Cauliflower cheese

Cauliflower cheese

By
From
River Cottage Every Day
Serves
3 as a main course, 5–6 as a side dish
Photographer
Simon Wheeler

One of the all-time classics. You can make broccoli cheese in the same way, or try my chardy cheese variation. For macaroni cheese: make a double quantity of sauce, cook 300g macaroni and combine the two. Put in an oven dish, top with breadcrumbs, more grated cheese and a trickle of oil and bake until golden.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 large cauliflower (about 1kg untrimmed), trimmed and cut into large florets

For the sauce:

Quantity Ingredient
300ml whole milk
1/2 onion, cut in two
1 bay leaf, twisted
a few black peppercorns
20g unsalted butter
20g plain flour
100g strong, mature cheddar cheese, grated
25g parmesan or mature hard goat’s cheese, grated, (optional)
1/4 teaspoon english mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. For the sauce, put the milk into a saucepan with the onion, bay and peppercorns. Bring to just below simmering point, then turn off the heat. Leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes, an hour or two if possible.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower in a pan of boiling salted water for 3–4 minutes until almost tender but still a bit al dente. Drain well, allowing it to steam off for a minute or so, then keep warm.
  3. If the milk has cooled completely, warm it gently before straining it into a jug. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a fairly low heat, then stir in the flour to form a smooth paste (a roux). Cook gently, stirring frequently, for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add a third of the warm milk. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until you have a thick, smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk in one or two lots. Return the sauce to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring. Let it bubble for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to ‘cook out’ any raw taste of flour. Turn the heat right down.
  4. Set aside about 25g of the Cheddar and add the rest to the hot sauce, along with the Parmesan, if using, and mustard. Stir gently until the cheese has melted into the sauce; don’t let it boil again. Season.
  5. Combine the cauliflower with the hot cheese sauce, gently folding the florets into the sauce until well coated. Transfer to a greased ovenproof dish, scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 190°C for about 20 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve as a main course, with bread, or as a side dish.

Variation

  • Chardy cheese

    In place of the cauliflower, use 750g Swiss, ruby or rainbow chard. Separate the stalks from the leaves. Blanch the leaves in a pan of boiling salted water for a minute or two until just wilted. Remove with tongs, drain, squeeze out excess water and chop roughly. Cut the stalks into 1.5cm thick slices and blanch for 3–4 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and toss with a knob of butter and some seasoning. Put the stalks in a greased ovenproof dish. Stir the chopped leaves into the hot cheese sauce and pour this over the stalks. Scatter with coarse breadcrumbs and a trickle of oil and bake as above.
Tags:
River Cottage
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
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