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Why don't we eat more cauliflower?

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Clare Hargreaves Clare Hargreaves | 14:50 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

If there’s one dish that reminds me of childhood home, it’s cauliflower cheese. My mum was a reluctant cook so cauliflower cheese became our staple diet – every day for high tea. We washed it down with weak tea and Women’s Institute cake. Actually, mum did a pretty good job: unlike the cooks at school who turned cauliflower into grey mush, she never overcooked it. And she lavished the magical tree-like florets with generous amounts of cheese-rich sauce.

So I’m sad to hear that we Brits no longer want to eat this wonderfully eccentric-looking vegetable. Sales have dropped around 35% over the past decade, and last year, nearly half of British households didn’t buy a single cauliflower. In short, if we don’t start buying this snowy brassica again, growers are now warning it could soon become extinct.

Cauliflower cheese


The reason I’m fighting to keep cauliflower on our tables - apart from bringing back tender childhood memories – is its sheer versatility. It’s crunchily delicious eaten raw in a salad with plenty of lemon, in fritters, or as a pretty crudité to dunk into delicious dips. It combines brilliantly with spices, green beans, cucumbers and courgettes to make a piccalilli, and is amazing in a curry. Cauli is nice roasted too. And few things pair better with fresh scallops than a silky smooth cauliflower purée.

Going back to cauliflower cheese, there are plenty of things you can do to pep it up. Add mustard and use a tasty British cheese such as a Lincolnshire Poacher, as in the cauli cheese that James Martin serves up with griddled pork chops and cabbage. Or sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, mixed with a hard cheese like Parmesan, to form a crunchy crust. Or adorn your dish with a few crispy bacon rashers.

The awful weather has made life extra difficult for farmers cultivating cauliflower, devilish to grow at the best of times. But in its favour, it’s one of the few vegetables that can be grown in Britain all year round, and unlike veg such as tomatoes, doesn’t need greenhouses or polytunnels to flourish. By eating cauliflower rather than imported veg, we help British farmers and save food miles. Before the last struggling growers throw in the trowel, I reckon it’s time to give cauliflower another chance. Do you agree?

Championing cauliflower

Try turning cauli florets into fritters, as in this simple cauliflower fritters starter from The Hairy Bikers. Serve with roast garlic and paprika aioli.

Raw florets are perfect dipped into a Bagna cauda of garlic and anchovies.

Use cauliflower in Rick Stein's piccalilli, guaranteed to spice up cold meats.

Cauliflower and scallops are a marriage made in heaven, as in John Burton Race’s Pan-fried scallops with cauliflower chips, cauliflower purée and gremolata dressing.

Or try the Hairy Bikers’ take on the same partnering in seared scallops with pancetta and cauliflower pureé.

How do you like your cauliflower?


  • Comment number 1.

    My husband and I are doing our bit for cauliflower. We have cauliflower cheese at least once a month and it is one of the few vegetables I can get my husband to eat raw! Please don't let cauliflowers become extinct!

  • Comment number 2.

    I love Jamie Oliver's macaroni and cauliflower cheese. It's really easy to make and tasty

  • Comment number 3.

    Madhur Jaffrey -Cauliflower with potato - magic!

  • Comment number 4.

    toss with olive oli, garlic and lemon juice - roast at 200 for 25 minutes - amazing!

  • Comment number 5.

    I have an excellent (well my friends think so) recipe for a curried beef and coconut stuffed cauliflower

  • Comment number 6.

    Fresh out of the oven, smothered in Montgomery's Cheddar...

  • Comment number 7.

    Husband can't digest potatoes very well and cauliflower mash (lightly steamed or microwaved then blended with a bit of milk and pepper) is a great alternative. After years of missing out he can have bangers and mash again!

  • Comment number 8.

    Love Hairy Biker's Cauliflower Cheese with bacon & mushrooms, my family and I have it reguarly. Gorgeous.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    Where would we be without cauliflower and potato curry? And I would recommend the cauliflower and chickpea curry in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg book. Delicious!

  • Comment number 11.

    I love cauli & I'm glad peeps are campaigning for it's welfare, but I stopped looking for it when it became so very expensive. I wonder if that's the answer to your question. Cost!

  • Comment number 12.

    Regularly eat cauliflower cheese, often make with half cauliflower and half broccoli. Delicious with our farm shop's homemade thin pork sausages. Always sprinkle with hot paprika before cooking. can place sausages and cauliflower in oven at same time for about 30mins. Great comfort food!

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm afraid I'm going to buck the trend. I can't stand cauliflower. I think the taste is horrible. I eat broccoli, which looks similar but doesn't have as strong a taste (if you don't like that taste, believe me, it's not pleasant).

  • Comment number 14.

    Try this: don't cut your cauliflower, leave it full and boil it until cook.
    Melt in a saucepan 150g of butter with 50g of cappers with the liquid.
    Pour the sauce all over your cauliflower, that you will have present it in a lovely plate!
    Célia for

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm definitely going to try roasting it with oil, garlic, lemon juice... When I stayed in France, my host Francine said the trick to avoid your whole house smelling of cauliflower is to add a bit of bread to the water in which you cook the cauli. Has anyone else heard this one before?

  • Comment number 16.

    Unfortunately when I was about to become a teenager (some 50 years ago) the school I was at provided meals that were raw (literally). Brasicas were frequent and demonstrative (i.e. little else) and the Protien content was insectiverous or molusc in nature (earwigs, slugs, snails etc) and it was not uncommon for such protien content to be still alive. Therefore the thought, or smell, of braisicas is about as attractive to me as, well I guess I can't say that here, however, "poo" is the best way of saying it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Just had cauliflower for dinner. Prob is when it's bad it's bad. This what i did tonight. Grate a whole cauliflower, put it in a pan with a tin of coconut milk (and a little water) and add spices.i used curry goat spice powder, about a tbsp, 1 -2 tbsp of garam masala, couple of teasp of dried chilli flakes, tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 - 2 tbsps of fish sauce, the juice of lime, half tbsp freshly ground pepper. bring to boil reduce to a med simmer and stick the lid on for about 7 mins. Add more water if necessary. I also stuck a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach at the last min. had this with some salmon with very crispy skin.

  • Comment number 18.

    had a ham shank with culiflower cheese and pea's an green beans...lovely.

  • Comment number 19.

    i think a major reason is the lack of flavour and poor keeping quality of most cauliflower available today - homegrown or organic is fine, but we have really struggled to find well-flavoured well-textured beasts these last years - even from small market stalls and farm shops: using Parmesan instead of good Cheddar has not brought them up to standard.
    With such poor flavour, the sulphurous 'smell' that other contributors mention becomes more obvious.

  • Comment number 20.

    we eat cauli every sunday and a couple of times in the week it is a fab veg and when it's grown in your own veggie patch it's even better just picked todays lovely round specimen grandkids coming for lunch and they love it too

  • Comment number 21.

    As a child in the 50's my mother boiled all veggies to mush. I asked for raw veggies all the time. Sunday roast was served and my veg on a separate plate raw, cauliflower, carrots, peas,cabbage, runner beans, sprouts etc. I never quite managed potatoes but my children who carried on the tradition did. Now my granddaughter is following the tradition. We now add broccoli, fennel and try any new vegetable as well. A delightful way to enjoy good food and healthy.

  • Comment number 22.

    We love cauliflower cheese and we are having it today. My wife says that people are not eating so much now because it is too expensive. She paid £1.30 for one that would hardly feed a family of four.

  • Comment number 23.

    Judging from the local allotments (lots of caulis) this vegetable is as popular as ever, but people don't want the tired, grey, expensive stuff you get in supermarkets. All food tastes better when fresh, and this is particularly true of the humble cauli. I like the florets raw, together with other raw veg such as carrots (another veg very much associated with Lincolnshire) with a selection of dips; these are called crudités, and are a bit 80s and passé, but still a tasty start to a summer meal. (In winter, steam, don't boil, so the florets still have a bit of crunch) Now just provide me with a summer. All brassicas contain sulphur compounds which some people find foul-tasting but for the majority of us aren't detectable.

  • Comment number 24.

    My wife and I eat it at least 4times a week - love it. occasional treat is this little beauty

  • Comment number 25.

    I love cauliflower. Raw or cooked, with cheese sauce or aloo gobi, roast dinner or as a side…hmm

  • Comment number 26.

    I use cauliflower in place of rice with a curry..saves loads of calories to use in other ways.

  • Comment number 27.

    Cauliflower doesn't necessary have to be served with a cheese sauce,- in Denmark we make something we call 'Stewed Cauliflower, it is so easy to make, and so very very tasty

    Boil cauliflower florets, make a white sauce using the cauliflower water, when that's done, place the florets back in the sauce, heat it up and serve it with sausages or meat balls, just like that..
    It may sound too simple, but it is utterly delicious!
    You don't have to have loads of different foods on your plate when the ingredients speaks for itself.

  • Comment number 28.

    Having read through the comments, I am truly amazed that people feel that cauliflower is expensive. I guess those that do so think a chicken costing more than £2 is expensive too?

    My wife and I regularly eat cauliflower cheese as a meal, nothing with it, and we will likely have the left-overs with a jacket potato. Total cost for the 4 large plates of food less than £3 - how anyone can describe that as expensive is a mystery to me?

    Perhaps those who complain about the price would like to suggest the maximum they would happily pay for a 9 inch/22cm cauliflower?

  • Comment number 29.

    My favorite veg, could eat this on it's own with a bit of butter and black pepper. Cauliflower and cheese is divine, also some Aloo gobi, yum, yum..

  • Comment number 30.

    My partner and I Love cauliflower too - even my disabled grandson , who is notoriously difficult to feed - loves my cauliflower cheese! Long may they be produced by our long-suffering farmers

  • Comment number 31.

    My family don't eat it as much as we used to because the price of both cauliflower and cheese has risen enormously. Cauliflower cheese used to be a cheap food you could eat when you were broke - now it's an expensive luxury.

  • Comment number 32.

    just had cauli for dinner - yotam ottolenghi's seared cauliflower recipe from his book. Bloody marvelous!
    It reminded me about hearing someone on radio 4 once describing cauliflower as 'an inept vegetable'. Every time i eat them i think of that comment, and utterly disagree. I cant quite believe why anyone would not like, or appreciate the vegetables culinary versatility in the kitchen.

  • Comment number 33.

    I love cauliflower! It is fabulous in a 'Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant' recipe called "Cauliflower Rye Casserole". It's like a cross between cauliflower cheese, souffle and a savoury bread pudding - totally delicious. I don't know if the book's still in print, but try to get it.

    Taking an element from this recipe, I often serve cauliflower as a side dish by sauteing the florets in butter and caraway seeds with the lid on - so that the cauliflower steams at the same time as going a lovely golden colour.

    I never boil cauliflower, always steam or saute with the lid on, that way the flavour is fully retained.

  • Comment number 34.

    I love cauliflower. I didn't realise it was facing such a decline. I have to admit I'm one of those that hasn't bought one to eat at home and only seem to have it when I go and see my parents.

    I've decided to add one to my shopping list every few weeks.

  • Comment number 35.

    I totally agree with Cibarious's comment!

  • Comment number 36.

    It's not a Sunday roast without cauli cheese!

  • Comment number 37.

    Love cauli but one huge cauli too big for one so I buy bags of frozen. Already in florets, clean (no slugs), leaves off, don't need to risk losing a finger cutting the stalk off, always to hand - perfect! Oh and it doesn't make the fridge stink (bonus)!

  • Comment number 38.

    I love Cauliflower cheese.. but it makes me fart!

  • Comment number 39.

    Love the TASTE of cauliflower but hate the way the kitchen/house smells afterwards. Any tips for cutting that out?

  • Comment number 40.

    I love cauliflower, reason I rarely buy it is it's SO expensive. €1.50 - €2 a head (Ireland). Frozen is more economical but pretty tasteless!

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Clare. One of my British friend taught me how to cook Cauliflower cheese. She told me its a British traditional food.I must say it was yummy. I can't cook as good as her but still I like it. I cook it every Sunday. Cant think of reason why Sales have dropped upto 35% .

    @14 I'll try to cook it using your way too.
    Shama for

  • Comment number 42.

    We love cauliflower cheese, add garlic to the cheese sauce.when you have poured
    the sauce on add cooked bacon lardons on the top and grated cheese and grill til
    crispy. It's lovely.

  • Comment number 43.

    Cauliflower, broccoli and carrots in a cheese sauce is wonderfully full of flavour and works well as both a meal on its own or great with sausage.

  • Comment number 44.

    Clare says "Sales have dropped around 35% over the past decade, and last year, nearly half of British households didn’t buy a single cauliflower.” “So I’m sad to hear that we Brits no longer want to eat this wonderfully eccentric-looking vegetable."
    What nonsense. A common view expressed is that statistics tells lies. It’s not really the statistics to blame but people drawing innumerate conclusions. Also, this family does eat cauliflower on occasion.

  • Comment number 45.

    if some specific health benefits were attached to collli then I guarantee an increase in its popularity

  • Comment number 46.

    I eat an entire steamed cauliflower (yes, all 350 grams of it!) for lunch, with some mayo. Keeps me going all afternoon. Cauli-addict...? Probably!

  • Comment number 47.

    My daughters and I all love cauliflower but can't always be bothered to make the cheese sauce to go with it- time consuming and you end up short of milk for the morning, so we use Sainsbury's frozen cauliflower cheese, which is pretty tasty, and only takes a few minutes in the microwave. If we are asked about it we call it our 'special recipe'. Shocking, I know, to all those keen cooks and organic enthusiasts, but otherwise we probably wouldn't eat it at all.

  • Comment number 48.

    I love cauliflower but it's quite expensive now. Maybe the deline is linked to the price as I don't remember it being so expensive a decade ago.

  • Comment number 49.

    I adore Cauliflower, as does our daughter, but husband hates it, so we devour it when he's playing golf or away. I use a good strong red cheddar cheese poured all over it - this gives the dish depth and colour, or crispy bacon and a normal milder cheese. Either way, we think its gorgeous.

  • Comment number 50.

    2 favourites of ours are pan fried cauliflower with curry powder and a side of natural yogurt or alternatively chopped up raw cauliflower with feta cheese and chopped mint. Enjoy!

  • Comment number 51.

    Vegetables like swede & cauliflower are not used enough because most people are not sure about preparation and cooking. If it is not in a pre-prepared or frozen package a lot of people will not buy it. I am 47 years of age & have always prepared & cooked most of the food in my home.I have had many nephews & nieces home for meals{of which there are many} and all have loved the food i cook and though they would not cook some vegetables themselves they always leave the plate clean. Education is the answer.

  • Comment number 52.

    Whilst I have never been fond of boiled cauliflower as a vegetable, I absolutely love homemade cauliflower soup! I have served it to friends who also dislike cauliflower and converted them too. Cauliflower soup - delicious!

  • Comment number 53.

    I love cauliflower, however the price of it has gone up so much over the past years. When I got my house back in 1999 cauliflowers were regularly 39p - however now I struggle to get one for under £1 and sometimes £1.50 - even the local market is the same price. I've tried frozen cauli, however it always tastes watery so I've had to switch to cheaper vegetables to feed the family.

  • Comment number 54.

    Cauliflower is such a versatile vegie who can go on its own and work well with others. It can be a salad or stew, for those who is cutting calories; can be a rich main dish, with cheese or bacon; can be a side dish to add enjoyments to a meal. Should be better useand pondered in their lists by all chefs.

  • Comment number 55.

    My two favourite soups are cauliflower based: the classic Potage Dubarry, creamy and even better with a dash of sesame oil, and Cauliflower with Butterbean - sounds awful, but is gorgeous!

  • Comment number 56.

    I keep seeing these articles about cauliflower going out of fashion and wonder where the writers get their info from. If you go into the supermarket, there is plenty of cauliflower on display either on it's own or with broccoli and it never finds it's way to the reduced section.

    Pub carveries usually have cauliflower cheese amongst the selection of help-yourself vegetables.

    Personally, I can't see any evidence that cauliflower is going out of favour!

  • Comment number 57.

    Yup, in fact I bought one just today. Yup, versatile but easy to overlook in favour of broccoli, but I will keep buying it for its range of uses, ease of prep. and reminders of childhood.......Must have a lovely srong cheddar or similar or some salty bacon or pancetta. Here's to the farmers! Respect as when my hubbie tried to grow it (a successful allotment holder), it didn't look too good. SD

  • Comment number 58.

    We love our cauliflower. Last year I grew my own, and one weighed a whopping 3lbs 8ozs.
    I think one reason sales appear to be falling is the fact that it's being priced out of today's economic climate. Not everyone can afford over £1 for a small head, as it sometimes is in supermarkets.

  • Comment number 59.

    Absolutely no way to cauliflower! We need to eat more like the Maltese - not a cauliflower in sight! (there's some stuff about Maltese food here by the ways [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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