There’s something very exciting about the change of seasons in England. Autumn is about to ebb into winter and judging by the crisp chilly temperatures of the last few days, maybe there’s even a hint of snow in the air? This time of year naturally brings about a change of what is on the table, instinctively we crave rich, nourishing, comforting and warm food; game, succulent casseroles, slow cooked meats, roasted vegetables and soups. The list goes on and is a direct reflection of what is appropriate given the season, how we feel, what we lust after and what is available. Salad and cold food just doesn’t feature, it feels kind of wrong and rude, who wants salad when it’s 2 degrees outside and the ‘little people’ are breaking ice?
That said, I’ve been desperately trying to use up my ‘Shetland Black’ potatoes that are this crazy purple color. Beyond the novelty factor, they are a bit of a challenge and really their only destination is in a salad with salsa verde or something of that ilk. I’ve tried mashing them to see if the ‘little people’ would buy that stupendous purple hue, alas, no, they were not impressed. Just goes to show how color can dictate our palate even if the taste is identical. The ‘blue one’ who is a hard and fast mashed potato fan could not be convinced. Aside from the challenge of using up the ‘Shetland Blacks’, I have fallen in love again with a few seasonal wonders. Drum roll, the ‘cauliflower’! Roasted is my favorite, but I’m pretty partial to puree, it’s certainly one of my top ingredients as I write. Squash, butternut and pumpkin are all popular as well, yet it’s the green stuff that is really top of the pops round here. Cavelero nero and kale are my absolute big loves. Firstly let’s talk about the color – oh boy is it intense? Cavelero nero can almost be purple, so dark is the green, isn’t it odd how Farrow and Ball have not named a color after it, though I guess cabbage named paint is slightly unappealing? Forgetting the color this veg has a history, allegedly it was grown in 600 BC by those canny Italians, thankfully for us, it’s now grown in Lincolnshire and if that’s not enough, it’s packed full of good things; vitamins K, A and C, Lutein, fibre, calcium and is a significant source of the B vitamins to name but a few! This is good stuff.
The salad today is raw, roasted and ridiculously good. It’s a real seasonal health booster but is not going to satisfy those with an ‘ I want comfort food’ craving, so pick your moment to eat it. I like it for lunch by itself, though it would work well with partridge or pheasant, guinea fowl and chicken. This is a vegetable salad and can be tarted up or down with the option of crispy pancetta and nuts. The cavelero nero is my nod to the ‘to the food trends of today’, raw, unadulterated, super healthy; the roasted cauliflower is nutty, intense and creamy, quite the best use of cauliflower ever; the avocado sublime and familiar, and the dill-yogurt dressing just marries everything together. It’s easy to make, different, tasty and healthy.
Roasted Cauliflower, cavelero nero and avocado salad with yogurt and dill dressing
1 cauliflower – cut into florets
1 head of cavelero nero – stripped from the stem, washed and finely cut
1 ripe avocado – peeled and sliced finely – 1/2 lime juiced and drizzled over the top
2 handfuls of picked fresh dill
Olive oil/ salt and pepper
3 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of natural yogurt
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
salt and black pepper
- Cut the cauliflower into florets and roast in the oven with good slug of olive oil, a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 180 for 30 minutes. Turn occasionally and remove once it has a little color and is cooked all the way through.
- Peel the avocado and cut into slithers. Juice the lime and smother over the avocado.
- Pick off 2 handfuls of dill fronds.
- Mix the finely cut cavelero nero, roasted cauliflower, avocado and dill. Dress with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Whisk the olive oil very slowly into the yogurt, add the lemon juice and maple syrup, salt and pepper. It should emulsify and look like a loose mayonaise, add more water to loosen it if it is too thick. Adjust the seasoning, maybe a little more lemon, salt and pepper and spoon gently over the salad before serving.
Optional extras crispy pancetta and roasted hazelnuts.
This salad can be served when the cauliflower is still warm or when it is completely cold. if you want to tart it up, it works really well with some crispy pancetta and roasted hazelnuts.