Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Cauliflower Cheese

I love cauliflower cheese but I haven't made it for years. My man told me once, early on in the time I have known him, that he didn't eat it so it simply dropped from my repertoire. It's not really a dish to make for one. On Saturday at Borough I bought a cauliflower with the idea of roasting it with chilli and spices to go with tandoori chicken.

The Ginger Pig have introduced a new chicken - quite big birds from a traditional French variety - and I bought one to try. Because it is new I felt that I wanted to cook it more simply than tandoori as a means of determining its flavour and texture more accurately. Stuffed with barley and herbs and roasted seemed best. And then I really wanted cauliflower cheese because to me it is one of the all time perfect accompaniments to roast chicken. Something about the slight nuttiness of the vegetable matches the luxury of cheese sauce. As a pairing with roast chicken it is close to perfect. Having spent £14 just for the bird I wanted to create a magnificent spread to surround it. So I asked the man if he was quite certain he detested cauliflower cheese. He thought for a moment then declared he'd probably like it if I made it but he loathed the stuff he was served up at school. Result.

Cauliflowers are a really attractive vegetable with their curly knitted curds poking creamily from the clasp of green leaves. They are waning in popularity which is a shame - they make great soups and curries as well as give great texture raw in salads and with dips. This recipe is quick and easy to make and a joy to eat. Especially with roast chicken.

Cauliflower Cheese
1 cauliflower, with tight creamy curls
2 tbspn butter
1 tbspn plain flour
500 -750 ml milk, whole is best but semi skimmed is also successful - I've been known to use cream but mostly in winter
150g well flavoured cheddar, grated
1/2 tspn ground cummin
1/2 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1tbspn fresh breadcrumbs

Cut the cauliflower into evenly sized florets and cook in salted water till just tender - about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter over a gentle heat in heavy based pan and add the flour. Mix the flour smoothly with the melted butter and cook till it is a pale biscuity colour - you don't want the flour to be raw. Gradually add the milk, stirring to incorporate it with the roux. Keep adding more milk till you reach a slightly runny consistency then increase the heat and add the cheese. Stir briskly till it melts and the sauce thickens. Add the ground spices, check and add salt and pepper as needed.

Put the cauliflower into a casserole dish, pour over the cheese sauce, then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and dot with a little butter. Cook in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

The man is now a fan.


Kiriel du Papillon said...

Cauliflower cheese is one of those all time favourite comfort foods for me. I don't often think to make it, but when I do, I just can't stop eating it.

I like the sound of the cumin... to add a slightly indian feel I guess. I don't top with breadcrumbs myself, just another good grate of cheese. mmmmm now I have cravings!

bron said...

the cumin is just a subtle little note - must admit making this Sunday made me realise how much I've missed! Discovered it's quite nice cold - room temp, rather than fridge cold...

Anonymous said...

Mmm - I love cauliflower cheese. I tend to add English mustard rather than cumin, but it definitely needs something to pep it up!
Sadly my OH doesn't eat it so it's a treat for when he is away..

bron said...

kitchen girl may well be worth checking that your OH's aversion is not school dinner related...