The Hiatus, so to speak, that I’ve taken over the last four months is hopefully on the wane. That ever ambitious and itchy-footed Mr P hooked a big fish in a rather different pond last year and I found myself, in the middle of the Christmas festivities, sorting through our life’s material goods; deciding which to keep, which to give away/sell and which would end up in the land fill (very, very little, I assure you) in preparation for a move to a new country. Then, once the glorious feasting of another fantastic Canadian Christmas and the exuberant celebrating-in of a New Year had fattened us all up enough; the cookies all eaten; the champagne bottles had been recycled and the tree dismantled and put out in the snow it was time to get down to the hard work of packing.
One of the most difficult tasks in the move was saying goodbye to my wonderful, extensive and hard earned pantry. I spent most of the Summer last year in a frenzy of pickling, jamming and preserving the amazing bounty of the Ontario growing season. I’d amassed an extraordinary array of beautiful preserves in a tower of glass jars that couldn’t be shipped and had to be parted with. What heartache! Not to mention the the eclectic collection of sugars, flours, spices, pastes and seasonings one accretes over time that wouldn’t be allowed over the border. Eh bien, c’est la vie. Tant pis
In the first week of January four burly men arrived with a large truck and proceeded to wrap, package and cart off everything we owned, destined for a new adventure across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a horridly emotional time, having to uproot to the life we’d taken such pains to plant, water and nurture to such beautiful fruitfulness. Our little home in Toronto had been a haven from storms, a cozy bubble of hospitality and love and fabulous cooking. Oh, Toronto, how you’d gotten under my skin!
It takes time to settle in to a new environment. It takes time to find the right markets, the right ingredients, the right oven temperature. It takes time to figure out how to fit mustard, the rice, the pots, the baking tins into a new and smaller kitchen. It takes time to adjust to a new way of life.
But here we are, the intrepid Mr P and I, four months into our new lives in Londontown, and slowly starting to sink into that glorious, feathered bed called Routine. I’ve pumped up the tires on Storm, my trusty two-wheeled steed and roamed the streets of this crazy, manic city (getting lost most of the time in the organic warren of highways and byways) searching for goodies and treats. I’ve traveled the roads on the top of giant red buses to spy on delicatessen and bakeries from above. I’ve taken long and hypnotic underground routes in search of the perfect coffee beans, the finest Rose Jam. And I’ve worn a good layer of rubber off my sneakers trekking my own little neighbourhood from Baker to Butcher to Bonbonerie. Still, I’ve managed to uncover and wheedle from hiding but a tiny portion of the cornucopia of goodies lying in wait in the nooks and crannies of this fantastical Town. There is so much here, such dense collage of cultures and cuisines that it is an impossible, inexhaustible territory to map and charter.
Finally, however, I begin again to cook. Like a bear coming out of hibernation; slow, awkward first steps into a light too bright for such sleepy eyes. But I’m getting the hang of it again, bit by bit, stretching the cooking muscles; limbering up.
An army marches on it’s stomach and so while I’m pouring over new recipes and dabbling in this and that on the stove, I thought I’d better have a little something to snack on.
Cauliflower has never been my favourite of favourite veggies. It’s not something I dislike, per se, but usually I can take it or leave it, really. Cauliflowers, however, are bang on in season here and they looked so amazing sitting all plumped up and voluptuous at the farmers market that I just couldn’t resist. Now to find something wonderful to do to them; something to bring out their flavour and inspire me to greater things. I decided to make a spread. It’s a wonderful, deeply flavoursome, nutty and complex spread that is just perfect spread thickly on a chunky slice of freshly baked loaf. Mmmm. Or try mixing a large spoon of it into mashed potatoes; adding it to some veg stock for a good soup; braising it with some good bacon and cabbage for a scrumptious side dish to a roast.
*Note: The garlic I used in the recipe was very special Oak Smoked garlic made by an enthusiastic garlic grower. The smell and flavour are amazing, but I’m betting you won’t find it in a grocery store very easily, so use regular garlic instead. The roasting will mellow the flavour sufficiently.
Roasted Cauliflower Paste
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Baharat
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Salt
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ tsp mustard powder
2 tsp – 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
– pre-heat a small roasting pan in the oven to 400˚F
– mix the oil, baharat, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized bowl
– add the cauliflower and garlic and toss to coat with oil/spice mix
-Place in the hot roasting pan, in the oven, and roast for 20 minutes, stirring and basting every 10 minutes.
– Turn the temperature down to 325˚F and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes until the cauliflower is very tender.
– Remove from oven and allow to cool.
– Add pomegranate molasses bit by bit according to taste.