Cauliflower Cheese with a twist
It's Jonathan's birthday and a happy birthday to him too! There are many dishes that are a favourite of his but this year he requested Gary's cauliflower cheese. In all honesty, I am not sure if this is a Gary recipe, or if I have stolen it from my friend Pam. Saying that, we may have come up with the idea together. At one point when we shared a house together, we would cook roast dinners nearly ever week. Such fun!
This dish to be a tasty addition to a massive roast and can be made in advance. You might also want to indulge yourself, by curling up or snuggling with a big bowl of what's to follow!
Cauliflower cheese with a twist!
This is pretty easy. The only complicated part is the white sauce, which is started with a roux (more about that later).
You will need 1 x large cauliflower 1 x pack of lardons (happy birthday, Jonathan!) or bacon bits chopped up.
2 cloves of garlic
50gm plain flour - or a massive table spoon, heaped like the Himalayas.
A pint of milk - always have plenty at hand though just in case the sauce it too thick.
lots of cheeses - as strong as you can handle and as many different types you like.
Two slices of bread - blitzed to breadcrumbs
Tomatoes to top - optional but it does give a classic 1970's feel. Yeah baby!
As always, pop the oven on to 180°c, this allows you to get a nice crispy topping.
Chop up the cauliflower into florets. You want them to be nice hunks of cauliflower, not little bitty ones. When your guests eat, you want them to have to cut into the floret at least once but no more than twice! You will understand when you make it. Pop the cauliflower florets on to boil. You want them to be just nearly cooked but not quite. The best way is to steam them. It keeps the flavour and vitamins .
Fry the bacon until it is cooked, then add the garlic - this is the little naughty niceness that lays on the bottom!
Now, to the roux. Firstly, don't panic, stay calm it's only a white sauce. You need to remember that flour and water (or milk) make glupe! The secret to combine the two is fat. Heat your butter on a gentle heat and mix in the flour. Keep mixing until it all comes together (it may look a little like putty, this is good). You have just made a roux. Now it's time for a little patience and nerves of steel. Slowly pour the milk into the roux. you need to do this slowly. little by little. You will find the mix loosens then thickens, loosens then thickens. If you add all the milk at once you will have lumps. Never panic... if you do add too much milk keep mixing until the mixture thickens, then beat it like you hate it! Beat those lumps out and then add a wee bit more milk. Half way through adding the milk, pop your bay leaf in.... but NOT THE CHEESE.
So, you now have a white sauce and your cauliflower should be just under cooked. It's time to add the flavour to the white sauce. I love strong, mature and smelly cheese. This is totally down to your own taste and up to you! You must, must, must add the cheese with the heat off. I am really not sure why, but I have never dared to contradict my home economics teachers (Mrs Brown, Mrs McMillian from Belmont Academy!).
Now for the easy bit: Add the bacon and garlic to the bottom of your dish. Assemble the cauliflower on top.
Now pour the cheese sauce over and make sure you cover the lot. Sprinkle the bread crumbs onto and a little Parmesan on top. As I said above I like to top the Cauliflower cheese with tomatoes before popping it in the oven. The tomatoes not only look quite retro but they also add a lovely sharpness to this dish.
This dish is not for the weak of heart and if you are on a calorie controlled diet I would be very wary. Otherwise, enjoy and happy experimenting.