30 August 2011

Cauliflower Cheese : making my mouth water!

You know what the best thing is? I've got half left for tomorrow!
You know how I said that hubby would be making a Vegetable curry on Monday?  Well, I was beset by a sudden raving lust for Sweet 'n' Sour Pork Balls whilst at work on Monday and, as a result, we wound up having a Chinese Takeaway.

Very nice it was, too!  We tried out "Canton" in the Ashley Road, Upper Parkstone, for the first time and apart from their getting Son & heir's rice wrong (should have been fried, instead he got steamed) which wasn't a critical error, everything was blinking gorgeous - especially the Beef Rendang.  I think we'll be going back there again!

So.  That left a whole cauliflower sitting in the fridge, looking all sad and unloved, without a curry home to go to.  Now I have added a curry to the menu list for this week (see next blog post!) but its ingredients aren't best palled up with cauliflower, so that wasn't any good.

Neither hubby nor son & heir will countenance cauliflower outside of a curry, so it's not even as though I can just include it in the vegetable rota.  So, there it sat, looking increasingly forlorn.

Fast forward to my sitting in the car waiting for hubby to return from the Dry Cleaners, when a huge great Cauliflower Cheese thought hit me.

Now I absolutely adore Cauliflower Cheese and will happily eat one for breakfast, given the chance.  Hubby and son, see above comment about not countenancing.  However, what I did know was that hubby was keen to try making a roux-based sauce, so that he can be armed and dangerous with regard to making a Lasagne, or even a Moussaka.  I am finding that, these days, I just don't have the legs to be able to cope with the amount of time that they take to prepare and so we haven't had one for ages.

I put the suggestion to hubby upon his return and he was keen for the Masterclass.  So, just before lunchtime today, we made a joint effort of a Cauliflower Cheese - and boy, was it good.  In fact, my mouth is watering at the very memory - as it did a moment ago when I sorted out the photographs for this blog post.  God, it was good.

I dug everything necessary out when I was putting the shopping into the fridge and we got started.
All ready to go in the oven

I began by removing all the green leaves from the cauliflower (well, all the gnarly ones, anyway!) and cut it into quarters, then into bite-sized florets.

Next, we par-boiled the cauliflower for around 3-5 minutes (and five sticks of Tenderstem Broccoli, which also needed a home to go to, had 2 minutes), then drained and placed in the oven dish.

In the meantime, hubby had got started with the sauce.  He firstly melted the butter, then added the flour and stirred while it cooked gently until it had lost its sandiness and was feeling smooth.

Next, he began adding the milk, a little at a time.  We used full cream in this instance, as hubby had inadvertently picked up a pint of it instead of our normal semi-skimmed, the previous day.  He began stirring with a wooden spoon, but soon swapped to a hand whisk to ensure no lumps survived.  Once the sauce had bubbled (just a simmer, no frantic boiling) and thickened, he added loads of black pepper, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon or so of double cream.  He mixed that all in and allowed it to thicken some more.

Next, we added the grated cheddar cheese and allowed it to melt into the sauce.  Then we tasted and added a little salt.  It's important not to add salt until after you have added your cheese, just in case the cheese is terribly salty!

If you find that your sauce is too thick at this stage, it is easy to stir in a little additional milk.  Far easier to do it that way, than to try thickening it!

In fact, hubby's sauce was absolutely perfect for the job and it poured over the cauliflower in ribbons of thick cheesy loveliness.  I topped off the dish with a handful or two of breadcrumbs taken from my favourite bloomer loaf, and a grating of Grana Padano cheese - just because I could.

Then, it went into the oven for some 25 minutes or so, before devouring half of it for lunch.  Hubby and son & heir both tried a piece of cauliflower and decreed it to be "not half bad!" - which was what I'd been trying to tell them for years.

I was chuffed to bits with my "leftovers lunch" - and pleased for hubby that his first go at a roux-based sauce came out so well.

We've agreed that I'll make a Cauliflower Cheese the next time we have a piece of roast bacon for Sunday lunch - which is quite something, for two cauliflower-phobes!  It really makes you wonder why we're growing dozens of the flipping things out there in our vegetable patch!

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE (feeds 2 for lunch or 3-4 as a side dish)

Ingredients :

1 cauliflower head, cut into same-sized pieces

25g of butter
3 tbsp of plain flour
1 pint of milk
freshly ground black pepper or
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp double cream
150-200g Mature Cheddar cheese, grated
sea salt
a handful of breadcrumbs
enough Grana Padano, or Parmesan, or Cheddar, to grate over.

Method : 

1.  Place a saucepan of salted water on to boil and pre-heat the oven to 220deg C/180deg fan/gas 4.

2.  Remove all the green leaves from the cauliflower and cut it into quarters, then into same-sized florets and once the water has boiled, par-boil the cauliflower for around 3-5 minutes, then drain and place in a deep oven dish.

3.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir while it cooks gently until it had lost its sandiness and is feeling smooth - around 2-3 minutes.

4.  Begin adding the milk to the butter/flour mixture, a little at a time.  Make sure to stir like crazy, so that no lumps survive.  The sauce will begin to thicken and once your favoured thickness has been achieved, stop adding the milk unless it thickens further and you need to let it down a little.

5.  Once the sauce had bubbled (just a simmer, no frantic boiling) and thickened, add black pepper to taste, the Dijon mustard and double cream and stir to combine.

6.  Next, add the grated cheese and allow it to melt into the sauce.  Check for seasoning and add a little salt if necessary.  If you find that your sauce is too thick at this stage, stir in a little additional milk.

7.  Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, taking care to cover each floret.  Then sprinkle the breadcrumbs over and finish with some grated cheese of your choice.

8.  Place into the oven for some 25 minutes or so, until browned on top and bubbling.

9.  Serve whilst still piping hot.



  1. My VERY favourite supper dish ~I LOVE cauliflower cheese!
    That looks great too.

  2. I'm not sure what I was happiest about, Karen - hubby's lovely sauce, the fact that I was about to get Cauliflower Cheese, or the fact that it was all made from leftovers! LOL

  3. Mmmm, cauliflower cheese is fantastic. Although there aren't many things that can't be improved with a great wodge of cheese :)

    Have a real fancy for this now!


  4. Hubby seems to be under the impression that Cauliflower Cheese is just for girls. I've found two boys who like it - but it'd be good if any boys who come this way could say whether they like it or not!

    Seren : Don't you think, though, that there's just something about cauliflower that marries up so well with a cheese sauce? I think the only other vegetable that does it as well as cauliflower, is celery. I've been pondering on a cauliflower and celery gratin. Mmmmnnn! :)

  5. Ahhh, cauliflower cheese is one of my very favourites! Can't wait to have a lot this Autumn! :) x

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  7. I'm just tucking into the leftovers for lunch - and it has lost none of its appeal. :)

    (I deleted the above comment, because of a mis-placed apostrophe. Yes, I'm that anal. lol).


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