BANGALORE MIRROR

Shivani Kagti, March 5, 2016

Let’s Call It The Calori-Flower

Radha Thomas’s book puts the cruciferous vegetable to the task for making tasty rice and cheese & romano cookies.

Imagine making rice, pizza crust, cookies and even sushi rice out of cauliflower? It may sound impossible but singer Radha Thomas, in a quest to find a healthy and filling alternative to carbs such as rice, bread and potatoes, has devised several such ingenious recipes. “Cauliflower is a great vegetable for people who don’t exercise much and lead a sedentary life. Since the fibre content is high, the body goes into overdrive to digest it. That’s what made it nutritionally attractive to me. Plus, it is easily malleable," says Thomas, whose book The Cauliflower Diet is out on March 10.

Having worked on the recipes for four-five years with the help of her ‘left-hand woman’ and housekeeper Bagya, the idea for the book was born after Thomas’ friend and publishing agent Jayapriya Vasudevan of Jacaranda Publishing came to the singer’s home for a meal. “I think after Miel (her teenage daughter) declared my pizza was better than Dominos, Jayapriya felt she had a book on her hands.

She pitched the idea to Penguin Random House and they loved it. And voila, dinner was served."While she advises caution and moderation to people who want to swap carbs for cauliflower, Thomas has a compelling reason for following her food philosophy: “You can eat ‘rice’ normally, like a person with no weight problem, no diabetes, no heart disease, and no protruding belly. You can wallop it pretty much unashamedly."

PIZZA

PREP: 30 MINS, COOK: 1 HOUR 24 HOURS (RESTING TIME FOR CRUST) (SERVES 4-6)

You need:
1 (For the crust) 10" pie pan, 400 gms cauliflower florets including the stem, coarsely chopped, 1 cup of shredded, semi-hard cheese like Cheddar, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 50 gms almond meal (simply grind almonds up in a food processor), ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 1 tsp mixed Italian herbs, 1 egg, beaten 1 tsp very finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper to taste (For the sauce) oil for frying, 1 large tomato, chopped finely, ½ a medium onion, finely chopped, 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, a small dried red chilli, chopped finely, salt to taste, a pinch of Stevia or Splenda (For the topping) 100 gms shredded mozzarella cheese, 100 gms good quality pepperoni or any other meat/veggie of your choice

For the crust:
1. Steam or parboil the cauliflower florets. Drain thoroughly. Put it in a food processor and puree completely. Let it cool.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Now strain the pureed cauliflower using a fine muslin cloth till there’s absolutely no water left. Spread it out on a plate while you get the other ingredients ready so it can dry even further.

3. Now mix all the other ‘crust’ ingredients together well and add the cauliflower. On a greased 10"pizza pan, press down the ‘dough’ as evenly as possible, not too thin and not too thick. Since there’s no starch to bind,this has to be done by hand or it will flake and fall apart.

4. Let it cook in the oven for about 30 minutes. Pay attention to the cooking crust. You don’t want it to burn on account of the cheese. And you don’t want it too soggy either.

5. Turn the oven off once the crust is done and leave it in to ‘set’ or cool down. The longer it’s cooling off, the harder it gets and the better it tastes eventually. I recommend making it the night before because you get a firmer crust.

For the sauce:
1. In a saucepan, brown the onions and then throw in the garlic. Fry well and toss in the tomatoes and the chilli. Cook this well till it’s a good mush, resembling chunky pizza topping. Add salt as you like and a pinch of the sweetener.

2. Check for taste and remove from the fire. Let this mix cool down. Now put it in the blender and give it a good whirl so it pours out evenly.

For the topping:
1. About five minutes before you’re ready to serve, spread the sauce on the pizza and immediately sprinkle the mozzarella cheese generously. Arrange the topping of your choice (meat/veggies) attractively.

2. Bake in the oven till you see the cheese bubbling, roughly about ten minutes or less if the oven is hot.

Remove immediately and let it cool for a few minutes. Score the pizza using a pizza cutter and serve.

BISI BELE BHAAT

PREP: 15-20 MINS, COOK: 30-40 MINS (SERVES 4-6)

You need:
3/4 cup toor dal, 2 tsp oil, 4 tsp ghee, ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds, Leaves from 2 stalks of fresh curry leaves, 12 shallots, peeled and halved, 1 tomato finely chopped,50 gms finely chopped, de-seeded capsicum, 1 tsp sambar powder, 1 tsp coriander, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, a pinch of asafetida, 50 gms each carrots & beans, 15 gms tamarind, soaked in about a cup of boiling water and set aside, salt to taste

(For cauliflower rice) 1 head of cauliflower, about 500 gms, broken by hand into florets, including the stem

(The dry masala) 1 tsp methi seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 10 peppercorns, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 2 dried red chillies, 1 small stick of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 cardamoms, 1 tsp poppy seeds, 2 heaped tbsp fresh grated coconut

For cauliflower rice:
1. Boil some water in a large saucepan, and when the water is bubbling, drop the florets in. Make sure they’re submerged. Leave them in for exactly fiveminutes. The florets should be ‘al dente’. Alternatively, you can steam the florets.

2. Take it off the heat and drain thoroughly in a colander.

3. Now put the cauliflower in a food processor and giveit a whirl or two, until the florets resemble grains of cooked rice.If you don’t have a food processor, simply grate the florets by hand.

For the rest of it:

1. Dry roast all the dry masala ingredients and take them off the flame before the coconut burns. Cool and then grind into a coarse powder.

2. Soak the dal in about two cups of water for ten minutes. Cook on a low fire till soft and mushy. Set aside.

3. In a large pot, heat the oil and the ghee together. Add the mustard and cumin seeds stirring till they all pop. Add the curry leaves and the asafoetida, fry for a bit.

4. Now add the shallots and fry them till they’re brown but not burned. Add the squooshy veggies (the tomatoes and the capsicum) and fry for a bit. Then add the sambar powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder, stirring and frying till the masala looks well incorporated and there’s no ‘raw’ smell.

5. You’re ready for the carrots and beans which you’ll fry till they wilt.

6. Now add enough water to bring the veggies to a boil, not too much. Cover and simmer for a while until the veggies are all well-cooked.

7. Add the soaked dal, the tamarind water and stir. Now add the dry masala, stir again, adding salt.

8. Now add the ‘Cauliflower Rice’ and stir well.

9. This is a ‘gooey’ dish, so this is your chance to add a little water, check for salt and so on. You can add a teaspoon of ghee for that zing.

CHEESE AND ROMANO COOKIES

PREP: 1 HOUR, COOK: 15 MINS, MAKES 60 COOKIES

You need:
200 gms raw cauliflower florets, steamed lightly, 50 gms romano cheese grated, 100 gms raw peanuts (or almonds or walnuts), ½ tsp baking soda, butter to grease the pan, salt to taste

Method:
1. Pulverize the peanuts in a food processor and once they’re nice and crumbled, say, the consistency of breadcrumbs, kind of, toss in all the other ingredients and spin all of it around. Roll out the dough as thinly as you can and then using a cookie cutter or the cap of a bottle, make cookie-like discs.

2. Grease a baking tray and lay out the cookies, spaced apart, and bake till brown on one side. It should take about 15 minutes in an oven heated to 150°C. Flip them over gently till the other side is brown too. Be careful when flipping so they don’t break.

3. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool (they’ll harden as they cool) before you store them in a jar, carefully placing them in, so they don’t crumble.