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Sprinkled with gold

14 March 2014

iStock

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 seasoning.

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 of turmeric.

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 savour.

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
4 bananas
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
cinnamon

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 tin.

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.

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