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Taste from Waste - Cauliflower stem relish!

In the interest of full disclosure, I missed watching Food Networks special show 'The Big Waste' and am scrambling to catch it in bits and pieces via YouTube.. Its shameful the amount of food that is discarded in what can only be described as cavalier. I remember getting quite shocked when watching Rachael Ray's show 30 minute meals & seeing her rrriiiip out 2 layers of onion before dicing.  and Iron Chef America... don't even get me started!

Blame it on my Indian sense of thrift, but I'd always seen the papery layer peeled out carefully to retain the fleshy parts and just the bare minimum of the root end gouged out. Ditto with a multitude of other produce put to completely full use, peels, seeds, shoots, even the occasional coconut 'going south',  you name it, there is quite possibly a wonderful dish centered around it.

Given the shocking statistics regarding food waste, I was quite curious to find out how my local grocey store Wegmans dealt with produce . I went about asking the gentleman at the ready cut produce counter what they did with the stems from cauliflowers and was quite delighted to find that they used the stems to make soup (or most probably, stock for the soup). Oh well, that just meant that I had to buy a whole head each of broccoli & cauliflower to get to this weeks recipe.

The  cauliflower stem relish was a staple at home in Mumbai, cut into 'oh so tiny perfect cubes' by my foodie fanatic dad. I believe the original idea was from my uber thrifty grandmother. (She could drive everyone up the wall with her brand of 'reduce, reuse, recycle'.) The attention to detail showered on the knife work takes the final product up to a higher level. Yes, you could make easy work by simply shredding the center stem, but then, the textural aspect leaves a lot to be desired.

Quick Cauliflower stem relish

You need:

1 central core from a medium sized head of cauliflower
1 central core from a smallish head of broccoli
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne chili powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon asafetida powder
1 tablespoon  coarse  black mustard powder
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sesame oil

Remove the 'branches' of the cores and peel the tough fibrous outer layer. Dice the crisp central 'marrow' into a uniform small dice to yield about 1 cup (8oz).
Add the salt and all the other ingredients except the lime juice and oil. Toss till the seasonings are dispersed evenly

Heat the sesame oil in a cast iron pan till it just starts smoking. Pour the hot oil right over the seasoned cauliflower/broccoli stem. The oil should be hot enough for the whole thing to sizzle loudly!

Stir in the oil to cover the produce and also cool slightly. Stir in the lime juice. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving as a condiment alongside rice, dal, or any traditional Indian curry.

Here's to creating great food from scrap! Bon appetit!

For more tips on minimizing food waste, take a look at this link


  1. I have it in me too to use or reuse stuff, if possible, than discarding. My mother-in-law even makes sabji out of radish leaves. Guess the 5R's (Reduce, Recycle, etc) are in the Indian blood :D

    By the way, is that your Panfusine brand chopping board there??

  2. Absolutely with you, & yep, Radish leaf subzi ROCKS!
    nope Nish.. that cutting board was a personalized gift from my friend..

  3. The worst show for me is Hell's Kitchen- they throw away so much good food! Nice idea- the relish looks great!

  4. I've not seen that Hells Kitchen Sonali,and now I really don't if they waste so much! The big waste was an eye opener! got a set of tradtional south Indian chutneys etc that I'll be posting in the next couple of weeks, ALL from the usually discarded parts of the vegetables..

  5. Niv, grand idea!

    Since we're talking about "waste", do you know if you can use carrot greens the same way as beet greens? Are they edible at all, or are they really just waste?

  6. believe you can Shyam..In fact I just bought a bunch of purple carrots with some yummy greens, that I plan to incorporate in my next dish...

  7. Awesome.....Cauliflower avakkai!

  8. Great idea,learnt a new recipe.I use Cauliflower..Broc...stems in Sambars.One more 'R'is recreate.Always keep a pot plant "Sticks from fresh Mint",roots of Spinaci,Coriander,even roots of green onions saving a small part of the stem with it.In 15 days time you can see the plants..and in a months time you get to use them.This is my practical experience.

  9. OOH, great idea Healttips.. My success at replanting is kinds restricted to Mint, I dry up cilantro stems in the oven at 200 F and then powder them to add to sambhar powder

  10. This is a MUST-HAVE in Delhi homes this time of the year. Made every couple of days for 3-4 days of use. Then the flavor drops (in hindustani we say zaika utar gaya hai.
    Indian Home Cooking has a recipe for making it with mixed veggies as is the tradition. Of course all stem scraps from veggies go into the mix as well.
    Thanks Nivedita for making my mouth water early in the morning. It has also reminded me of my father, who I woke up missing terribly today.. he LOVED this kaccha achaar.

  11. Suvir... hats off! Only a Dilliwala would know the deep nuances of this divine achar (my grandparents lived in Delhi & Gwalior & thats where my dad grew up)! the achar never lasted for more than 2 days (usually scarfed down before that!).. Zaika utharne ka sawaal kabhi nahi aaya!


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