Being truthful i was never a fan of cauliflower as a child. Why oh why would i want to eat something that looks cross between an albino brain and a bonsai tree on steroids?
Well there are several reasons really, Honest! Cauliflowers are nutritious, low in calories, cheap and have super food status - Unfortunately when your a child none of these reasons really amount too much! That is until you pour a good cheese sauce over the florets and bake in an oven.
Thankfully as I've matured so has my palette, so i find myself enjoying just cooked cauliflower with a sprinkle of sea salt and a turn of black pepper, with the cheese sauce as a treat occasionally. Cauliflower cheese although often relegated to veggie frozen food fodder, should be a treat. A good cauliflower cheese can stand alone or be served as a side say with roast meats, particularly roast beef!
Serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main.
1 lge head of cauliflower(outer foliage removed)
200g mature Cheddar(grated)
1 small onion
400ml of milk(semi or whole)
75g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
5 black peppercorns(whole)
1 bay leaf(torn)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
5 tsp double cream(optional)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese(optional)
Pinch of chilli powder(optional)
Pinch of ground mace(optional)
Nutmeg to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper(Please remember that pepper has already been used and that you may have sufficient salt from the cheese).
Roughly chop the onion and place in a pan with the milk,cloves,black pepper corns and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil, take off heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil(1 tsp of salt per a litre of water).Trim Cauliflower of foliage, cut into bite sized florets. Cook for 8-10 minutes,drain and reserve.
Just before the end of the milk infusion time, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted gradually sieve plain flour into the butter, stirring to form a roux. This is the basis of the white sauce. Once a smooth paste has formed-free of lumps, strain the infused milk into the roux, whilst stirring at all times. Once incorporated gradually add the cheese. Once smooth add Dijon mustard and double cream-if using.
Adjust seasoning if required and add optional mace and/or chilli if desired.
Placed reserved Cauliflower florets into an ovenproof dish and pour on the cheese sauce, place into a preheated oven 190/375f/gas 5 for 15 minutes, remove, add a grating of nutmeg too taste and the Parmesan cheese. Return too the oven and remove when browned.
While not a standard cheese sauce for cauliflower, and probably not the easiest recipe around the effort is worth it, as they say the proof is in the pudding!
All manner of extra ingredients could be used crispy bacon or pancetta could be added along with breadcrumbs for the final browning. Chopped chives,horseradish sauce or English mustard could be used instead. You could add cooked pasta too the recipe for a hybrid of Macaroni cheese. Really, variations could be endless.