This week has been a bit crazy again as we’ve had our floor finished – sanded and varnished. This meant disconnecting the kitchen island, which houses a sink, and moving it so that I had no access to the oven and hardly any access to the hob for a few days. I somehow managed to cook us dinner on the second day but it wasn’t pretty. We’ve gone for an almost natural, slightly whitened varnish so that the yellow undertones so typical of pine don’t come through and I wish I could say I love the result.
I do not. I don’t hate it, it’s just I am finding it hard to get used to it, especially in the living room where the North East light makes the room look rather cold. I keep on wondering whether walnut would have actually been better even though I was worried that it may be too dark. It doesn’t help that the walls aren’t yet painted (only primed), that the skirting boards have been taken off as they were not in a good way and that we have zero furniture to soften the room. I am really hoping I will get used to the floor as it is not going to be cheap to get it changed and a massive upheaval again.
The difficulty lies in the fact that while the sample may look good on one or two boards, having the entire room done produces a very different effect. It is not apparent how each board will react to the varnish until the job is finished. Some of the boards have a lovely, honey-like, weathered look with occasional old woodworm markings.
Others though do look like they’ve come straight from IKEA and they spoil the overall effect. We’ve had to supplement our original floorboards with a few reclaimed ones and those must have come from a much younger batch of wood as they simply do not have this aged look we were so excited about. It is a Victorian home after all so we don’t want it to look like a modern show home.
I feel terribly guilty about all this as it was me who convinced Duncan that the natural look will be better. We will paint the walls, install the skirting and then decide what to do next, but I have this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach that I cannot shift.
Recipe-wise, I have a simple yet delicious roast cauliflower (and leek if you like them) salad with smoked garlic caper dressing. I have been seeing smoked garlic bulbs everywhere these days (still looking for the elusive black garlic, which a friend of mine is raving about) and so I’ve decided to incorporate it into my recipe. It just so happens that it goes really well with roast cauliflower florets, which is my favourite hassle-free way to prepare cauliflower.
You are welcome to skip the leeks, I simply had some and wanted to inject a bit of colour into the dish. They do go nicely with cauliflower but are by no means essential here. Photo wise, this post is a bit scarce as I had a bad day at the office yesterday. Yup, you do get those even if you work for yourself, from home, trust me.
- 2 smoked (or regular if unavailable) garlic cloves
- a good pinch of chunky salt (use smoked salt if you cannot find smoked garlic)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
- a pinch of sugar
- a grind of black pepper
- 60 ml / ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (replace half with unsweetened soy milk if you prefer)
- 1 heaped tbsp capers, chopped really finely
- 2 leeks (optional)
- 1 medium cauliflower
- olive oil
- smoked paprika
- nutritional yeast (optional)
- fine sea salt
- 3 tbsp toasted walnuts
- a handful of parsley, finely chopped
- pomegranate arils, to decorate (optional)
- Cut garlic cloves into slices and place on a chopping board or in a pestle and mortar.
- Sprinkle with coarse salt and using either the side of a large knife or a pestle work the salt into the garlic crushing it until you get a smooth paste.
- Transfer to a large bowl and add lemon juice, mustard, a pinch of sugar and black pepper and soy milk if using. Mix well.
- Slowly trickle in olive oil while whisking vigorously with a hand balloon whisk. You want to create a thick emulsion-like dressing. Finally, add chopped capers and adjust the seasoning to taste and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F (no fan) and grab a large baking tray – I find that a non stick one works best here.
- If using leeks, peel the first two layers off and cut the green tops off. Clean the leeks and cut into three segments each. Blanch (cook in boiling water) for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge in cold water for a few seconds to stop them from cooking any fruther. Drain off and dry with a clean kitchen towel. Cut in half lengthwise.
- Divide the cauliflower into similar size-pieces (as much as that’s possible), maximising flat surfaces as they are best at getting a nice char. Keep the cauliflower leaves too if they are in a good condition, cutting larger ones into half lengthwise.
- Coat all the veggies in oil (you could use a brush if you want to control the amount of oil used), sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and nutritional yeast if using.
- Arrange on the prepared baking tray, you may want to bake the veggies in two batches as it is very important not to overcrowd the tray or else the veggies won’t caramelise due to too much moisture in the oven. Make sure you arrange all the veggies flat side down if possible. Bake for about 10 minutes, flip and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. Leeks should be done about 15 minutes in so be sure to remove them earlier if ready.
- Arrange all of the veggies on a large plate, dot with the dressing, sprinkle with toasted walnuts, fresh parsley and pomegranates.