Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cauliflower with yoghurt, for Dan

I love Dr Phil.

There, I said it.

I don't necessarily agree with everything he says (a lot of what he says, actually), but every now and then he comes out with a corker of a one-liner. My most recent favourite is: 'You can't cure life; you can only manage it.'

My grandmother died on Wednesday, at the age of 91.

It was very peaceful — my mother was with her, holding her hand when she drew her last breath. I am going to miss her terribly.

Her name was Dora Olive Rosalind Alexandra Cullen (you’ll notice her first four names form an acronym for ‘Dora’, but her father — apparently in a fit of patriotism — actually named her after the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914). My brother and I called her Dan. As kids, we tried to pronounce ‘Gran’, but only managed ‘Dan’, and the name stuck. We called my grandfather Hiya — this was my brother’s doing, as my grandfather had a habit of greeting him with a loud ‘Hi ya!?’

Odd but true.

Hiya died just over a year ago, on 7 June 2009. I was upset at the time, but I didn't realise that I hadn’t really mourned his passing until Dan died. They were a package, you see — one just didn’t make sense without the other. And while Dan was alive, it felt like Hiya was, in a way, too.

To know them was to know a great romance. After 64 years of marriage, they were still like teenagers — they really had the hots for each other, right up to the end.

And they were wonderful grandparents: My early memories include Hiya letting me have sips of his beer, taking me on birding trips, telling me the story of the London Werewolf as many times as I’d hear it; Dan dispensing chocolate biscuits, letting me play dress-up with her not-inconsiderable stash of jewellery, and telling me about her life during the War; plus countless hugs, smiles, laughs and love.

This is just off the top of my head. There is more — much more, of course — but this is a food blog, and I don’t want to get carried away (‘Too late!’ they cried).

My gran was a competent cook, but her repertoire was largely from the post-War, meat-and-three-veg era. A pescetarian, she loved fish but would often cook meat for Hiya, though she most enjoyed nibbling on a chunk of good cheese or dark chocolate with a glass (or two) of wine.

This cauliflower with yoghurt recipe is something I think she would have liked. I got the recipe out of the Angela Day cook book she gave my mother when she got married (as you can see, my 2-year-old self decided to use the page as a drawing pad). It’s a bit like cauliflower cheese, except you add yoghurt instead of cheese. I’d never heard of adding yoghurt to b├ęchamel before, and I was a little sceptical, but it works. The sauce doesn’t have an obviously yoghurty taste, but rather a fresh, light flavour that works beautifully with this particular vegetable. I think the bacon is optional, though, and I might even add a little Parmesan next time I make it. And there will be a next time, because it's friggin' delicious.

Cauliflower with yoghurt

1 medium sized cauliflower
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons prepared French mustard
½ cup plain yoghurt
6 slices cooked and diced streaky bacon

1. Break the cauliflower into flowerettes and cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and put into a warm ovenproof dish.
2. Makes a sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour to form a dry roux, and finally adding the milk.
3. When thick, remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolk, mustard and yoghurt.
4. Add the chopped bacon. Pour over the cauliflower, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and paprika, and brown under the grill.


  1. that is such a beautiful tribute to your grandparents written from your heart. thank you for sharing those special memories robs. so sorry about your loss, and yet it seems there were so many, many gains in having Hiya and Dan as your grandparents. Love you lots and thinking of you(and the yoghurt sounds interesting too) xxxxxx

  2. ooooh,..What a great tribute to your grand parents!!
    They were soulmates until the end,..that's wonderful!

    Another grand recipe too!


  3. My condolences to your loss!
    CAnt say I like Dr. Phil But I love your cauliflower dish!

  4. A great tribute to your grandparents. I am so sorry for your loss. My English grandfather died last year and I feel the same as you. Since my grandmother is still alive I feel like he is too. Their relationship was fusional...

    A lovely recipe.



  5. Beautiful post, thanks Robyn! My new-winter's resolution is cauliflower. I'll remember this one.

  6. What a lovely trip down memory lane. Your grandparents sounds like wonderful people - I hope I still have the hots for MY husband after so many years! What an inspiration.

    PS: Cauliflower looks great too - will remember the yogurt twist.

  7. A beautiful tribute. I'm very sorry to hear about your grandmother's passing. Mine made it to 92, whose husband predeceased her by several years. They did *not* have a good marriage, which makes your family's story all the more special and poignant.

    Your cauliflower sounds very unique and tasty.

    And that fabulous shot of your grandmother - only with film!

  8. Thank you for the warm family story. Baking with yogurt is an interesting recipe indeed, and homely food makes your beloved people happy :)

  9. Isn't it wonderful to have such strong memories attached to food? This recipe reminds me of a dish I used to have as a child, cauliflower 'gotang', we used to call it, it was, in fact au gratin. HUGE favourite, it was requested at every family event!

  10. A lovely tribute; I am sure she would be proud. Thanks for the recipe-always looking for great ways to dress up the veg!

  11. What a beautiful post, and I LOVE the photo of the two of them - there is something of a candid movie star shot about that. My grandmother made it to 93 on my father's side, and she taught me how to play patience. She also once downed a whisky and soda in a single gulp and proclaimed it the best Appletiser she'd ever tasted!!

    My thoughts are with you and your family. Hugs xx

  12. your grandpa looked like JFK...love this post and am totally inspired to make the cauli-yoghi for supper tonight..yum! thank you PS. Super-jealous of the old-school dish its in too! V x

  13. What a great sounding recipe... :)

  14. What a beautiful piece, Robyn. It inspired me to get that old so that I can be a grandparent too...what a legacy.
    And I love cauliflower, so I'll be trying the recipe.

  15. Such a wonderful post, my sympathies for your loss.

  16. What a lovely tribute Robyn. I love hearing about true romances like that. They are lucky to have been able to enjoy each other for so long and to have not been without each other for more than a year. Best to you.