Here’s how and why Port au Prince, Haiti, uses its head – of broccoli

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 28, 2014

It was this recipe that reminded me I might have to wait awhile to roast a whole head of cauliflower with impunity. This is not a vegetable you routinely see in Port au Prince, except for relatively expensive, plastic-wrapped, imported heads in the supermarket. They rarely look very fresh and it’s discombobulating anyway not to eat local.

Let’s not talk politics and mumbo jumbo. In Port au Prince, the only acceptable vegetable head to roast is broccoli (or bwokoli, in kreyol). It is plentiful and cheaply available. It is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the same species, Brassica oleracea, as cauliflower and has the highest levels of carotenoids in the brassica family. Its very name, from the Italian plural of broccoli, is a reference to “the flowering top of a cabbage”.

Interestingly, China, followed by India, were the world’s largest producers of broccoli and cauliflower in 2011, according to the Food & Agricultural Organisation.

But Haiti’s local broccoli is very good indeed. Steamed, boiled, stir fried, or, as I hope will prove the case, a roasted whole head, slathered, as the recipe puts it, with a spicy yogurt marinade and cooked in an intensely hot oven.

The recipe follows. Just substitute broccoli for cauliflower.

Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside. Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic , curry powder, salt and pepper. (Personally, I’d leave out the curry powder and add ground coriander instead). Dunk the cauliflower into the bowl and use a brush or your hands to smear the marinade evenly over its surface. Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower. Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedges and serving alongside a big green salad.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac