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Roasted Cauliflower With Madhur Jaffrey In Toronto

It isn't everyday that we get to meet a culinary trailblazer. So when we had the opportunity to chat with renowned cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren't dreaming!

Meeting someone who has always been an idol of yours creates a moment of apprehension - can she possibly match the image that you have created in your mind over the years? It was exhilarating to talk to Madhur Jaffrey and realize what a warm, wonderful and interesting person she is!

Madhur Jaffrey has long been my lodestar in the kitchen. When we first moved to America, I often wrote to my mother in India, asking her for recipes. In the time that it took for her letters to reach me (this being before the time of emails!), I would turn to Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks for sustenance. Her description of how, decades earlier, she would write to her mother for culinary guidance seemed to create a bond between us! Many of her recipes are ones that I grew up on, as they are traditional favourites. Her simple, yet detailed style of writing recipes made me feel that she was right there beside me in the kitchen, guiding me every step of the way.

Madhur Jaffrey's new book Vegetarian India doesn't disappoint. It has a fascinating narrative of her travels, fabulous recipes gleaned from the most interesting home kitchens and simple, concise instructions on how to cook them. One of my favourite stories from our chat is one where she is driving around Coorg (a region of India) and comes across women tending to a field of bright red chilies. She stops the car, talks to the women and asks to see what is in their lunchbox. There is rice with a simple fresh tomato chutney in one of them. Being Madhur, she immediately asks for the recipe and jots it down!

She invited me to choose a recipe from her book for this blog - she says she has no favourites because they are all special to her. I couldn't resist the roasted cauliflower as featured on the stunning cover of her new cookbook! The tangy, spicy flavours of this dish and it's quick and easy prep make it perfect for a busy work night dinner.

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Marinating the cauliflower in lemon juice and spices not only increases depth of flavour but also helps tenderize it. And frying the cumin seeds before adding them opens up a whole new dimension of taste! I served this dish with warm naan and my favourite Chana Masala!

Roasted Cauliflower With Punjabi Seasonings

1 1/2 lb cauliflower florets (from one large head of cauliflower)

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp each: turmeric, cayenne pepper

1 tsp each: salt, minced ginger

2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, 

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Place cauliflower in large mixing bowl. Pour lemon juice over. Mix in turmeric and salt. 

Add remaining ingredients except oil and whole cumin seeds. Mix well, and marinate for 2 hours, tossing cauliflower occasionally.

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Warm oil in small frying pan over medium heat, add whole cumin seeds. Once they start to sizzle and splutter, pour the spiced cumin oil over the cauliflower. Mix well, then spread cauliflower florets in single layer on parchment lined tray, drizzling leftover marinade over top.

Roast in oven for about 15 min, then turn the pieces and roast again for 10 - 15 min or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Serves four

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Madhur Jaffrey was in Toronto recently to promote her new cookbook Vegetarian India - A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking (Knopf) and to participate in the Up Close and Personal series organized by The Chefs' House (George Brown College).