I was planning to make roast chicken and this salad a while ago when I chanced upon an article (an extract from "Eating Animals" a book by Jonathan Safran Foer) posted by a fellow foodie Sara, about the present state of commercial farming and it's supposed dirty secrets. Just a few short years ago,  I thought that well known claim about battery reared chickens having barely the space taken up by a sheet of copier paper, in which to spend their short miserable lives, was just urban legend. I'd read not very long ago about the questionable practices of modern farming in one of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's books but his take on the subject was pretty tame compared to this article.

There have been increasing rumblings about the provenance of our meat and poultry but I never really gave it much thought until I read this article. If it is to be believed, I cannot in good conscience, or with the burden of awareness, continue to shop and eat as I do. Beyond bad karma, from ingesting misery and suffering, and having it become a physical part of your being, something that definitely bothers me, we're talking about actual human health hazzards. I'm not getting all PC on you; I just had no idea things were this gruesome. Part of me hopes the story is at least part hype. Really.

When the roast chicken had finished tormenting me with it's wondrous aroma, while browning in the oven, and had taken pride of place on the dinner table, I found myself unable to eat it, even while everyone else dug in without reservation. Of course, I was the only one who had read the grim and rather disturbing article.

I ended up eating only the salad, which is not to say that I did not enjoy my dinner. On the contrary, it was actually quite fabulous, all on its own. Completely satisfying, bursting with flavour, vibrant with colour and enticingly aromatic. The contrasting textures in my mouth, the riot of colours on my plate were gratifying, tantalising even. If I could eat like this everyday, I may never hanker after steak or a bacon and mustard sandwich again. I have always eaten a very wide range of foods and would I think, be quite happy not to eat meat for the rest of my life as there's no short supply of wonderful things to partake of. I will sorely miss bacon but can  be consoled by copious amounts of good, dark chocolate and enough good wine.
Hubby read the article after dinner and was very open to the idea of cutting down and eventually excluding meat from our diet, as the strongest opposition will come from our children. Of course there's always the option of organic and free range meat; hopefully the cost of eating organic/free range will one day soon, be comfortably within our reach. Today's post will hopefully be the first of many such meals; inspiring, completely satisfying, healthful and conscience driven.

Prep 10 mins     Cook 12 - 15 mins     Serves 4 - 6


500 g (about 1 lb) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into thick florets
400 - 500g (about 1 lb) cherry tomatoes, left whole
70 g (1 cup) pitted black olives, left whole or sliced if you prefer
8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 level tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 level tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (be generous)
3 Tbsp olive oil
500g (about 1 lb) short pasta of your choice (I used large ribbed macaroni)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (or to taste)


Preheat oven at 230 C (450 F) and bring a large pot of water to boil.

Combine the cauliflower, tomatoes, olives, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and oil in a large baking tray and mix thoroughly. When oven is very hot, roast vegetables for 10 - 12 minutes or until tomato skins begin to split and cauliflower is charred in parts. Do not over roast.

While vegetables roast, cook pasta according to package instructions and when done but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside.

Remove vegetables from oven and combine vegetables and any roasting juices with pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and mix everything thoroughly. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve whilst still warm.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves, parsley or cilantro if you wish, for even more striking colour.