Family Food: Sweet & Sour Cauliflower

Sweet & Sour Cauliflower with Ramen Noodles, from Family, by Hetty McKinnon.
Sweet & Sour Cauliflower with Ramen Noodles, from Family, by Hetty McKinnon.

Great family recipes are ones that nurture our souls, our hearts and our tummies, says Hetty McKinnon, author of Family, published by Pan Macmillan Australia. “Family food isn’t fancy or complex. Its roots are humble, stemming from recipes passed on through generations, and food rituals born from daily cooking. Family food is comfort food.”

McKinnon, author of the popular Neighbourhood and Community cookbooks, ran a salad-delivery business, Arthur Street Kitchen, out of her inner-city Sydney terrace before relocating to New York City. There, she runs pop-up food events and writes about food.

With a particular passion for vegetables, Family is her guide to eating green, together. The dishes in it are the ones she serves around her own family table. It’s a multicultural collection, some of them heirloom recipes passed on from her mother, others old family favourites, and many that are variations on much-loved comfort food.

Recipes with everyday ingredients

The recipes are interwoven with family stories from around the world. McKinnon says that while sharing food around the table is the most basic act of kinship, its effects are far-reaching and consequential. “The table is a unifier – when we converse with one another around food, ideas are sparked, creativity is kindled, characters are formed and lifelong habits are engendered,” she says.

Wherever she is in the world, it is the culinary foundations of her mother’s dining table that inspires McKinnon the most. In her own busy family life, prioritising the ritual of mealtimes is paramount. All the recipes in Family celebrate humble everyday ingredients, from dishes such as Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheesy Macaroni, to Grilled Corn Salad with Sesame-Crusted Avocado, Couscous and Lime Crema; and My Mother’s Stir-Fried Tomato and Egg.

For those whose kids are fussy eaters, McKinnon includes some great suggestions for making family mealtimes greener and happier. If you don’t want to use cauliflower in this recipe, you could use broccoli, Brussels sprouts or tofu instead.

Buy your copy of Family from Book Depository now, with free delivery worldwide


Serves 4

Family, by Hetty McKinnon.250 g instant (or fresh) ramen noodles
100 g (1 cup) chickpea flour
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped sunflower or vegetable oil
1 large cauliflower head (about 800g), cut into florets
1 red capsicum, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (white, black or both), toasted
4 shallots, finely sliced
sea salt and white pepper


3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon cornflour

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the ramen noodles. Cook according to the packet instructions, until the noodles are just cooked. Drain and rinse under running water until the noodles are completely cold. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, 250 ml (1 cup) of water, garlic and a big pinch of sea salt together until smooth.
Place a frying pan over a medium–high heat and add a layer of sunflower or vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan). When hot (test with a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon; if it sizzles, the oil is ready), dip each piece of cauliflower into the chickpea batter and carefully place it straight into the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until golden all over. Remove and place on absorbent paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat this process until you have fried all the cauliflower, making sure you are controlling the temperature of the oil at all times – increasing and reducing the heat as needed – to ensure that you get an even, golden colour.
To make the sweet and sour sauce, add the sugar, vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, tomato sauce and garlic to a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir and bring to the boil. Whisk the cornflour together with 2 tablespoons of cold water until dissolved, then slowly stir the cornflour mixture into the pan, reduce the heat to low and continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened.
Combine the cauliflower with the sweet and sour sauce. Toss together well.
Combine the noodles with the capsicum and sesame oil, season with sea salt and white pepper and toss together. To serve, top the noodles with the sweet and sour cauliflower and scatter over the sesame seeds and shallots.

Recipe and images from Family, by Hetty McKinnon. Published by Pan Macmillan Australia and reproduced with the publisher’s permission.

This story originally appeared in PS News online.


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