In the most basic sense, Egg and cauliflower still life by George Lambert is a study in texture. The bulging florets of cauliflower are offset by the smooth shell of the egg. In a memorable dish, the combination of texture is just as important as the fusion of flavour. Taking a cue from Lambert’s textural investigation, the recipe for pan-fried buttered cauliflower with a poached egg seeks to maintain the differences in texture in the resulting dish. By roughly chopping the cauliflower into a range of sizes, the contrast in shape allows the smaller fragments to become dark and crispy while the larger florets maintain their form and become soft to the tooth. The almonds add a bit more crunch and the poached egg provides a luxuriously smooth sauce. Cobbled together in less that twenty minutes, the dish works equally well as the centerpiece of a weekend brunch or a quick weeknight meal.

George Lambert, Egg and cauliflower still life, 1926
oil on canvas, 34.3 x 44.1 cm, Art Gallery of South Australia

The Australian artist, George Lambert, had a successful career as an official war artist and winner of both the Wynne and Archibald prizes. Egg and cauliflower still life was completed the year before he won the Archibald and after his return to Australia from London where he spent most of his time during the First World War. The timing of the painting was not a coincidence; there was a focus on the still-life genre due to the acquisition of  Manet’s The melon by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1926. Both paintings share many characteristics, a simple composition with the subject centered in the middle of the canvas with particular attention paid to the texture of the objects. Strangely, Manet’s melon appears to be just as knobby as Lambert’s cauliflower.

{Pan-Fried Buttered Cauliflower with a Poached Egg}

Yield: 2 servings

1/2 head cauliflower
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of chives, chopped
2 teaspoons grainy mustard

2 eggs
2/3 cup water
dash of rice vinegar

Chop the cauliflower into pieces, some quite small and others about thumb size. The difference in size will allow some bits to become crispy and the others to be soft and buttery.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and stir in the salt. Add the cauliflower and roughly chopped almonds and minced garlic to the pan. Begin to fry the vegetable and nuts, stirring the pan every minute so each side of the cauliflower is coloured. Add the nutmeg after 5 minutes and the rest of the ingredients after 10 minutes. Continue to fry for an additional minute and remove from the heat.

To poach the egg, follow this great tutorial on The Kitchn which is quick and easy with very little mess. Immediately serve each egg on top of a mound of the fried cauliflower.