The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

char-grilled baby cauliflower with salsa verde

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A law passed by the European Union in March 2015 finally allowed EU member countries to decide on an individual basis whether they wanted genetically modified (GMO) crops to be grown on their territory.

The law was seen in some quarters as a way to get round some of the famous Brussels bureaucracy, which had frustrated GMO companies like Monsanto because of the long time it took for the EU to consider each application to grow GMO crops on European soil.

As it turns out, the legislation has so far worked against the interests of Monsanto because to date fourteen EU countries have announced their intention to completely ban the cultivation of GMO crops within their boundaries: France, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands. In addition, although the current UK government is pro GMOs, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all confirmed their intention to use their devolved powers to introduce a ban.

Outside the EU, Russia has announced that it, too, is banning GMOs.

So it has not been a good year for Monsanto.

At the start of the year it launched an unsuccessful attempt to take over another global giant, Syngenta, which would have given the merged company a controlling share of the world’s agrochemicals industry and would have left genetically modified organisms in the hands of one of the most powerful corporations on Earth.

Not long after that, the World Health Organisation declared that glyphosate, a key component of Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup is probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Last month , a French court upheld a ruling against Monsanto that it had caused the chemical poisoning of a farmer, and in the USA there are currently two separate lawsuits under way in which agricultural workers allege that their cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup. The lawsuits also claim Monsanto falsified data and waged a prolonged campaign of misinformation to mislead the public about the safety of Roundup.

Finally, last week, the company posted losses and announced that it will be cutting 12% of its workforce to reduce costs.

We shall have to wait to see if 2015 is merely a blip in Monsanto’s fortunes or whether it marks the start of a more permanent decline.

baby cauliflowerssous vide baby cauliflower salsa verde ingredientschargrilled baby cauliflower

Last weekend my wife Sara and I hosted a vegan dinner party for twelve in celebration of the recent marriage of my sister Ann to my new brother-in-law, Malcolm. It was a really enjoyable occasion.

This was the starter that I made for the celebration, and it went down so well I decided I had to share the recipe here on the blog.

If you have never had chargrilled cauliflower, do give it a try: is truly is a thing of wonder. I cooked the cauliflower in a sous vide before chargrilling, which both tenderises and intensifies the flavour, but I realise not everyone has access to water bath, so an alternative method which involves steaming the cauliflower is also given below.

Salsa verde is a classic Italian sauce, traditionally made with anchovies but this flavour-packed vegan version works perfectly against the lovely intensity of the chargrilled cauliflower.

char-grilled baby cauliflower with salsa verde


2 baby cauliflowers, about 100 g each
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the salsa verde

200 ml extra virgin olive oil
15 g fresh basil leaves
10 g fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp capers, drained
juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp maple syrup


1. If using a sous-vide, pre heat the water bath to 84°C.

2. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the cauliflowers in half.

3. If you are not using a sous-vide, go to step 4. For sous-vide cooking, place the cauliflower halves in a sous vide pouch and vacuum seal. Place in the pre-heated water bath for 40 minutes, then remove and, with the cauliflower still in the pouch, plunge in an bowl of ice cold water to arrest the cooking. Set to one side. Go to step 5.

4. To steam the cauliflower halves, place them in a steamer for 4 minutes, or until still firm but yielding when pierced with a thin sharp knife. Remove from the steamer, plunge in a bowl of ice cold water to arrest the cooking. Set to one side.

5. For the salsa verde, place the olive oil, basil, parsley, capers, lemon juice, maple syrup and garlic in a blender and process until blended into a vibrant green sauce.

6. Place a ridged griddle pan over a high heat until the pan is very hot. Dry the cauliflower halves then brush on both sides with olive oil and place them in the pan. Don’t be tempted to move them, other than to turn them over once. When they have charred lines on each side they are ready.

7. Remove the cauliflower halves from the pan. Serve with a generous drizzle of salsa verde and a simple, light salad, such as beetroot, fennel and radish.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Fingers crossed for Monsanto’s permanent decline. The cauli looks fabulous.

  2. Lovely to see a recipe with cauliflower as the star. It sounds delicious. I have recently been experimenting with roasting cauliflower which I imagine gives a similar flavour – so much better than the watery cauliflower so often served up.

  3. Please please please do a pop-up meal some day and I will a) volunteer myself to help you just so I can bask in your creative genius or b) travel the distance with my family just so we can eat your obviously amazing food.

  4. Looks so delicious like always <3 Love. Anna xx

  5. Wow!!! I love this recipe! Simply gorgeous!!!

  6. Thank you much for sharing this information about GMO’s and Monsantos troubles. Although I live in the US, this gives me a glimmer of hope! I will enjoy sharing this glimmer with friends!

  7. I write as one half of the couple on the receiving end of this celebratory dinner. I pity all of you out there who weren’t there. Steve certainly puts his money where his mouth is and our mouths were subjected to an array of dishes that would hold their own in any fine-dining establishment. Steve, I really don’t know where all your ideas keep coming from and I take my hat off to you. To those who believe a vegan/vegetarian diet is all nut roasts and ‘rabbit food’, you are denying yourself some of life’s greatest pleasures. You could do yourselves a favour by browsing through Steve’s recipes, donning an apron and getting cooking. Just do it!
    Ann and I again send our thanks to Steve and Sara for all the work they put in on our behalf. And as for the ice creams…

    • Thank you, Malcolm, for these lovely comments. It was an absolute pleasure for us to host this dinner party in celebration of your marriage, and I’m delighted you loved the food so much. The impromptu ice cream tasting session at the end was a great opportunity for me to get feedback on some of the new flavour combinations I’ve been working on! 🙂


  8. A beautiful plate. So chic ! 😉

  9. While I’m an omnivore I really appreciate the beauty and flavour of well prepared vegetable dishes, but more importantly I rejoice that finally the world is rejecting GMO and Monsanto as a corporate bully

  10. This sounds pretty awesome and looks great, too! WOW!! Nice plate and presentation!
    Jennifer @

  11. Charred cauliflower looks gorgeous and sounds lovely. Reading the recipe I was reminded of a simple “cheats” sous vide method to vaccum seal food at home using a ziplock bag, deep bowl of water and food clip. Simply place vegetables or protein into a ziplock bag. With the bag open, slowly submerge into water to just below the ziplock line. This works like a vacuum to remove the air from the bag. Zip closed and secure with a food clip for added protection before cooking sous vide using a food thermometer to control the temperature of the water bath.

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