Mushroom and Seasonal Cauliflower Gratin

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.

Mushroom and Cauliflower Gratin

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.

Mushroom and Cauliflower Gratin

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

  • Servings: serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side
  • Print

Mushroom and 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)


  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
  2. 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*.
  3. Meanwhile, cut two of the onions into quarters and separate the onion layers into petals. Finely chop the remaining onion and set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


Paneer Palak with Cumin Rice – A Bright Green Dish for a Colourful Celebration

Indian food and I have only recently become friends.

I am probably very much in the minority here, but I simply do not see the appeal of butter chicken, or its paneer variation.

Indian food and I have a much cosier relationship now because of two discoveries; dal is like a thick version of a lentil soup and paneer is actually nothing like un-pressed and unappealing cottage cheese.

Paneer Palak with Cumin Rice

In honour of today’s Indian celebration, Holi, I set out to make my first, real (I hope!) Indian curry. Paneer Palak is a bright green curry of spinach leaves, vibrant spices and paneer that is mellow enough to be enjoyed by all.

I know that the festival of colours is traditionally held to welcome spring. But for the rest of us on the other side of the world, I like to think that it can also say hello to autumn, where a completely different range of colours are slowly seeping into the landscape.

But location doesn’t really matter when we can celebrate Holi with all the other Fiesta Friday-loving folk over at The Novice Gardener, where Angie is this week joined by co-hosts Caroline @Caroline’s Cooking and Elaine @foodbod.

Happy Holi and Fiesta Friday #58, everyone!

Paneer Palak with Cumin Rice

Paneer Palak with Cumin Rice


  • 1 long green chilli (chopped)
  • 2 cm piece of ginger (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 bunches English spinach (roughly chopped)
  • 120ml water (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (divided)
  • 200g paneer (cut into 3cm cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 cups of basmati rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 tomatoes (chopped)
  • 125 ml pouring cream


  1. Process chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander, garam masala, cumin, half the spinach and half the water (60ml) in a food processor to a rough paste; add more water to loosen if necessary.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a large, deep frying pan over high heat. Add paneer and cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of ghee in the same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the spinach paste and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, cream, the remainder 60ml of water and the paneer, and cook for 3 minutes or until the tomatoes are starting to soften. Add remaining bunch of spinach and cook for 3 minutes or until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant. Add the rice and salt and stir to coat. Add the water, stir briefly, cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the rice for 15 to 20 minutes* and the water has been absorbed.  Cover the saucepan with a tea towel, put the lid back on and allow to stand for five minutes. Serve the cumin rice topped with paneer palak.

* Rice should not be cooked for longer than 20 minutes – any longer it will start to turn gluggy.

Recipe by adapted from SBS Food.

Spinach, Fetta and Ricotta Quiche – A Traditional Dish Made my Way

Spinach and fetta have been a constant throughout my entire life. You see, you could never go to a family function without coming across spanakopita, a spinach and fetta pie. And right next to it was the tiropita, a cheese pie.

I very quickly learnt which aunt’s spinach and cheese pie I would eat and which I wouldn’t. For something that seems to have a pretty standard recipe, they all tasted different.

One used too much spinach, one used not enough. One used the wrong cheese for my liking. One had something weird in it. One had a thick pastry that was truly horrible and one had a nice, thin, crispy pastry but was so-so in every other respect. I’ve eaten enough of these spinach and cheese pies to know whose I eat and whose I politely decline.

These pies also changed, over time, within my own immediate family. My mum started experimenting with different doughs and filling. Well more like shapes and cooking techniques… the dough is still a filo pastry dough that she continues to make from scratch.

My sister, who has always preferred the cheese pie, has also started recently making her own lighter and lemon thyme-infused version, for which she uses ready-made filo pastry sheets.

I on the other hand took the traditional filling, added eggs and cream and turned it into a quiche.


This is my submission for this month’s Cheese Please! recipe blog challenge as the cheese of the month for August 2013 is fetta. Fromage Homage’s blog is fantastic, and I love reading the cheese reviews every Friday – I’ll even excuse her for writing about cheeses I can’t get here…

Fromage Homage

Spinach, Fetta and Ricotta Quiche

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry

Note: The below ingredients make enough dough for two pastry shells for two shallow, 20cm quiche tins. I you don’t want to halve the dough and freeze it for next time, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients a little at a time until you achieve the required consistency. If it becomes too sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.

  • 200g plain flour
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 100g unsalted butter (chilled, cut into small cubes)
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of water

Ingredients for the Quiche Filling

  • 500g English spinach, or baby spinach or silverbeet (washed and patted dry)
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g fetta
  • 200g ricotta
  • 100ml thicken cream
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Method for the Shortcrust Pastry

  1. Sift the flour and the salt together into a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter, and using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the egg and the water. Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the combined egg and water.
  4. With a palette knife (or a butter knife), slowly work the mixture together until it forms a rough ball.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough gently, for no more than 20 seconds, until just smooth.
  6. Wrap the pastry dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes before using.

Blind Baking the Shortcrust Pastry

  1. Preheat the overn to 200°C
  2. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed quiche of flan tin.
  3. Roll out the chilled shortcrust pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm thickness and line the prepared tin.
  4. Prick the raw pastry all over with a fork.
  5. Cover the top of the pastry with crinkled then flattened out baking paper and top with baking beans or rice to weight the paper down and keep the dough from rising.
  6. Blind bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the beans/rice and baking paper and then bake for a further 10 minutes, or until dried and golden.

Method for the Spinach, Fetta and Ricotta Filling

  1. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a deep frying pan. Add the spinach and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted and the water has evaporated.
  2. Place the wilted spinach in a strainer and allow to cool.
  3. Combine the fetta and the ricotta, using a fork to break down the fetta.
  4. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the now cool spinach and finely chop, adding it to the cheese mixture.
  5. Add the thicken cream and eggs and stir to combine – keep stirring, this one take a while to come together.
  6. Season with nutmeg and salt and pepper.
  7. Pour into the blind-baked pastry shell and back for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before removing the quiche from the tin.
  9. Serve with a snowpea and cucumber salad, or your favourite salad.

Sidenote: Depending on the size of the quiche tin used, there may be some filling mixture left over. If so, you can store it in the fridge overnight to make scrambled eggs the next morning – just add a couple of extra eggs, mix it all up and you are good to go.



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