cauliflower carbonara

I take secret (actually not so secret now I’m writing on here) pleasure in looking into the fridge and making up a recipe to use up the seemingly incompatible ingredients inside. Making something delicious out of nothing.

Yesterday was a perfect case of that, we’d been out all day schlepping around the country on trains visiting friends. We returned home tired and hungry, having spent the day eating lots of delicious sweet things, picnic food and not many veggies. We hadn’t known if we’d be having dinner out or not so hadn’t planned or shopped for dinner. Faced with eggs, a cauliflower, 3 cheese straws, a small bit of cheese and a couple of slices of bacon I was a bit stumped. Then inspiration hit and I pulled together this concoction in about 30 minutes (only really 10 mins of active cooking).

It was so good and tasted just like an indulgent carbonara pasta but without the heavy carbs. It was also akin to a cauliflower cheese but so much simpler to make. My toddlers loved it too. I will be making it again very soon either on its own or as a side to roast chicken when I’m trying to go easy on pasta or potatoes but still want some bulk in my dinner.

If you wanted to make a traditional pasta carbonara replace all or part of the cauli with cooked pasta. Toss the pasta into the bacon at stage 6 before adding the egg. Still add the crumbs and lemon! Don’t underestimate the transforming effect of the final bit of lemon juice and zest and the crunch of the crumbs.

You can pick up all the equipment I use through my shop.

Ingredients serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

The veg
1 cauliflower broken into florets
1 head broccoli broken into florets (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
A pinch each of sea salt and chili flakes

The carbonara
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
1 handful (around 3oz or 100g) grated Parmesan or mature Cheddar cheese – Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar works well
Lots cracked black pepper (around half a teaspoon)
4 slices bacon, cut into thin strips with scissors
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Optional – 2 tablespoons creme fraiche and a handful finely shredded basil

To finish
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Crunch – either half cup breadcrumbs, toasted in a pan with half a teaspoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper or 3 crushed cheese straws (I used the M&S ones as we had them leftover from our picnic, in the US Trader Joe’s sell similar)

To make

1.  Preheat oven to 200c, 400F while you chop your cauli and broccoli.
2.  Toss the cauli and broccoli in a big bowl with the oil, salt and chili flakes (or black pepper) then tip onto a large metal baking sheet before cooking for around 25 minutes. Check after 10 minutes and give them a shake.
3.  While the cauli cooks, heat a large frying pan and snip the bacon directly into it. I didn’t need to use oil as I was using a non stick Scanpan. Over a medium high heat, cook the bacon, shaking occasionally until it is brown and crisp.
4.  While the bacon cooks, separate the eggs and mix the yolks of 3 of them with a whole egg. Add these to the grated cheese, lots of black pepper and optional creme fraiche. No need to add salt as the bacon and cheese are salty. Set aside.
5.  Next, slice the garlic and add it to the crisp bacon pan along with the bacon. Cook over a medium heat until the garlic softens but doesn’t turn brown. If need be, turn this pan off if your veggies need longer to cook.
6.  When cauli is ready (nice and golden and starting to soften) toss it into the pan of bacon and garlic and put the pan back on a medium high heat. Add basil at this stage too if using.
7.  Keep heat on and add the egg mixture to the pan of bacon, garlic and veg. Keep stirring with a spatula so that the egg mixture coats the veggies and cook for around 2 mins. The egg will thicken as it cooks so keep moving it to ensure it coats the veggies rather than turning into scrambled egg. It should be the texture of mayonnaise as it coats the vegetables.
8.  Plate up and top with the crumbs, lemon juice and zest and serve immediately. If I’d had some in the fridge, this would have been perfect with a lemon and olive oil dressed watercress or rocket (arugula) salad.

I’d love to see what you end up with, so remember to share this on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest when you make it. Tag it #ystcook so I can see!