Béchamel cauliflower cheese

 

Cauliflower cheese, a British staple, a dish steeped with tradition while also being the vegetable dish that has taken on many a 60-minute makeover. When all else fails, just make cauliflower cheese. Bad day at work? Cauliflower cheese. Limited time? Cauliflower cheese. Searching and longing for a dish of pure comfort and indulgence? Cauliflower cheese.

Cauliflower cheese will most certainly cover all food bases. Now, my version is changeable, from a combination of different vegetables to added red onion, the cauliflower leaves that seem to be always wasted and a variety of odd cheeses. The changes come about depending on what’s to hand. If I have a sad looking, half head of broccoli then I’ll add that to the mix. Sometimes my daughter will use a tiny section of a large onion so inevitably the onion will unintentionally stink out my fridge, so that will go in as do many other random fridge finds. A real concoction always awaits.

Cheese is the main change I make. I am, as my husband says a cheese monster, I have a shelf in the fridge dedicated to my love of this dairy. I just love the stuff. My Christmas cauliflower cheese must be the most eclectic variety yet, because of the huge and somewhat strange varieties of cheeses that lurk in unnamed packets within my huge Tardis fridge. From Gorgonzola to Parmigiano Reggiano, provolone piccanto, taleggio, cheddar, red Leicester, brie and even dairylea spread!  I tend to monitor the amount of salt that needs to be added when making cauliflower cheese as when blending a selection of cheeses, the final sodium content can be quite high. Taste and season as you go.

This isn’t really a recipe, its more of a guide for you. I make a bechamel sauce then season and add cheese as required, cheese will thicken the already thick sauce so sometimes you may need to add a little more milk to loosen it. So, here’s my rough guide. What I will say though, is to make double the amount as you will not want to put your fork down and like everything, leftovers as always best!

 

Pimped up béchamel cauliflower cheese

1 large head cauliflower

1 small red onion

1 litre milk

100g butter

100g 00 flour

Salt & pepper, to taste

Nutmeg, as required

Handful or two of grated cheddar

Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano

  • Cut the cauliflower into florets
  • Boil the florets for 10 minutes in salted boiling water, then drain until required.
  • Finely chop up the cauliflower leaves.
  • Peel and slice the onion. Combine the onion with the cauliflower leaves and place then in the base of the bakeware dish.
  • Warm the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat.
  • Make a roux. Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the flour and whisk well, ensuring the flour has been cooked out and the roux has changed to an almost golden colour.
  • Slowly add the warm milk to the roux pan and whisk, this will eliminate any lumps.
  • Continue to whisk until the bechamel has thickened, you are looking for a thick custard.
  • Season, add the cheese and stir. Taste for additional seasoning, personal taste and preference will always vary.
  • Add the cauliflower floret to the bakeware dish.
  • Cover with the cheese sauce.
  • Add an additional scattering of grated cheddar cheese and bake at 180C (fan-assisted) for 40 minutes of until golden and bubbling like Mount Vesuvius.