Cheese started being used as a vegetable topping waaaay back in the eighteenth century. In France they began by using it as a topping for Cardoons, which are a close relative of the artichoke, and called the dish "Chardons a la Fromage." It wasn't long before England started using the same idea, and began to top cauliflower with it.
I have to say, what a fabulous idea that was! Cauliflower Cheese is one of my most favouritest of all British dishes! In fact, I could very happily sit down to a plate full of Cauliflower Cheese and nothing else at all!!
Crispy tender Cauliflower florets, slathered in a lucious cheese sauce and cooked in a hot oven until browned and bubbly . . . mmmm . . . this has to be one of the best vegetable dishes going!
I think Cheddar is the best of all cheeses to use in the sauce, and specifically a good strong farmhouse cheddar . . . but you can, of course, use a variety of cheeses. Gruyere and Parmesan immediately spring to mind, used in equal quantities of course! You can even add a bit of stilton which is very yummy when mixed with the cheddar. It's a bit strong all on it's own though . . .
You can top this with buttered bread crumbs, for a buttery crunch!
Or you can simply top it with more cheese, for a lucious golden brown topping that is as rich and tempting as what lays beneath.
This is a tried and true favourite in this house.
An old British favourite. This dish makes a tasty side dish, light main course, or delicious alternative for a Vegetarian Sunday lunch.
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and divided into florets
salt and pepper
For the cheese sauce:
1 bay leaf
1 small onion, peeled
600ml of milk (2 cups)
1 ounce of butter (2 TBS)
1 ounce of plain flour (2TBS)
150ml of single cream (slightly more than half a cup)
1 tsp English mustard
6 to 7 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese
salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg
2 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese
First make the cheese sauce. Stud the bayleaf to the onion with the clove, pressing the clove through the bayleaf and into the onion. Place in a saucepan along with the milk and the cream. Warm the milk mixture slowly to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to infuse with the flavours of the studded onion for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, strain the onion out.
Melt the butter for the sauce in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook over low heat for several minutes. Whisk in the warm milk, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a smooth bechamel sauce. Add the onion again and allow to cook, over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. At the end of that time it should be lovely and thick and rich. Scoop out the onion and discard. Season to taste with some salt and pepper, the mustard, and some freshly grated nutmeg. Whisk in the cheese until it melts. Set aside and keep warm.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the cauliflower florets. Cook just until tender. This should only take a few minutes, leaving a slight bite. Drain off the water. Warm a knob of butter in a frying pan and add the florets. Roll without colouring in the butter and season with some salt and black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Spoon a little of the cheese sauce into an ovenproof dish. Arrange the cauliflower on top and pour the remaining cheese sauce over top to coat. Sprinkle with the 2 ounces of cheese. Place in the oven to melt and colour for 10 to 15 minutes. It should be nicely browned and bubbling. Enjoy!