Back in Poland I used to live with my great friend Joanna and one of our favourite meals, especially in the summer, was boiled cauliflower covered in butter-fried breadcrumbs. Firstly, it is a super cheap dish, and this counted for 2 poor students, and secondly we both loved it!
After 5 years of living together, I’ve decided to move to the UK and one day discovered the Cauliflower Cheese. I loved the simplicity of the cauliflower and cheese flavours together and ate the whole bowl of it in minutes. Although it had cheesy sauce all over it, for a moment it brought back the memories of many evenings we spent with my Joanna chatting and laughing over the steaming hot cauliflower. It is strange what memories we keep and cherish and the ways they come back to us. That was the first day I felt like home with Joanna again since leaving for the big wide world.
Cauliflower Cheese is a British, and as I got to learn later, very much loved dish! Chris says that you just can’t go wrong with Cauliflower Cheese whether it is served as a main course or a side dish. This very casual and simple recipe easily becomes a wonderful accompaniment for the traditional Sunday roast. Kids love it too (must be the cheese! :)). It can have many variations and be easily adapted to pallets of even the fussiest eaters. No surprise, I like mine with some extra garlic!
The Cauliflower Cheese can be filling, especially if you use a very fat cheese in your sauce.
I like to mix cheddar with lighter cheeses and for the real cheesy kick in my Cauliflower Cheese I add a bit of a blue cheese (if Chris hasn’t finished it with the biscuits by then).
I prefer the traditional white cauliflower, but this time I could only buy the green version – broccoflower (green cauliflower) – in my local supermarket. It tastes very similar though.
The Parmesan over breadcrumbs sprinkled on the top of the cauliflower florets in the béchamel will add a lovely, thin and crispy skin (especially if you switch the grill/broil in the last minutes of baking).
- 800 g of cauliflower florets
- 1 tbsp. of salt
- 1 tbsp. of sugar
- 3 tbsp. of Parmesan
- 4 tbsp. of breadcrumbs
- 300 g of strong cheese cheddar or similar
- 600 ml milk
- 70 g salted butter
- 4 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp. of finely chopped red onion
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp of freshly ground pepper
- Optional: Handful of thinly sliced and fried bacon (optional) or mushrooms, parsley… or whatever you wish to garnish it with.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Cover the cauliflower florets with water in a pan, add salt and sugar, and bring up to boil. The florets will start becoming soft within 7 minutes. (It is easy to overcook the cauliflower and you don’t want to do that. Keep an eye on it and make sure they don’t become too soft! Otherwise, your cauliflower will become a messy-mush and dissolve in the sauce.) Drain the water and set the florets aside.
- In a small pan slowly heat the milk with bay leave, nutmeg and pepper, you don’t have to bring it to the boil though.
- In a separate pan slowly fry onion in the butter, and when the onion turns nice and soft add the minced garlic. Enjoy garlic’s slowly released aroma in the butter for about a minute (do not let the garlic turn brown!).
- Whisk the flour into the butter and let it bubble for 3-4 minutes. Slowly, and not all in one go, pour the milk into the flower and butter mixture; keep whisking vigorously all the way until the whole milk has been used and let it combine completely creating creamy sauce. Here is your béchamel ready!
- Mix the grated (or crumbled) cheeses to the béchamel until the sauce is nice and smooth. (You can add your optional, precooked if necessary, ingredients to the sauce before adjusting the seasoning. Bacon can be quite salty, so you don’t want to ruin your sauce with too much salt!)
- Place the partly cooked cauliflower florets in the ovenproof dish, pour the sauce over, sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan over and bake for 35 minutes.
- The top of your Cauliflower Cheese with Garlic should be nice and browned, but if you wish to crisp it up even more turn the grill or broil option for the last minutes of baking. Dress the dish as desired and serve hot.