Homemade Cauliflower Cheese has to be right up there on the list of all time comfort foods. Am I right? Because this is such an easy dish to prepare it makes it even more comforting. Rather than stressing in the kitchen using a gazillion ingredients with a complex recipe, you can relax while slowly steaming cauliflower and stirring the cheese sauce. Resulting in a dish that is as good on it’s own or as a side dish.
Fresh, creamy white florets of seasonal cauliflower, lightly steamed and smothered in a thick, nutmeg scented, cheese sauce. And like a fluffy duvet, or wood burning fire, it wraps you in its warm embrace and brings you home.
Friends and family recall that Homemade Cauliflower Cheese reminds them of comfort food from their childhood. Perhaps back to a time when life seemed simpler? And while it isn’t something I make, or eat that often, when the gooey cheese sauce spreads slowly over my plate I am in comfort food heaven.
The World Has Gone Crazy For Cauliflower
Since the humble cauliflower has been discovered as a carbohydrate substitute it is now used as a replacement for rice, pizza base, potato salad and other culinary substitutes. A quick look on Pinterest yields a variety of recipes. My Homemade Cauliflower Cheese recipe celebrates the humble cauliflower rather than trying to disguise it!
Tender, baked cauliflower, covered in a homemade cheese sauce, is for me one of the best ways to eat this delicious vegetable. While part of the brassica family, where cabbages, broccoli and brussel sprouts are its cousins, cauliflower has a slightly sweet flavour, not dissimilar to the thick leaves of white cabbage. And, cooked properly its texture is dense and meaty, making it a filling vegetarian dish when serving on its own.
I enjoy eating Homemade Cauliflower Cheese with a roast dinner, or sausage and mash. While the bubbling cheese sauce goes so well with proper gravy dinners, it is also unbelievably good with Yorkshire puddings. Likewise, it pairs extremely well when served alongside thick slices of home cooked gammon.
Recipe: Homemade Cauliflower Cheese serves 4-6 as a side dish
1 large head of Cauliflower or 2 smaller ones
75g/3oz Unsalted Butter
75g/3oz Plain White Flour
150g/5.5oz Mature Cheddar Cheese – grated – hold back 2 tablespoons from adding to the sauce, for sprinkling over the assembled dish – I use Wyke Farms
500ml Milk Whole or Semi Skimmed
1/4tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg – I buy Barts whole nutmegs and grate them myself on the coarse side of a box grater. Freshly grated nutmeg lifts the cheese sauce, subtly adding another level of flavour.
1/2tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Making The Cheese Sauce
- First of all place the butter into a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt over a medium heat.
- Add in all the flour, stir for a couple of minutes so that the flour and butter become a bubbling paste (roux).
- Pour in roughly 100ml of the milk and stir vigorously. The flour, butter and milk will come together to form a thick clump.
- Add another 100mls of milk and keep stirring until all the milk is incorporated.
- Continue as before, adding the milk in 100ml quantities, stirring thoroughly. If you are worried that some lumps will not disappear simple switch to a balloon whisk.
- After adding all the milk, you will have a smooth, thick-ish white sauce.
- Add the pepper and nutmeg to the bechemel (white sauce) and stir thoroughly. I generally don’t add salt as the cheese tends to lend its saltiness to the final flavour, however, a quick taste check once the cheese has melted will allow you to adjust the seasonings.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and tip in the grated cheese. Stir until it is melted and you have a smooth cheese sauce.
Preparing The Cauliflower And Assembling The Dish For Baking
- Prepare the cauliflower by cutting off most of the green leaves, breaking into florets, rinsing under a tap a and then steaming for no longer than 5 minutes.
- Place the steamed cauliflower florets into an oven proof dish and pour over the cheese sauce.
- Sprinkle over the reserved cheese, this gives the topping extra colour and gooey cheese!
- When making ahead, allow to cool, cover in tented foil, so that the topping doesn’t stick to it. The dish can be left on the side for a couple of hours. Alternatively place in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 2 days.
- Bake the Homemade Cauliflower Cheese in an oven, preheated to 200C/180C fan, gas mark 6, 400F, for 30-40 minutes. When the top is golden and bubbling and a fork can pierce the base of a cauliflower floret the dish is baked.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and serve.
Homemade Cauliflower Cheese also goes well with fish dishes, such as smoked haddock, or any firm, white fish, especially when served with mashed potatoes!
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As the nights draw in, I find comfort in warming, hearty food. That isn’t to say I don’t believe in balance, I absolutely do. So, on a day when we indulge in Homemade Cauliflower Cheese, we wouldn’t have dessert. That said we rarely do eat pudding, except perhaps on a Sunday, something I am working on! When it’s hot in the summer, my body craves salads and cold food. Yet as soon as the annual September chill hits the air I long for warming meals like Steak Leek and Ale Pie or Chunky Chilli.
So, whatever you are making, baking and creating in the kitchen, enjoy preparing and sharing your feast.
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