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Fresh at the markets: Cauliflower

Eat | Drink | Explore

Cauliflower is at its best right now, perfect for warm braises and fresh winter salads, or in this recipe for comforting shepherd’s pie with cheesy potato and cauliflower topping.

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Like its cousins broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens and kale, cauliflower is a winter vegetable that provides an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre.

The entire cauliflower plant is edible but we generally eat only the sweeter more tender cluster of white, cream – or sometimes purple – florets rather than the slightly bitter and coarse stalk and leaves.

When choosing cauliflower, look for firm, creamy white florets pressed tightly together with bright green and crisp leaves. Dark spots, yellowing, blemishes and wilting leaves are signs that the cauliflower is not fresh.

Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market stallholder Aldna Farms produce both white and purple varieties of cauliflower. The purple colour comes from the antioxidant “anthocyanin”, which is also found in red wine. Purple cauliflower is a heritage variety with a natural violet colour which is not due to scientific manipulation. The purple colour is displayed on the florets while the stem and core of the vegetable retain a white or cream colour.

Like white varieties, the purple cauliflower can be roasted, steamed or boiled in salted water with lemon or vinegar added to help it maintain its colour.

61. ALDNA Cauliflower landscape small[1]

Aldna Farms’ white and purple cauliflower.

There are plenty of white cauliflowers available at local farmers’ markets at this time of year. You can find cauliflower at Patlin Gardens, Alnda Farms (white and purple varieties), Virgara’s Garden, W & B Hart Vegetables and certified organic growers The Vegie Basket, The Food Forest and Bull Creek Garlic stalls at the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market on Sundays from 9am to 1pm at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.

Bull Creek Garlic, Virgara’s Garden, W & B Hart Vegetables and Starlight Springs are also at Willunga Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 8am to 12.30pm. Alnda Farms, The Vegie Basket and The Food Forest are at the Gawler Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 8am to noon at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.

Lyndall Vandenberg, marketing and communications coordinator for the Willunga Farmers’ Market, has shared her recipe for shepherd’s pie with cauliflower and potato topping.

“It’s hard to deny the delicious lure of braised beef with a cheesy, buttery topping of cauliflower and potato – even the word ‘pie’ is comforting,” says Vandenberg. “It’s also a gloriously healthy meal solution that can be made ahead of time and served when everyone is too busy and too tired.”

Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower and Potato Topping

Ingredients

5 tbsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper, to season
1 ½ tsp freshly ground cumin seeds
2 tsp thyme leaves
1kg beef mince
1 cup tomato passata
½ cup dry red wine
400ml beef or chicken stock
parsley leaves, to garnish

For the topping
1 medium head cauliflower florets, roughly chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
50g butter
½ cup milk
100g feta cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and choose a large, oven-proof frypan with a tight-fitting lid.

Heat the olive oil in the frypan over medium to high heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and sweat for about 5 minutes.

Next, add the cumin, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the mince and break it up with a fork, then cook until it has lost its raw colour. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and reduce until evaporated. Add the stock and the tomato passata, then cover with the lid. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to very low. Cook, covered, for about 1 hour. Check seasoning and adjust if required.

For the topping
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the cauliflower and potato then cook until very tender. Drain the water, add the butter and milk, then mash the vegetables. Crumble the feta into the saucepan then stir gently to combine.

Place the meat evenly in a baking dish and spread the cauliflower mash evenly over the top. Place pie in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with a fresh seasonal salad such as radicchio and rocket, dressed in lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

Serves 6 to 8

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