Monday, 14 April 2014

Cauliflower Cheese - a great British classic

Cauliflower Cheese - a great British Classic

I don't think we Brits have a fantastic reputation when it comes to our culinary prowess. I seem to remember, not that long ago, a French president was allegedly overheard saying 'one cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad' - and he was talking about us! I don't know why he held this view - perhaps he'd had the misfortune to have a British school dinner at some point! But I don't agree that our cuisine is that bad. In fact it's really, really good! 

I originally wanted to use this post to share some of the food classics that we do very well in Blighty but when I started my list one particular item kept coming back to the top time and time again - cheese! 

Lots of countries across Europe have their own great cheeses such as Camembert from France, Feta from Greece, Mozarella from Italy...all delicious. But in Britain we have created some of the most fantastic cheeses of all - Stilton, Cheddar, Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Cheshire, Cotherstone, Stinking Bishop, Shropshire Blue and Sage Derby to name a few. There are so many that I couldn't list them all here - the British Cheese Board website claims that there are over 700 different varieties! 

So, I decided to share one recipe that is typically British and includes, in no small part, one of our best foodie offerings. Here it is! Cauliflower Cheese made with classic, mature Cheddar cheese. Delicious with a good dollop of English Mustard!

Cauliflower Cheese

cauliflower with cheese sauce
Cauliflower Cheese with a cheesy, rich cheese sauce

Notes: For me, cauliflower cheese is best when it's made with a strong mature Cheddar but any strong-tasting cheese would also work. A combination of Cheddar and Stilton is also fantastic. 
The servings from this dish will vary depending upon the size of the cauliflower. The one I used was quite small so would serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light lunch dish with some crusty bread. 
The cauliflower can be broken down into florets rather than kept whole - this is better for larger cauliflowers. Florets will need slightly less cooking time so it should be reduced to 5-10 minutes.

1 whole cauliflower
40g butter
40g plain flour
400ml milk
½ tsp English mustard 
100g strong, mature Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and white pepper to taste


1. Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and remove as much of the central stem as possible without allowing the florets to become detached.

making cheese sauce
Once the flour and  butter have been combined, the milk can be
added gradually...
2. Bring a pan of salted water, large enough to fit the cauliflower in it, to the boil and place the cauliflower in it. Boil for approximately 10-15 minutes, depending upon the size of the cauliflower. The cauliflower should be tender but not too soft. When cooked, remove from the pan and place in a colander to drain.

3. While the cauliflower is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Mix together and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Take the flour mixture off the heat and gradually stir the milk into the mixture bit by bit. After each addition of milk stir well to ensure the milk is combined and there are no lumps.

cheese sauce
...until it looks like this!
5. Once all the milk has been combined, put the pan back onto a low heat and, as the sauce heats it will begin to thicken. It is important to keep stirring continuously during this time, until the sauce has thickened, to prevent lumps from forming.

6. Once the sauce has thickened add the mustard and most of the cheese and continue to stir until the cheese has melted. Keep some cheese back for sprinkling over the top at the end.

7. Place the cauliflower in a heat-proof serving bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place under a preheated grill for a few minutes until the top is golden.

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