Today we are talking about one of our favourite food, cauliflower fry. This simple vegan cauliflower fry is a staple during the Indian winters.
In this post, we are talking about
- Health benefits of cauliflower
- Culinary history of cauliflower and
- Simple vegan cauliflower fry
When my son started to eat on his own, cauliflower florets were among the first food items we introduced to him.
He would grab a floret with tiny fingers, put it in the mouth and shout, ‘more!’ (more likely, the pronunciation would be mule, lol)
Now, he can eat with a fork and still ask for more cauliflower florets.
The vegan cauliflower fry is simple and easy to make. It uses minimal ingredients and not at all spicy.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is known to reduce the risk of lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancers. Recent research from the University of Hawaii reveals that it also provides important cardiovascular benefits.
Cauliflower is also a common product of the kitchen gardens at our household during winters. My mom in law grows a huge batch of cauliflowers every year and when we are home for holidays, she cooks the best vegan cauliflower curry with fish or a simple stir fry with potatoes.
But, how much do you know about the culinary history of cauliflowers?
Cauliflowers are so common that when somebody told me that they are not native to India, I thought they were joking.
But to my astonishments, Cauliflowers were introduced in India in 1822 only (just 200 years ago! Can you believe it, dear?).
It was a British import but unlike their importers, the vegetable refused to leave Indian soil and mingled in Indian cuisine.
Cauliflower, one of the several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, has its origin in Cyprus. The first mention of cauliflower can be found in the writings of Pliny in the 1st century of the last millennium in his book Natural History.
Next mention of the vegetable was in the 12th century in the writings of Arab Botanists Ibn al-Awwam and Ibn al-Baiter where they described its cultivation in Cyprus for more than 1000 years. It was introduced in Spain, Italy and then in France by the Arab merchants via Syria. (Source)
Le Cuisinier françois (1651), one of the most influential cookbooks in early modern French cuisine, written by François Pierre La Varenne has the mention of cauliflower as chouxfleurs.
The book that broke the monotony of Italian cuisine in France created such a sensation that cauliflower was immediately hailed as one of the most important vegetables on the royal palaces.
Cauliflower, along with the cookbook, revolutionized Medieval French Cuisine paving the path for the modern French cuisine.
King Louis XIV took so much interest in this particular vegetable that his royal banquets were incomplete without a particular dish presenting cauliflowers in a rich sauce made with veal, ham, and cream, or as part of a stew of sweetbreads, mushrooms and foie grass, as reported by Menon, a food writer from 18th century.
In North America, this vegetable was introduced in the 16th century when immigrants from Europe flocked the country.
Cauliflowers were a mere kitchen garden commodity in North America and although it was mentioned in American writings as early as the 1800s, it was only in the 1920s that the cauliflower was commercially cultivated.
The vegetable conquered the whole of Europe and finally came to dominate British India with the Britons.
It was the early 19th century when cauliflowers came to India as mere seeds with British farmers so that the officers had the convenience to eat this delicacy while ruling India.
The imported seeds were first sown in the Company Bagh in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Dr Jemson, the then in-charge of the bagh. As in Britain, the crops are produced from May to July, the first sowing of the seeds of cauliflowers happened according to it.
But as India is a tropical country and differs from Britain in geographical and climatic conditions, the result was devastating.
The initial failures didn’t deter the company farmers from trying and they thought to adapt some introduced varieties for early production during warmer and humid conditions in the country.
They experimented with the harvest season too and altered the sowing time to November- December as the colder season is needed to grow the best cauliflowers. This experiment resulted in success and soon the Indians too adapted the vegetable for its delicacy.
Now the cauliflowers grown in India, typically known as Indian cauliflower, are different from cauliflowers grown in Europe. They are tolerant to relatively hot and humid climate and mature very easily.
Isn’t it exciting how a common vegetable has so much history? We have to know our food, our culture and why we eat what we eat.
Also read: Sesame Seeds Chutney
Here is the recipe for simple vegan cauliflower fry
One cauliflower cut into small florets.
Two potatoes cut into slices.
One medium-sized onion cut into slices
Two tablespoons of vegetable oil (I prefer mustard oil as most of the Assamese recipes are incomplete without it)
Salt and turmeric powder, according to the taste
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok.
Sauté the onion slices till they turn succulent.
Now add the cauliflowers florets and potato slices.
Add salt and turmeric powder.
Now lower the heat and cover the wok with a lid.
Slow cook for 5 minutes and then stir.
Again, cover with it the lid and repeat the process unless the vegetables are tender.
Now adjust salt and garnish with coriander leaves.
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