Some dishes don’t turn out as well as they look in a book and sadly Cauliflower (and chicken) Pilaf from the Hairy Dieters was a disappointment to me. Undoubtedly, some of this was down to ‘user error’. I used a stick blender rather than the recommended food processor to blend my cauliflower rice which was a complete disaster. Pomegranate seeds, which you can buy in packs from supermarkets, were a poor substitute for an actual pomegranate, and my son couldn’t get to grips with removing some of the whole spices in the dish which aren’t supposed to be eaten.
Overall, both cooking and eating this after a day at work proved stressful, partly due to my own incompetence and also a lack of patience – it proved far too faffy and the suggested 30 minute time to have this on the table seems unrealistic. I wouldn’t write this recipe off entirely, there are a lot of powerful flavours within it, so perhaps you’ll fair better than me if you try it.
Recipe: Cauliflower pilaf
Calories: 274 calories per serving
Book: Hairy Dieters – Fast Food
Prep time: Approx 20 mins
Cooking time: Approx 20 mins
Ingredients: 500g chicken thighs or breasts, 1 large onion (sliced into thin crescents), 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped), 5g fresh root ginger (finely chopped), large pinch of saffron, 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil, 5 cardamom pods, 2 x 3cm pieces of cinnamon stick, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional), 3 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 250ml chicken stock, 1 medium cauliflower (about 750g), flaked sea salt, ground black pepper
To serve: 1 tbsp pistachios, ½ pomegranate, small bunch of coriander or parsley
Cost per portion: Approx £1.66
Method: First prepare the chicken. If using thighs, trim off any fat, then slice them thinly. If using chicken breasts, cut them into 2cm chunks. Peel and slice the onion into thin crescents. Finely chop the ginger and garlic. Put the saffron in a bowl with a little hot water and leave it to steep.
Heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan or a shallow casserole dish. When the pan is hot, add the chicken. Fry the chicken for a minute, stirring constantly, until the pieces have seared, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the whole spices and the bay leaves.
Pour the stock and the saffron with its water into the pan, then season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously, scraping up any brown bits from the base of the pan. Bring the stock to the boil, then leave to simmer while you prepare the cauliflower – this should take about 5 minutes. Cut up the cauliflower and blitz to the size of coarse breadcrumbs in a food processor – use the stalks as well as the florets.
When the liquid has reduced so that it just coats the base of the pan and the chicken and onion are tender, remove the chicken and most of the onion with a slotted spoon and keep them warm. Add the cauliflower to the pan and stir so that it is coated with the remaining liquid and spices – it should start to turn a light ochre in patches.
Cover over a medium heat for at least 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the cauliflower is cooked through and the remaining liquid has evaporated. The cauliflower should be fluffy. Put the chicken and onion back into the pan and stir it through the cauliflower, then add the rest on top.
While the cauliflower is cooking, lightly crush or chop the pistachios and remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Serve the pilaf sprinkled with the pistachios, pomegranate seeds and herbs.