Nigel Slater’s recipes for fried cauliflower with mint tahini, and apple maple syrup cake

spring comes rather late to the kitchen. While the gardens, greenhouses and allotments are fizzing with seedlings and opening buds, anyone who likes to cook seasonally has no alternative but to muddle through March with what are essentially winter vegetables and fruit. Still, there are some great cauliflowers around for baking under paprika-freckled cheese sauces or for simmering into a fine, ivory soup. I rang the changes instead, frying the creamy-white florets into a crisp, spiced batter to eat with a smooth paste of tahini and mint.
I brought back purple-sprouting from the shops, too. So good it deserved a proper hollandaise, beaten to a deep buttery yellow, which is exactly what it got. Another day, I dropped a handful of the purple tips and green stalks into deep boiling water for barely more than a minute, drained them, then flashed them into a pan of hot, shallow olive oil, grated lemon zest and chopped green olives. They were even better piled on to thick sourdough, the juices trickled over the hot toast.
There are still plenty of fine apples and pears about. I used some Cox’s apples in a cake, cooking them first in a little butter and maple syrup before adding them to the base of a ginger cake, a thick drift of cream cheese on top. I filled the hollows with more syrup and served it both as dessert and as a teatime cake.
Fried cauliflower with mint tahini
Serves 2-3
plain flour 80g
cornflour 40g
salt ½ tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
ground paprika 1 tsp
ground chilli 1 tsp, hot or mild
iced water 175ml
cauliflower 1, medium
groundnut oil for cooking

For the mint tahini:
garlic 2 cloves
lemon ½
tahini 125g
sea salt to taste
iced water 150ml
mint leaves 15, medium-sized
Make the batter: mix the flour and cornflour, add the salt, spices and beat in the iced water with a fork or small whisk. Set aside for half an hour.
Bring a deep pan of salted water to the boil. Break the cauliflower into large florets and keep the leaves if they are in good condition. (I like to keep quite a bit of the stalk on my florets, but that is up to you.) Rinse the florets in cold water, and, when the water is boiling, salt it lightly and add the cauliflower.
Leave to boil for 3 minutes, then drain and set aside on kitchen paper to dry.
Make the tahini sauce: crush the garlicto a thin paste and put it into a small bowl. Squeeze in the lemon juice – I use about 2 tbsp – and stir with the garlic. Add the tahini, then beat in the water with a fork. Stir in a good large pinch of sea salt. F inely chop the mint leaves and stir them in. Taste and aAdd more salt or lemon as you wish.
Heat a 3cm-depth of groundnut oil in a deep pan. Drop a cube of bread or a small piece of cauliflower in and if it turns golden in a minute or so, then the oil is hot enough.
Stir the batter and dip the florets in, making sure each one is well coated. (Adjust with a little more flour or water as necessary.) Lower them, no more than half a dozen at a time, into the hot oil and leave for a couple of minutes until the batter is pale gold. Turn and brown the other side, then lift out, drain on kitchen paper and repeat with the rest of the cauliflower. Salt the florets lightly, then eat with the mint tahini.
Apple maple syrup cake
When you make the soft maple frosting use an electric food mixer with a flat paddle beater at slow to moderate speed. If you only have an electric hand whisk, mix it with a wooden spoon instead, as it is likely to curdle the mixture. Serves 9-12
dessert apples 450g
butter 30g
maple syrup 1 tbsp
self-raising flour 250g
ground ginger 2 level tsp
mixed spice ½ tsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
salt a pinch
lemon 1
golden syrup 200ml
butter 125g
light muscovado 125g
eggs 2 large
milk 240ml

For the frosting:
full-fat cream cheese 400g
mascarpone 200g
vanilla extract ½ tsp
icing sugar 250g
maple syrup 4 tbsp, plus a little extra
Peel, halve and core the apples, then cut them into 2cm dice. Warm the butter in a shallow, non-stick pan, then add the apples and cook for 10 minutes over a low to moderate heat, until pale gold and translucent. Towards the end of their cooking, add the maple syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Line the base and sides of a 22cm cake tin with baking parchment, and set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.
Sift the flour with the ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Finely grate the lemon zest and stir into the flour. Pour the golden syrup into a small saucepan, add the butter and the muscovado and warm over a moderate heat until the butter has melted. When the mixture has simmered for a minute, remove from the heat.
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and beat lightly to combine. Pour the butter and syrup mixture into the flour and spices and stir gently until no flour is visible. Mix in the milk and eggs.
Fold in the cooked apples and scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin. The apples should sink to the bottom. Slide the cake into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is lightly puffed and spongy to the touch. Cool in the tin.
For the frosting, put the cream cheese and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater, add the vanilla and sieve in the icing sugar. Mix on slow speed until soft and creamy, then pour in the maple syrup. Refrigerate until the cake is absolutely cool.
Spoon the frosting over the top of the cake, leaving hollows here and there and pour a little more maple syrup into each one.

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