Ever since I started growing my own vegetables I’ve become much more aware of what is edible when it comes to veg. The answer is that pretty much everything is edible, except for the strangely poisonous rhubarb leaves. Just because it doesn’t come attached in the pre-packaged vegetable trays you pick up in the supermarket doesn’t mean it’s dirty or of little value. Stems, roots, stalks, buds, leaves and flowers are all worth trying and preparing in different ways. Take a cauliflower head – half of the weight, and therefore the cost, is in the stalk, is there any reason why I’ve been throwing it into the bin for years? I suppose you can blame the mother because most basic veg preparation was passed on – and this was what you did. Carve off the cauliflower florets. Drop in water. Throw the rest away.
So this was a quick little midweek supper made in about 45 minutes. It was a real scavengers feast. Pig cheeks from the freezer, leftover cauliflower stalk in the fridge, leaves from the garden. Pretty simple.
I cooked the pigs cheeks from frozen in the pressure cooker. Threw the frozen chunks in until the outsides seared all over – then covered with some stock – threw in a carrot, half an onion, handful of thyme, bay leaf and a tomato. Locked the lid on the pressure cooker and let it work its magic for 35mins.
Cauliflower stalks cooked four ways…
(1) I stroked the cauliflower stalk lengthways across a mandoline into 3mm slices and gently cooked in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 20 mins until nicely browned.
(2) I cut off some of the remaining knobbly bits and they were roasted in olive oil at 220c for 30mins. You should still have half your stalk left.
(3) Finely slice some more of the stalk into 1mm slices and quick pickle in a brine of 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and the same amount of hot water from the tap.
(4) With all the remaining bits of stalk – cover with full fat milk in a saucepan, add a tablespoon of butter and simmer until softened – then blitz in a blender or food processor and pass through a sieve.
After about 35mins remove the pig cheeks from the pressure cooker and let rest. Strain the cooking stock and put back on the heat and simmer adding a teaspoon of butter and stirring in until emulsified before adding the next teaspoon of butter. Taste the sauce, keep simmering and adding butter and tasting, until the sauce is smooth, glossy and delicious.
Cauliflower stalk, roasted, fried, pickled, and puréed served with pigs cheeks.