Cauliflower Cheese is quite the classic Winter side dish. I have to be honest, I would gladly eat this as a main meal! Baked caulifower covered in a cheesy bechamel sauce and breadcrumbs, baked again until golden brown. Delicious! I was recently flicking through Gizzi Erskine’s Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite and came across her version of this dish which reminded me that I hadn’t made mine in a while. That’s a great book by the way, I’d highly recommend it.
Because I adore cheese I look for any reason to cram as much of the stuff into my meals as is humanly possible. For this reason, there are three types of cheese in this bake. Including blue cheese. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea so feel free to substitute for other types such as gruyere but I would recommend having a strong flavoured cheese in this cauliflower cheese.
Is it too early to mention Christmas? Oh well, I’m going to anyway. This is a great side dish for entertaining a large group as it can be made in advance and then reheated just before serving.
Useful tips & links:
- I have used breadcrumbs to give a little crunch to the top of the cauliflower cheese bake. In Gizzi Erskine’s recipe she tops the baked cauliflower with crispy shallots.
- I like the sauce in this to be quite thick. Feel free to add more milk if you want to thin it down a bit.
- I roast the cauliflower instead of steaming it as I think it gives it a great nutty flavour.
- I was tempted to add pancetta to this because, well, bacon, but I restrained myself. Next time I think I’ll add some bacon salt to the breadcrumbs on top.
- Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. Have a look here for more ideas on how to use it. There is no recipe for cauliflower rice there, I promise you.
- For another way to make Cauliflower Cheese have a look at this recipe from Tine at Home.
- 1 large cauliflower
- 50g of butter
- Salt and pepper
- 50g of butter
- 50g of plain flour
- 400ml of full fat milk
- 1 bay leaf
- ⅓ of a nutmeg, freshly grated
- A pinch of allspice
- A pinch of mustard powder
- 70g of blue cheese
- 70g of grated cheddar cheese
- 70g of grated parmesan cheese
- 25g of breadcrumbs (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 220c/200c fan/gas mark 7 and melt the first lot of butter in a pan.
- Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves and cut out the tough inner stalk. Break the remainder into large florets.
- Toss the florets in the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Remember that you will be adding salty cheese so don’t go too crazy.
- Transfer the buttery florets into a large pie dish and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the florets are tender. Then lower the oven temperature to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4.
- While the florets are roasting make your cheesy bechamel sauce.
- Melt the second 50g of butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and keep stirring until the flour has cooked into the butter and you have a smooth paste.
- Gradually add the milk to the butter and flour mix (called a roux) and keep stirring the whole time. Once one lot of milk has been incorporated into the sauce add some more and stir again. If the mixture becomes lumpy, take it off the heat and stir vigorously until it is smooth again before adding any more milk.
- Once all the milk has been added, you can add the bay leaf and spices to the sauce. Keep it simmering over a low-medium heat stirring occasionally until it has thickened. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce to make sure the flour has been cooked fully, you should not be able to taste it in the sauce.
- Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and add the three types of cheese. Stir well until all of the cheese has melted. Taste it now to see how much seasoning it needs.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked cauliflower and top with the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for about another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling. Allow it to stand for a few minutes before serving.