Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower with Hazelnuts, Lemon and Garlic

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Cauliflower has never held much of an appeal for me: the boiled, bland florets often taste of nothing much. But Ottolenghi, the God that he is, has revolutionized the vegetable for me via the simple suggestion of roasting it. The gently charred edges give the cauliflower a delicious smokiness that makes them take on a completely different taste than when they’re cooked in any other way. Ottolenghi combines roasted cauliflower with pomegranate seeds, celery and all manner of interesting embellishments in his salads, but I’ve gone for a more simple approach.

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Romanesco is the Italian cousin of the common cauliflower, yet much more exciting. It’s vibrant green spikes mean that it barely looks edible, but is in fact delicious. This is a laughably simple recipe. Given the Italian origin of Romanesco, I stuck to a broadly Italian theme, combining it with punchy garlic, lemon and crunchy hazelnuts. The garlic and lemon are added at the end, letting the heat of the roasting tin cook them slightly, but not too much, so they retain a bit of a punch.

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1 head of Romanesco cauliflower

60g whole hazelnuts

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Juice and zest of half a lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the Romanesco into florets and put in a roasting dish. Drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil, a splash of water and some salt and pepper. Roast for half an hour. Put the whole hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the top shelf of the oven for 8 minutes, until the skins are starting to crack and peel away. Rub off the skins by rolling the nuts in a clean tea towel. Roughly crush them in a pestle and mortar, then mix into the cauliflower. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest and crushed garlic with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Pour over the cauliflower and stir, allowing the heat of the roasting tin to cook the garlic slightly.

 

 

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Pasta with Peas, Goats’ Cheese and Rocket

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Going completely vegetarian has always been a non-starter for me, as the second I contemplate cutting out meat I immediately begin fantasizing about chargrilled steak.  However, at university I went through a semi-vegetarian phase. I started buying better quality meat, and consequently, as I was an impoverished student, eating much less of it.

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I think vegetarian meals force you to be a bit more inventive and imaginative. It forces you to think outside the meat-and-two-veg box. Instead of relying on meat as the star of the meal, and everything else as secondary, meals become a collection of equally important elements.

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This is one of the things I cooked a lot during my effort to eat less meat. I’ve always been a devoted fan of pasta, and peas for that matter, so I liked this dish before I’d even tried it.

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Blending the peas with goats’ cheese and a hit of garlic into a creamy sauce works along the pesto lines of yumminess, whilst the rocket adds a peppery freshness. If you’re one of those individuals who absolutely can’t resist adding meat to everything, top with some pieces of streaky bacon, fried to a crisp.

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