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Giffords Cauliflower Salad and Eton Mess

Roll up, roll up! ... Put some razzle-dazzle back into mealtime monotony with a double whammy of scrumptious, summery dishes from Giffords Circus new cookbook.

Anyone else missing the jolly japes of Giffords Circus this month? I am. This time last year my husband was being extracted from the audience to be a human table at this amazing village-green circus (he’s still in therapy) – ahh good times!

Whilst we might be yearning for the smell of the sawdust and daredevil antics of the talented troupe, we have top-of-the-bill circus dishes to whip up in your own kitchen.

Ols Halas cooking for the circus crew

Head Chef Ols Halas (along with the much missed Nell Gifford) is the author of new cookbook Giffords Circus Cookbook ‘Recipes & Stories from a Magical Circus Restaurant‘.

And the creative genius behind the delicious menu at Circus Sauce, the 60-seat restaurant that follows the circus to each venue ground, housed in two magnificent wagons.

Giffords Circus gourmet gang

Recreate some Big Top razzle-dazzle with these two super delicious summery dishes, perfect for a garden lunch or picnic.


Cauliflower, Romanesco, Raisin & Almond Salad

This is a lovely, fresh and summery recipe. The raisin dressing adds a wonderful sweetness and cuts through the bitterness of the chicory and the almonds ever so well. Make it now! … (and tell the kids it’s what people run away to the circus for).



1 cauliflower

1 head romanesco broccoli

olive oil, for drizzling

2 heads chicory, leaves separated

1 shallot, thinly sliced into rings

50g flaked almonds, toasted

sea salt and black pepper

For the purée

knob of butter

100ml double cream

For the dressing

75g raisins

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

50ml rapeseed oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Begin by breaking the cauliflower and romanesco into florets: you want different-sized florets to keep the salad interesting. Save any stalks for the purée. Cook half of the florets in salted boiling water for 4–5 minutes, then drain well. Toss the rest of the florets on a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until a dark golden colour.

Slice the cauliflower stalks thinly with a sharp knife and sweat down in a saucepan with a knob of butter, and some salt and pepper. Pour in the cream, bring to the boil and blitz in a food processor to a smooth purée. Leave to the side until needed.

For the dressing, soak the raisins in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and put into a mixing bowl with the mustard, sugar, rapeseed oil and cider vinegar. Mix well.

Toss the chicory, shallot, cauliflower and romanesco together in a mixing bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Smear the purée onto a serving plate and top with the salad. Drizzle over the dressing and finish with a scattering of toasted almonds.

Eton Mess

There’s only one way to eat an Eton Mess in our book, and that’s basking in the sunshine with a pitcher of Pimms. Ols recommends getting the best strawberries you can for maximum flavour and whilst shop bought meringues can be used (*pops out right away*) the more culinary gifted of you can whip up some fresh ones here.



300g strawberries

75g caster sugar

strips of lemon zest

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

400ml double cream

200g mascarpone

For the meringue

6 egg whites

230g caster sugar

230g icing sugar


For the meringue, preheat the oven to 120°C and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until the whites begin to froth and are almost at the soft-peak stage, then begin slowly tapping in the caster sugar, while still whisking. Keep whisking until the meringue is super thick, then remove the bowl from the mixer. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, folding it in gently and ensuring there are no lumps of sugar left. Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the baking tray in one single shape and bake for 2 hours, or until slightly coloured and very crisp.

The rest is very simple. Put half the strawberries in a heatproof bowl with the sugar, lemon zest and scraped vanilla pod, cover tightly with clingfilm and poach over a pan of simmering water for about 30 minutes until the strawberries start to shrivel.

Doing it this way keeps all the flavour in and when you pop that clingfilm open, you get the most miraculous smell! Remove the vanilla pod and strips of zest and blend a few large spoonfuls of the strawberries in a blender to make a coulis, then put this and

the rest of the strawberries in the fridge to chill until needed.

In a large bowl, whip the cream, mascarpone and vanilla seeds to stiff peaks. Add most of the fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, and crumble in nearly all the meringue. Pile onto a dish or cake stand and scatter over the poached strawberries, followed by more fresh strawberries, more meringue and finally the coulis.

WIN! … And if you would like to win a copy of Gifford Circus Cookbook – ta da! – we have one to give away. Click here to enter on Instagram now (it’s easy peasy) and it could be yours.

Toodle pip!

Find more ideas here


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