Macaroni cauliflower cheese

Macaroni cauliflower cheese

The Sunday Night Book
Patricia Niven

Very comforting on a cold night, this version of mac and cheese is made lighter by the inclusion of cauliflower, and the breadcrumb topping adds some much-needed texture. When I was a kid, my mum used crumbled-up Weetabix for this, which was quite lovely, if a little kooky in retrospect – I guess the modern version is the panko breadcrumb. Feel free to try them all out and settle on your own mix. I like to serve this with some rocket or other peppery salad leaves.


Quantity Ingredient
500ml milk
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
pinch nutmeg
200g macaroni
1 good-sized cauliflower, broken into small florets
40g butter
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced, including green parts
40g plain flour
2 teaspoons english mustard
pinch cayenne pepper or chilli powder
120g grated cheddar
50g stale bread, chopped into small pieces
generous sprig of thyme, leaves picked
or 1/2 teaspoon good-quality dried thyme
30g freshly grated parmesan
sea salt
black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.
  2. In another saucepan, warm the milk over a low heat with the bay leaf, peppercorns and nutmeg. Once the milk reaches simmering point, remove from the heat and cover the pan, then leave to infuse while you cook the macaroni. If you are in a mad rush, you can leave this step out – it just adds another dimension of comfort and warmth to the dish. Either way, it’s a good idea to quickly warm the milk before making the white sauce.
  3. When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook for 8 minutes or as instructed on the packet, adding the cauliflower halfway through the cooking time. When they are both tender, drain well and tip into a large baking dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper and give it all a stir.
  4. While the macaroni is cooking, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add the spring onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a thick paste, cooking the flour out for a minute or so until it smells biscuity and has a very light brown tinge. Stir in the mustard and cayenne, then gradually add the warm milk, pouring it through a sieve to catch the infusion ingredients, and stirring well between each addition. Cook, stirring constantly, over a medium heat until you have a smooth sauce that coats the back of the wooden spoon. Add the grated cheddar and stir until it has melted, then check for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the macaroni and cauliflower in the baking dish.
  5. Mix the roughly chopped bread with the thyme and parmesan, then scatter over the top. Bake the macaroni cheese for about 15 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.
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