SPICES are good friends, especially in Lent, or if you usually
leave sugar and salt out of your ingredients list. A herbalist
expatiating on the wonder-working properties of turmeric for health
prompted me to buy a fresh new packet of the stuff - almost
fluorescent gold, compared with the tired jar in the cupboard - and
adapt another intriguing suggestion for Cauliflower
rice. Chop the cauliflower into very small
rice-grain-sized pieces. Heat a little oil in a wok, and toss in
the cauliflower grains and a sprinkling of turmeric and
Curly kale is delicious steamed just until its
chewiness is manageable, but even better chopped finely and swirled
in a wok with a tablespoon or two of chicken stock, and a dusting
Baked vegetables are a fat-free, quick way of
preparing a mixture of winter and summer vegetables. I like a dish
of fennel, in thin wedges, with butternut squash, and tomatoes,
cooked in nothing but their own steam, in a covered dish in the
oven. Add a sprinkling of salt and grated fresh ginger or garlic,
and bake them until just tender in a medium oven.
Tiny new potatoes are in the market now, and they can be cooked
in the same way, with just a spoonful of water, in a covered dish.
I like to add a garlic clove or a sprig of rosemary for its
Then there's cinnamon, and Banana tarte tatin,
one of the quickest puddings of all if you make it with bought puff
pastry, bananas, and maple syrup instead of sugar. Use a 20-25cm
(8-10 in.) pie dish or a silicone cake-mould.
1 packet of puff pastry
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
Put a knob of butter and a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup
in a saucepan, and melt them together with about half a teaspoon of
cinnamon. Put the sauce in the tart tin, and slice in as many
bananas as the people you need to feed - perhaps four large ones.
Then roll out the puff pastry until it is a little larger than the
Put the pastry on top of the fruit, and tuck it down the sides
(it is easier to do if you are using a bendy silicone container).
Bake this in a medium-hot oven for about half an hour, or until the
pastry is well risen and crisp all the way through.
The only tricky thing to this pudding is to turn it out (of
course, you don't have to) without accident to pudding or cook.
Place a serving dish over the top, making sure that all the hot
syrup will be caught, and with a confident flick of the
well-protected, oven-gloved wrists, you should have a juicy,
fragrant, fruit tart on a light, crisp base. (The classic version,
which is very good, begins by caramelising sugar and butter
together, and uses apple slices instead of banana; but I also like
to do this with blackberries and other fruit from the freezer at
this time of year.)
Serve it at once, before the juices make the pastry soggy.