I love this current trend that’s going on where we’re making healthy comfort foods. Where we care about the ingredients, the preparation, the nutrition of the meal, but never forgetting about the taste and that special something that can make certain foods just make you feel, well, comforted. And content.
True, lightening up stodgy foods is not necessarily a recent development, but lately, it seems to be happening for the love of cooking, for the love of an ingredient, not because a particular diet is telling us so.
That’s one of the reasons why I so love Rachel Khoo’s recipes. She celebrates each ingredient so exuberantly and you can just tell she has a real passion for creating beautiful new dishes.
There’s a recipe for mushroom and cauliflower gratin in her new book, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook that just screams comfort food; it’s still creamy and luscious, but at the same time herby and full of veggies.
It’s not easy selling a cauliflower dish in my household… But I had found some seasonal purple cauliflower at the market and convinced everyone to give it a go… They may not be cauliflower converts, but I’m pretty sure that they would all willingly eat this gratin again, cauliflower and all!
So that’s why I’m bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday #92, this week hosted by all of us, to convert all you cauliflower haters out there.
Mushroom and Seasonal Cauliflower Gratin
- 50g salt
- 1.25 litres room temperature water
- 800g fresh shiitake mushrooms or a combination including oyster, shiitake and chestnut mushrooms (brushed clean)
- 3 brown onions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 40g butter
- 100ml dry white wine
- 400g frozen chopped spinach
- 1 red chilli (seeded and finely chopped)
- 80ml crème fraiche
- salt to taste
- 1 small cauliflower (purple if you can get it)
- handful dill sprigs (finely chopped)
- handful mint leaves (finely chopped)
- ½ lemon (juiced)
- 100g mature cheddar (grated)
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
- Place the salt and water in a large deep roasting pan and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the mushrooms to the brine, then place another roasting tray on top so that the mushrooms are fully submerged. Stand for 10 minutes*.
- Meanwhile, cut two of the onions into quarters and separate the onion layers into petals. Finely chop the remaining onion and set aside.
- Drain the mushrooms well, then pat dry on paper towels. Dry the roasting pan and then return the mushrooms to the pan and toss with the olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir through the onion petals and roast for another 15 minutes or until the mushrooms and onions are golden.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until soft. Add the wine and simmer until nearly evaporated. Add the spinach and most of the chilli and stir for 6 to 7 minutes or until the spinach has defrosted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the crème fraiche, season to taste, then pour into a large baking dish about 27 x 20 cm.
- Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil over high heat. Remove the outer green leaves of the cauliflower but keep the stalk on the cauliflower. Slice the cauliflower from top to bottom into 5 mm-thick ‘steaks’ – you will be left with a few cauliflower florets that don’t stay intact, but you will use it all. Carefully drop all the cauliflower bits (minus the tiny crumbs) into the boiling water and simmer for 1 minute, then drain into a colander.
- Preheat the grill to high. Reserve a few of the herbs for the garnish, then combine the rest with the lemon juice and stir through the mushrooms. Spread the mushroom mixture over the top of the spinach, then sprinkle over any cauliflower crumbs. Place the blanched cauliflower over the top, then sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for 5 to 10 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Sprinkle with the remaining chilli and herbs, then serve immediately.
* It’s important not to keep the mushrooms in the brine for longer than 10 minutes as they are like sponges and will absorb too much water if left any longer.
Recipe by Rachel Khoo from Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook.