Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower with poppy seeds and coconut cream.

How to make the most of seasonal winter veg: cauliflower with coconut cream and chilli, braised greens in yoghurt, or branch out with a Yemeni hawaij root vegetable stew

It’s almost the home stretch for the cold winter months. Spring isn’t around the corner quite yet, so I get my boost of much-needed stimulation by visiting the greengrocer and filling my basket with deep shades of leafy greens and a rainbow assortment of root vegetables. Together with a generous dash of spice and small pinch of patience, I turn these into winter warmers that also teem with wonderful, fresh flavours.

Cauliflower with poppy seeds, coconut cream and chilli (pictured above)

The dish came about after reading about aloo posto, a Bengali dish of potatoes cooked in a white poppy seed paste. This is, admittedly, very different – I use regular, black poppy here, which is more readily available – but I love the idea of mixing vegetables with poppy seeds and spices. To turn this into a main course for two, serve with flatbreads and regular or dairy-free yoghurt.Advertisement

Prep 20 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4 as a side

40g poppy seeds, soaked in 2 tbsp boiling water for 30 minutes
60ml sunflower oil
¾ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp paprika
¾ tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large cauliflower, broken up into 4cm florets, along with any tender leaves 
60g coconut cream
5g coriander, roughly chopped
15g flaked almonds, lightly toasted
2 limes – juice one to get 1 tbsp and cut the other into wedges to serve

Pour the soaked poppy seed mixture into a mortar and crush for a minute to break up some of the seeds.

Pour the oil into a large saute pan for which you have a lid, and put on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the spices, garlic and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and fry for three to four minutes, stirring often, until the garlic starts to brown and the spices are aromatic. Add the cauliflower and any leaves, and cook, stirring continuously, for two minutes, until the cauliflower is coated in the spices. Stir in the coconut cream and poppy seeds, turn down the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook for four minutes, until the cauliflower is starting to soften.

Take off the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook for seven to eight minutes more, stirring a few times, until the liquid has evaporated and the cauliflower is caramelised. Off the heat, stir in the coriander, almonds and lime juice, and serve with the lime wedges.

Hawaij root vegetable stew with whipped fenugreek

Yotam Ottolenghi’s hawaij root vegetable stew with fenugreek.

Hawaij is a Yemenite spice mix used in stews and soups. It is intense, warming and perfect for winter. The whipped fenugreek is an unusual condiment, with a texture not too dissimilar to okra’s. I love it, but if it isn’t your thing (or to save effort), blitz the other paste ingredients and omit the fenugreek. Feel free to play around with the root veg; I used four, but it will work with fewer.

Prep 40 min
Soak 2 hr+
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp tomato paste 
6-7 plum tomatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (500g net weight)
30g coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
1½ tsp caster sugar
½ head swede, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks (320g net weight)
2 parsnips (300g), peeled, halved widthways, then into 4 lengths 
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut at an angle into 1½cm-thick slices (220g net weight)
2-3 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 3cm chunks (330g net weight)
120g yoghurt, dairy-free or Greek, to serveAdvertisement

For the hawaij
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
½ tsp black peppercorns, toasted
2 cloves, toasted
Seeds from 8 cardamom pods 
1 tsp ground turmeric

For the whipped fenugreek paste
2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 green chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 spring onion, roughly chopped
10g coriander, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced to get 1½ tbsp

First make the whipped fenugreek. Put the ground fenugreek and 250ml boiling water in a small bowl and leaving to soak for at least two hours, or overnight. Pour out and discard the liquid, leaving the spongy fenugreek in the bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and use a small whisk to whip the fenugreek until it’s pale and resembles mayonnaise – about 10 minutes by hand. Tip into a food processor, add the chilli, spring onion, coriander, lemon juice, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and three more tablespoons of water, and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as you go.

Now make the hawaij spice. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom (in a spice grinder or mortar) until fine, then stir in the turmeric.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about four minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and hawaij spice mix, and cook for 30 seconds more, or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, two-thirds of the coriander and two tablespoons of water, and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down. Add 650ml water, the sugar, root vegetables and one and three-quarter teaspoons of salt, bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and the stew has thickened. Stir in half the whipped fenugreek, cook for 10 minutes more, then stir in the remaining coriander.

Divide the stew between four bowls, drizzle over the remaining fenugreek mixture, scatter a little coriander on top. and serve with yoghurt.

Braised greens with dried lime, yoghurt and saffron rice

The combination of dried lime and cooked herbs, typical to Iran and the Gulf, is blissfully intoxicating. Served with yoghurt and rice, this is one of my favourite vegetarian meals. Buy dried limes online and in Middle-Eastern shops.

 Yotam Ottolenghi’s braised greens with dried lime and saffron rice.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 4

1 dried black lime (AKA Iranian or Omani lime), pierced a few times with the tip of a small, sharp knife
60ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
35g dill, roughly chopped
35g coriander, roughly chopped
35g parsley, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
300g cavolo nero, woody stems discarded and leaves roughly shredded (180g net weight)
Salt and black pepper
300g basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear, then soaked for at least 2 hours
60g unsalted butter
⅛ tsp crushed saffron threads, soaked in 3 tbsp hot water 
300g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp dried mint

Put the lime in a small bowl with 150ml boiling water and top with a smaller plate or saucer to keep it fully submerged. Leave it to sit for 20 minutes, to soften slightly, then take out the lime, and put both it and its soaking water to one side.

Heat three tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a medium flame. Once hot, add the onion and soaked lime and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly caramelised – about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cinnamon, cook for two minutes more, then lift out the lime and put it aside. Add 30g of each of the herbs and all the spring onions, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant and deeply green.

Meanwhile, finely chop the lime and add it back to the pan while the herbs are cooking. Stir in the cavolo nero, reserved lime soaking water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and cook for 10 minutes on a medium-high heat, until the liquid has been absorbed and the cavolo nero has softened. Off the heat, stir in the remaining herbs and keep the vegetables warm.

While the greens are cooking, drain the rice, then tip into a medium saucepan for which you have a lid. Pour over 580ml boiling water, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt and half the butter. Put the pan on a medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover tightly with foil and a lid, and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice to sit, still covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, add the remaining butter and sprinkle with the saffron water. Leave to sit for another 10 minutes or so, then transfer to a shallow serving bowl. Don’t overmix the rice; you want white as well as yellow grains.

In a small bowl, stir together the yoghurt, mint and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Spread this over the base of a platter, creating a slight well in the centre, then spoon the greens into the middle of the well. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve with the rice.