Sometimes, creating delicious recipes can be as simple as playing with colours. One of my favourite things about using plants as the staples in my recipes is the beautiful mix of hues. I am inspired by the vast array of colour as I walk through my weekly farmers market. It’s here that I often start dreaming up ways to mix each shade, like an artist gathering their chosen paints on a pallet.
Bright, bold colour has always been my indicator to pick certain fruits and veg when I shop as this enhances the overall sensory appeal of the final meal. I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that the deepness of colour of fruit and veg also directly corresponds with its antioxidant value. As it turns out, generally the more richly coloured a plant, the higher in antioxidants it is. This is because many antioxidants are also the pigments in plants that give them their colour.
So by this logic, you should always pick a red onion over a white one, an orange sweet potato over regular, and yellow corn over white. This makes choosing the best produce at the market a little easier right? Look for the reddest tomatoes, the greenest kale and the darkest blueberries for the greatest health benefits.
Why should we care about antioxidant value?
Lets have a quick chemistry lesson:
As a normal part of biochemical reactions, our bodies produce reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are called ‘reactive’ because the oxygen molecule has unpaired electrons, making it unstable and therefore highly reactive.
This is important because ROS can damage cells or alter their function. Normally, ROS are neutralised by antioxidants. Insufficient levels of antioxidants to neutralise the potentially harmful effects of ROS is termed ‘oxidative stress’.
Oxidative stress has been shown to be a significant risk factor in the development of many chronic diseases (such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease). Dietary antioxidants significantly reduce the negative effects of oxidative stress by donating electrons to free radicals, which prevents them from causing harm.
Not only do antioxidants prevent oxidative damage, they also help repair it. Antioxidants have been shown to enhance cellular repair of DNA damage by free radicals.
Whether or not you chose to take in that chemistry lesson, just remember one thing - eat more brightly coloured, antioxidant rich foods to protect yourself from cancer and other degenerative diseases.
You can now probably understand why I was so excited to find a giant purple cauliflower at my local farmers market! Such an unbelievably rich colour and so many extra health benefits! This had to be the star of a special dish. I love roasted cauliflower so I decided to try thick, ‘steak-like’ slices of cauli, crisped up in a pan and then softened in the oven. To allow that brilliant purple to take over the plate, I made a silky smooth cauliflower mash from the leftover smaller florets which goes beautifully with the salty roasted ‘steak’. This purple base is topped with a light and zesty mint chutney and a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds.
Serve this special dish as an eye catching side by chopping the steaks into smaller pieces or as a main meal with a single cauliflower steak on each plate.
Let the colours of fresh produce inspire you and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t play with your food!
Purple Cauliflower Steaks with Mint Chutney and Pomegranate
- 1 large purple (or white) cauliflower
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Juice 1/2 lime
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp tahini
- Seeds from half a pomegranate
- Extra mint leaves to garnish
Takes , serves 2.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F)
- Cut two thick "steak like" slices from the cauliflower by cutting from top to bottom, close to the centre. Try and keep as much of the stem intact as possible as this will give the steaks more structure. Reserve the leftover florets from the sides of the cauliflower for the mash
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium fry pan over high heat. Sprinkle the 'steaks' with salt and fry for around 3-4 minutes on each side until just golden Place steaks on a lined baking tray
- Place the cauliflower steaks in the oven for around 15 minutes until just soft all the way through when you slice with a sharp knife
- While the steaks are baking, make the mash: roughly chop the remainging cauliflower florets and add to a saucepan with the coconut milk, tamari and crushed garlic. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is very soft (around 10 min)
- Add the cauliflower mash mixture to a blender and process until silky smooth. Remove from the blender and give the blender a quick rinse
- Add the mint leaves, ginger, maple, lime juice, water, salt, tahini and remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the blender and process until a thick sauce appears. If it is too thick add a little more olive oil or a dash more water
- Time to plate up! Spread a generous amount of cauli mash over two large plates, then top with a piece of cauliflower steak, a drizzle of mint chutney and sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. Enjoy the beautiful array of colours on your plate!
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