies, feeling disorientated.

When I arrived in 2009, I instantly loved this busy, thriving bustling high street full of late night fruit and veg shops and uniquely-named takeaways of every cuisine imaginable. I even started a project of my own dedicated to my love of its history and buildings. But now – as I make the once regular pilgrimage from the Overground up to the Jubilee line – instead of feeling part of it, I feel like an outsider. I’ve escaped the calm quiet clean boulevards of Muswell Hill to find myself wondering what all the noise is for, why there are so many pubs and what on earth that smell could be.

kilburn high road pizza from Casareccia

Then somehow, by the time I pass the Good Ship, sighing when I catch sight of the window where mine and Juliet’s comedy posters were once pressed against the glass, I notice my hands are mysteriously dirty despite not actually having touched anything. And instead of reaching for a tissue in my handbag, I smile and realise that of course my hands are dirty – because it only takes that short walk before Kilburn High Road becomes part of you again, before it shakes your hand to welcome you back. It is a place where things happen – where they keep happening even when you’re gone. Despite not knowing any of the staff now, my favourite pub is still there, draped in the bunting I hand-stitched for my 30th birthday party. The first place I practiced stand-up comedy has had a bonkers-looking graffiti-style makeover and the live music venues remain empty and boarded up like the day I left.

Instead of stumbling home after too many cocktails with a belly full of Persian food, we sit outside and share a pizza at the consistently lovely Casareccia, who let us use our theatre tickets to get a discount on the bill, and enjoy a night of culture before making the long trek back to the relatively bucolic calm of N10. I’m left unsettled by the idea that Kilburn High Road hasn’t changed. I have.

Sunday soufflé – beigel-less smoked salmon and cream cheese

Yes I spell beigel like that because my family roots are in Europe not America, because as a teenager my Saturday job was at a small north east London/ south west Essex family-run Jew-ish deli called The Beigel Bakery, and because beigels and bagels are definitely different. I’ll get in to that properly some other time. I’ve already said enough about something that is 100% not involved in this light and fluffy tasty brunch.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese is such an evocative combo for me. My favourite beigel filling and ultimate comfort food. A special treat from childhood, when it was reserved for special family lunches or bought hot and fresh on the way home from one of the many late night bakeries around the Far East of the Central Line. Delicious on toast and easily fancied-up with a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly cracked black pepper.

This is a lighter, non-bready stodge free way to enjoy one of the best brunch combos of all time.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese soufflés with dill and chives

salmon souffle recipeIngredients (serves 4-6)
25g plain flour
300ml milk
40grams unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated
85g cream cheese
100g chopped smoked salmon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
A few sprigs of chopped dill
2 chopped (bits of? Blades of?) chives

1 – Melt the butter gently in a pan and add the milk and sift in the flour. Stir as the butter melts and the ingredients combine. After about 4-5mins the sauce will thicken until you can just about trace a line with a spoon.

2 – Heat the oven to 180degrees c. Grease and line some ramekins – a note on this – I used 4 of my white dishes (the ones I keep photographing) which were definitely a bit big. Better to share less mixture between 6 dishes.

salmon souffle instructions

3 – Once the sauce has thickened, gradually add the cream cheese, and most of the herbs and beat to combine. Kill the heat. Reserve some sprigs to garnish at the end.

4 – Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl. I cannot tell you how life-changing it was when my mum told me to use a big bowl to get more air in to stiffen up egg whites quickly if whisking by hand. (This was about 2 months ago, for the record. Heh.)

salmon souffle5 – Stir the egg yolks and salmon in to the cheese sauce mixture. Season with salt and pepper, then carefully and gradually fold in the stiffened egg whites. Be careful not to mix the whites in and to just gently fold it all together.

salmon cheese baked souffle recipe

6 – Share the mixture between the lined ramekins, and arrange them in a deep oven-proof pan half filled with cold water. Carefully put in the oven for about 15-20minutes, until the soufflés rise and the tops are golden brown.

salmon souffle brunch recipe7 – Remove the ramekins from the water dish and allow sit on a rack until they’re cool enough to handle. Carefully lift the soufflés out of their ramekins and on to a lined flat baking tray. Be brave. They will wobble and feel loose and fluffy but they will hold their shape. If they seem a little tricky to remove, loosen the edges with a knife to pull the soufflé away from the ramekin.

8 – Bake on the flat sheet for a further 10-15 minutes, until puffy. Serve with fresh sprigs of dill and chives on top.

salmon cheese baked brunch souffle

Now, a note. Do as I say, not as I do. I turned mine upside down on the baking tray as thought it would help them keep their shape better. They mostly did, but would have been better left right-side-up.

salmon and cream cheese souffle brunch recipe

Serve with a little simply dressed salad. We had rocket, tomatoes and red onions with lemon juice and olive oil, and a dollop of creme fraiche on top of the soufflés.

salmon cheese souffle recipesalmon souffle recipes

Wall of fame – 5 superstar recipe testers and finding a niche

Some Friday fun! I’m cooking for my brother and his fiance tonight, at the end of a long, busy work week. We’ve somehow ended up with a free weekend, which brilliantly means time to cook and take half-decent photos in actual daylight without rushing. Hooray! So to ease in to the weekend, in place of a recipe, here is some awesome feedback from people who have tried things they’ve found on here!

I might make this a regular feature… or a static new page if I reshuffle the site a bit. It depends how many more of you send me your tasty tasty evidence.

First up (and the first I ever recieved) is my old Dailybooth chum, Dave, who tried my tofu recipe

This almost made me cry – an old school friend who I’ve not spoken to in probably 15 years sent me this great photo of her daughter also trying out the crunchy tofu dippers recipe.

Lauren Geisler wall of fame recipe testing Emma

They live in Canada now and it turns out Emma has also tried her hand at food blogging. Hopefully publicly announcing the link will give her the encouragement to get back into it. We had a brief but excellent chat about the idea of eating ‘real’ food  – I’ll come back to that shortly.

Paul, another Dailybooth alumnus and former temporary colleague, tried my beer bread recipe out and massively improved on it, too (check the comments on that post for his tips).

A lovely new instagram chum who I connected with via the Foodies100 recipe wall adapted my blueberry jam recipe and used it on these scrummy-looking scones…

And last but by absolutely no means least (I may be saving the best for last…) – my gorgeous godsons Noah (6) and Parker (3) starring in The Clean Plate Club after devouring entire plates of curry and cauliflower rice!

Lauren Geisler recipe wall of fame cauliflower rice godsons

Look at them! My word. I also have it on good authority that their dad had no idea that plate of ‘rice’ was made of cauli. Champions!

If you want to be featured, let me know which recipe you’ve tried and send me a photo! There are a bunch of ways to reach me via those nifty yellow buttons up top on the right.

One thing which keeps consistently cropping up in comments and feedback from readers is the notion of ‘healthy eating’. I find so many of the buzz-words, fads and phrases involved with the idea of eating ‘healthily’ to be generally quite triggering, misleading, emotive and irritating. For a while I’d been wondering if my food writing needed a gimmick or an angle, but I’m quickly realising that not having an angle is my angle. No gimmicks, no health claims, just real, good food, the way I like to prepare and eat it. I’m really enjoying the acronym JERF this week and think it nicely sums up my style of cooking, shopping and eating on the most part. Just. Eat. Real. Food.

 

Stick it to the man – rocket lollies and watermelon cocktails

skewer recipes stick it to the manFew things are as summery as melon. Cold, fresh, icy watermelon on a hot day takes me right back to splashing around in the paddling pool, staying out in the garden until late during the school holidays, and wafting flies away with sticky hands. You know what’s also awesome in summer? Ice lollies. Rocket lollies, especially. And cocktails.

melon cocktail recipe

If only there was a magical way to combine these great things in to a handy and refreshing recipe (or two)?

After purchasing what can only be a small tree’s worth of skewers for my tofu recipe post, I have tasked myself with using up every last one of them on blog-worthy experiments. So consider this the first in a series too (just like my Cauliflower Chronicles will be).

Summer grub is all about skewers and what better way to enjoy sticky, sweet fruit without having to get your hands dirty?

melon cocktail recipe watermelon ice lolly rocket lolly

I have a 2 for 1 recipe extravaganza for you today. First, how to recreate all the icy-cold sugary fun of a rocket lolly without the artificial colours or preservatives…

You need 3 types of melon – I used watermelon, honeydew and cantaloup. I was using leftovers so my shapes and sizes are a bit all over the shop, but if you’re starting with (and able to carry) lovely fresh whole shiny new melons, you’ll be sorted and can make loads.

rocket ice lolly zoom melon

This is easy – cut triangles of increasing size in each colour melon – whichever order you like. Lop the pointy bits off the medium and largest chunks to make your 3 pieces fit together well. Push carefully on to skewers, squeeze a wedge of lime over the top and freeze on a metal tray for at least 3 hours.

https://laurengeisler.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/melon-rocket-lolly-ice-lollies-watermelon-cocktail-recipe.jpg

Now the grown-up bit. Cocktail hour! We love a good G&T at home and since acquiring this beautiful original vintage G-Plan drinks cabinet from my boss when we moved house, we’ve worked hard at keeping a well-stocked bar.

Although that photo doesn’t show it as well-stocked, as I took it the day it arrived. Gareth was given a really excellent bottle of 6 O’clock gin as thanks for helping friends design their wedding invitation (because he does things like that). It was ideal for this as it has a hint of citrus, but use whichever your favourite brand is (and let me know!).

Watermelon Gin & Tonic

melon cocktail watermelon cocktail recipe

(Our fabulous flamingo glasses were a house-warming/bar-warming gift from my dad, but they are from Ikea)

I’m no ‘mixologist’ and have somehow managed to avoid ever working behind a bar, but I love a nice easy DIY cocktail and particularly love a fruity gin and tonic.

watermelon cocktail recipe

You need: (serves 2)

Pieces of watermelon – from about 2-3 wedges (or whatever is spare after making your rocket lollies!)

Wedge of fresh lime

Ice

Gin of your choice

Tonic of your choice

Cocktail shaker (or pestle & mortar and a small sieve or tea strainer)

watermelon cocktails

1 – Squeeze the fresh lime over your watermelon pieces. Don’t discard the wedge.

2 – Add the watermelon and lime wedge to your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.

3 – Vigorously shake your cocktail shaker, letting the ice muddle and chill the melon.

4 – Pour the strained, chilled melon syrup in to a glass or small jug.

5 – Fill a pair of short tumblers with ice and divide the melon syrup between them, pouring over the ice.

6 – Add one of your melon rocket lollies to each glass, pouring a shot (or two!) of gin over the melon, and topping with tonic.

melon rocket lolly recipe cocktails

Tada! Fruity, natural ice lollies and a refreshing, sweet cocktail. Perfect for summer evenings and sweet enough for an after-dinner treat.

 

The Cauliflower Chronicles: cauliflower rice recipe

cauliflower chronicles cauliflower rice recipe

I hate cauliflower. My boyfriend hates cauliflower. We don’t eat it. We just never buy it. Why would we?

Well…. Maybe because we love a challenge.

Not one to ever be defeated by food, I’d been suggesting for ages that I try and find a way to make us conquer the cauliflower – the one single vegetable neither of us like. Put off by the texture and smell of the deceivingly beautiful thing, it is genuinely the one veggie I’ve just never grown in to liking after childhood. In fact, I actually didn’t mind it as a kid and have fond memories of my aunt handing round some sort of delicious baked battered soft fluffy cauliflower nibbles as canapes on Christmas day. I should probably ask her how she did that…

Cauliflower rice how to make rice from cauliflower

How can something so pretty be so gross?

But anyway. It is not Christmas Day 1989. It is the summer of 2014. Land of the endlessly irritating myth of “clean eating” (Seriously. Each to their own n’all that, but by evangelising “clean eating” you’re insinuating that everybody else’s food is somehow ‘dirty’. I’m pretty sure this all goes way back to good vs evil fables and bible stories and eating raw vegetables instead of the occasional bit of pizza does not make you somehow saintly or ‘clean’ or ‘holy’. Gah!)

Err… what I mean to say is, now we have Pinterest. Land of 100,000 recipes for making ‘clean rice’. Or ‘skinny rice’. Or put honestly, grating cauliflower until it resembles the size and shape of rice but still is just cauliflower.

cauliflower recipe fry grated cauliflower to make rice

Cauliflower rice is not rice. I thought I better clear that up. I should also qualify that I love rice. I love my ability to cook it well when it used to be such a challenge (and is for loads of people). This recipe doesn’t turn flakes of grated vegetable in to light fluffy rice. It does, however, change the texture of an otherwise inedible (for us) vegetable in to a side dish which absorbs flavour really well in the same way rice does, and works nicely as an accompaniment to a wet curry, making good friends with any creamy coconut sauce it meets and providing a pleasingly subtle crunch that you’d usually avoid with regular rice. It’s certainly a lighter alternative, and if you find yourself feeling too full to breathe and with a bloated pot-belly after eating tons of rice with a curry, this is a fair alternative.

Cauliflower rice

cauliflower rice instructions without food processor

1 – Wash and pat dry a medium-size head of cauliflower, leaves and main stalk removed.

2 – Line a bowl with paper towels and using the larges holes on your grater, shred large florets at a time (or however you find it easiest. I grated the whole head in one go but found it a little clumsy, so broke bits off).

WARNING – if like us you can’t stand the smell of cauliflower, this is the bit where it really stinks. Grating releases the terrible power within. Be prepared to open some windows, light some candles, and have your boyfriend walk in asking why dinner smells like eggy bins.

Prepare your curry or the rest of your meal, as the next bit doesn’t take very long.

cauliflower rice recipe

3 – Season the riced cauliflower to match your meal. We were having a Thai green fish curry, so I added 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, salt, pepper and some turmeric for colour.

4 – Heat a heavy skillet or non-stick frying pan with a little oil and fry the cauliflower just for a few minutes. It should turn a little fluffy on the inside of each grain, but with a little bite – like al-dente rice. Test it for seasoning. For me, when it still tasted like cauliflower at all, I added a little paprika. Paprika fixes pretty much everything for me.

cauliflower rice instructions low carb rice skinny rice

That’s it! Done! You have successfully used the most disgusting vegetable in the world to make a non-bloating, non-carby accompaniment to your curry.

This worked surprisingly well. I nervously put Gareth’s portion in a separate dish, worrying that he’d hate his ‘eggy bin smell’ trick-rice. I ended up scraping extra off of my plate on to his triumphantly. We had some lovely steamed broccoli too. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Broccoli is like the handsome brother and cauliflower the ugly sister.

cauliflower recipe make rice from grated cauliflower

Actually, we were both so surprised with how edible our most loathed vegetable become that this is going to be a regular feature, to help us find other ways to turn those fluffy crunchy tree-shaped clouds of smelly doom in to beautiful flavourful dishes.

And no – it wouldn’t have been easier to just make cauliflower cheese, because as I may have mentioned, we both hate cauliflower.

Stop making it ruin cheese.

 

 

 

Crunchy Cauldron tofu dippers – super street food skewers

This is going to be a great week. I have decided. The weather is a little cooler, I have time – actual time – to do great things like go out for a run, maybe a swim, try some new recipes, maybe even finally choose a set of kitchen scales (this is just a saga now…). Also… the 2014 British Street Food Awards are coming up!

A few of my posts have landed on the front page of the Foodies100 recipe wall over the last couple of weeks. Between this and having people let me know they’re trying out my suggestions, I’m feeling pretty marvelous right now.

Now. Time to try new things.

I love using tofu in pad thai and Asian-inspired dishes, but my beloved has always felt pretty indifferent about it. I think that the real key to cooking tofu is marinating it. It’s essentially a blank canvas for flavour and that spongy texture makes it great at absorbing non-oily sauces.

how to prepare tofu baked crunchy Cauldron skewers street food competition

Pressed tofu – the blank canvas of the kitchen…

I say non-oily, as tofu is so wet and watery, and those things just don’t mix. If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, tofu is an awesome additional ingredient alongside chicken or prawns in a noodle or rice dish, rather than as an alternative.

Back to the British Street Food Awards, then. Fabulous tofu champs Cauldron are sponsoring the ‘Best Snack’ category of the awards, and are running a competition for street food recipes.

crunchy baked tofu bites cauldron recipe street food competition entry

I wanted to challenge myself to cook tofu in a non-Asian-inspired way, for a change. I thought about all the awesome vendor windows I’ve peered in to on tip-toe at various London street food fests over the past couple of years, remembering my best and worst experiences, and came up with…

My golden rules for successful street food:

1 – The best ‘street food’ snacks don’t require cutlery, as I almost never remember to grab any when I pick up my order and/or will quickly be left holding a splintered shard of plastic, with a box full of disembodied fork prongs.

2 – Crunchy nibbly bite-sized things are satisfying, but not so filling that you’re put off trying other snacks, and are fun for sharing.

3 – Dips forever.

So with these self-imposed rules in mind, I offer you…

Crunchy tofu dippers

crunchy tofu healthy street food recipe Cauldron skewers

This is a great summery snack, awesome as an appetizer, fun for sharing and lends itself to any number of accompanying dips and sauces. Best of all, it’s fun to assemble and easy to eat without cutlery or making too much mess. I baked mine to keep them non-greasy, but you could fry them in oil for extra crunchy indulgence.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a light lunch or snack)

396g pack of Cauldron tofu

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 teaspoon black onion seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lime

1 egg, beaten

Plain flour for coating

Approx 30-50g Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs – these light airy flakes are ideal to add great texture to this dish, but regular breadcrumbs would be a fine substitute)

what to do with tofu street food recipe

1 – Begin by pressing your tofu for at least 15 minutes. You want to remove as much water as possible. These are good instructions, but Cauldron do explain on the label how to do this.

2 – Heat the oven to 180degrees c.

3 – Cut tofu in to pieces of varying shapes and sizes, ensuring they are big enough to survive being skewered once cooked.

crunchy baked tofu skewer dippers Cauldron street food recipe

4 – Mix together the spices and citrus juices to make a marinade, and pour over the tofu. Leave to absorb the flavours for as long as possible – in the fridge in an air-tight container. An hour or so is OK, but overnight would give great, flavourful results.

5 – In a sieve, dust the tofu pieces with a handful of flour and shake to roughen the edges and ensure an even coat. Think about how you roughen up par-boiled potatoes ready for roasting – same technique.

6 – Prepare 2 shallow bowls for coating the tofu – one with the beaten egg, the other with Panko/breadcrumbs. Dip pieces of flour-coated tofu in to the egg wash, then the Panko. Using separate hands for the different coatings will stop too much cross-contamination and keep your hands less gloopy.

crunchy tofu street food snack skewers cauldron competition entry7 – Lightly oil a lined baking tray and assemble the Panko-coated tofu pieces. Make sure each piece is spaced out on the tray with no overlapping. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking and turning after 15 minutes.

8 – Once golden and crunchy to the touch, allow your tofu nugget-style dippers to cool a little, and carefully push on to skewers, 2 or 3 at a time.

9 – Serve with dips of your choice! We had creme fraiche with shredded spring onion, and barbecue sauce. Eat as dippers, using the skewers for dolloping in to your dips, or serve on some fresh crunchy lettuce leaves like a wrap.

crunchy baked tofu dippers Cauldron street food competitiontofu skewers crunchy baked Cauldron tofu street food competition recipecrunchy tofu street food recipe Cauldron tofu

The verdict? Super as a street-food style snack, and my love has upgraded his indifference to “mmmm, really tasty”. A sort of goujon/nugget-type result and perfect for our Saturday night pre-pub snack. Success.

 

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