Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cauliflower Polonaise


When I was a very young pun-loving child*, I used to make flower soup. I'd put water in a bucket, add ferns tips and fuschias, dandelions and buttercups, and whatever else looked pretty, stir it up with a stout stick, and call it dinner.

One morning, a friend of my mother's came over and wandered into the garden to see what I was up to. "I'm making spaghetti pollenaise," I said gleefully. "Oh Alison," she smiled, "It's spaghetti bolognaise, not pollenaise." My mother said I looked over her friend's shoulder at her, rolled my eyes, then went on with what I was doing.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that there is a whole method of playing with vegetables called 'polonaise'. I have no idea if the Polish actually do this, but it's what you call a dish garnished with chopped boiled eggs, breadcrumbs and parsley.

Although I can rarely get enthusiastic about cauliflower (it is, to me, not cabbage with a college education a la Mark Twain, but cabbage rendered bland and distasteful), I find cauliflower polonaise an interesting, even attractive, dish.

And as it evokes happy memories of mud pies and buckets of fuschia petals stirred to a pulp, so much the better.

Cauliflower Polonaise

- 1 head cauliflower, kept whole
- 3 eggs, 4 if you're feeling lavish
- butter
- 1 very thick slice stale bread, grated into coarse breadcrumbs
- 5 stems flat-leaf parsley

Trim the cauliflower of its leaves, and level the stem. Place it stem down into a saucepan in about an inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for 15 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted into the stem easily, but before the florets go mushy.

Boil the eggs by slowly bringing them to the boil, then simmering for six minutes. Remove from the heat, peel under cool water, and chop them finely.

Warm a generous knob of butter in a skillet. When it has melted, add the breadcrumbs and stir and toss for 5 or so minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and toasty. Remove from the heat.

Chop the parsley.

When the cauliflower is done, carefully remove it from the water and position it on a large plate. Sprinkle it with the egg, the parsley and the breadcrumbs, and drizzle with extra melted butter if you wish.

Adapted from a recipe in A Canon of Vegetables: 101 Classic Recipes by Raymond Sokolov.

(Local: cauliflower, egg, parsley. Made locally: bread. Somewhere in Victoria: butter)

*Actually, nothing has changed. Click here to check out my cryptic crossword published in Meanjin this month.

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