Yo ok so winter has FINALLY arrived in Melbourne and it is not holding back. Wind is icy. Floors are unstandonable. I wore two scarves today, and the chickens are wondering what fresh hell we’ve unleashed on them.
That’s probably not true they don’t care a whisker (feather?) but the resident animal rights activist likes to declare “how would you feel if you were so small and had to sleep outside in the winter cold?” and I do wonder/worry but they seem fine.
Anyway enough about those divas, we’re here for cauliflower. And cheese.
A favourite of mine since childhood, I don’t often make it because it takes TWO POTS and dammit I’m not Martha Stewart. Actually, I am, but I lack her staff and therefore stick to one pot situations as much as possible.
But it is a labour of love and it is so worth it when I do indulge.
One thing I will request, please, is that you don’t forget the bay leaf. It is such a simple combo of flavours (milk, cheese, cauliflower), that the bay lends a little something that it really needs.
I recently had a discussion with my foodie brother about the presence of nutmeg in the bechamel, and my answer to that really depends on what kind of mood I’m in on the day. It can overpower, and I’m about the the 7 billionth in the 744 billion people of the world’s list of folks who like nutmeg. I’ve tried. I’m just… non-committal.
One thing I do occasionally that differs from my mother’s recipe (not sure if she used bay but let’s go with it) is the addition of mustard. Sometimes a little dijon sneaks in. Not so much that it tastes like cauliflower and mustard cheese, but you know… enough.
My Favourite Cauliflower Cheese Recipe
Ok so I par-boil or steam the cauliflower for about 5 minutes. It will keep cooking in the oven and you can probably do without it but your resulting dish will be much waterier. More watery. Whatever.
Preheat your oven to 200C.
I mainly work on about a cup or a cup and a half of bechamel for a family of 4 with a scoop or so of leftovers for the next day. That’s a heaped tablespoon each of butter and plain flour, cooked in a medium saucepan for a minute or so. A cup to a cup and a half of milk added, bay leaf, pinch of mustard, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat (pretty constantly) until sauce boils and thickens. Take off the heat (I REPEAT, TAKE OFF THE HEAT!) and add your favoured cheese. I like a strong one, a parmesan style situation, a vintage cheddar, a gruyere, whatever you have that packs a punch.
Drain the cauliflower fully and put in a baking dish in a single layer.
Pour your cheese sauce over.
Sprinkle with a bit of extra cheese, maybe some breadcrumbs dotted with butter if you’re really feeling it.
Bake 15-20 minutes until golden, bubbling and cooked through.