Herby quinoa with roasted purple cauliflower

Around me, everyone is coughing and sniffling in these last months of winter. Although outside temperatures are slowly beginning to rise already, some extra immune support seems to be much needed in this time of year.

Yesterday I came across these gorgeous-looking cauliflower varieties, romanesco and purple cauliflower. They seem to let the sun rise all by themselves, so I rushed them into the kitchen to turn them into a spirit and immunity boosting comfort bowl.


Just look at them, aren’t these little cabbages almost too pretty to eat? Almost, because besides looking pretty, they’re packed with antioxidants, they’re so versatile you can turn them into any kind of dish you want and they’re so flavourful you might want to eat them every day.


Not everybody knows that the cabbage leaves are not only edible, but also make a healthy addition to your meal. Cauliflower is rich in calcium and the highest level of it is concentrated in the leaves. Larger leaves tend to be tough, but if you roast them, they become tender at the center and lovely and crispy at the edges. Prepared like this, they add crunch and contrasting texture to your dish, but they also make a nice snack all on their own.

Small, tender leaves can be added to your food raw, providing crispness and a source of sulforaphane, an antioxidant which is deactivated by heating. My friend Anca pointed this out to me by showing me this interesting video from Nutritionfacts.org; if you’re interested in this aspect, you can find it here and on our Pinterest page.


All this said about the nutritional aspects of cauliflower, back to the fact that you’ll want to eat it just because it’s yummy! For this comfort quinoa bowl I divided the cabbages into florets and simply baked them in the oven with some seasoning, fresh thyme and lemon juice, which turns the pretty pastel of the purple cauliflower into a deep, bright purple.

Prepared like this, the florets become full-flavoured, tangy and crisp and caramelised. If you can’t get hold of the coloured varieties, regular white cauliflower florets will taste just as wonderful. They make a great snack on their own and if you cook them as the topping of this quinoa bowl, you might want to make a bit extra, because my children munched them right off the baking sheet before I could fill their bowls.


Compared to all this cauliflower praise, the quinoa part of this dish seems to be rather insignificant. Unjustly so, though. The quinoa is cooked here with vegetable stock, herbs and caramelized onions. It’s hearty and a bit sweet at the same time, pairing wonderfully with the tangy veg. It’s one of my favourite savoury quinoa bases and if you’re up for variation, it’s equally delicious topped with wine-braised fennel or Ottolenghi-style roasted aubergine.

Soft quinoa, bright and crisp veg and toasted almond flakes – that should do the trick. And to all of you still walking around with a cold: hang in there; spring is just around the corner.


Herby quinoa with roasted purple cauliflower – serves 4


  • 1 medium head purple cauliflower
  • 1 medium head romanesco
  • 1 lemon
  • salt, freshly ground pepper
  • small bunch of thyme
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 red onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dark muscovado sugar
  • 200 g quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp. almond shavings
  • sea salt flakes, to sprinkle



Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Cut the cauliflower and romanesco heads into florets. Reserve some of the small, tender leaves to add to the dish raw; take off the larger leaves to bake them next to the florets; just leave on the remaining leaves while you chop the veg.

Wash the florets and the larger leaves, leaving on the adjacent water, then arrange them evenly over a lined baking sheet (use two if you need to). Mix in half of the thyme sprigs, squeeze over half of the lemon and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the veg with aluminium foil and cook them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed cooking pan. Over a low heat, cook the onions for 10 minutes until soft. Add the sugar and, stirring regularly, cook the onions for 5 more minutes until browned. Pour in a second tablespoon of oil, turn up the heat and add the quinoa. Cook it for a minute, then add the stock and the remaining thyme sprigs. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, then genty cook the quinoa for 15 minutes until the stock has been absorbed and the quinoa is softened.

Squeeze the second half of the lemon and mix with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the 20-minutes oven time has passed, remove the aluminium foil. Brush the florets and leaves with the lemon mixture and roast them uncovered for 5-10 more minutes until al dente and caramelised.

In a dry frying pan, toast the almond shavings until lightly browned.

Dived the quinoa over 4 bowls. Top with the florets, the baked leaves and the toasted almond shavings. Sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and serve with the raw cabbage leaves.