Monday, October 1, 2012

The collapse of the Cauliflower

Cauliflower has lots its mojo, that certain je ne sais quoi that it had in the 1970's when it reached its pinnacle and cauliflower cheese was, without doubt, a name that was on everyone’s lips, literally.

However, according to recent research, nearly half of households in Blighty didn't buy one single fat cauliflower last year. This humble English vegetable has become, quite frankly, antiquated and definitely unsexy. 

But the fantastic news is: children love cauliflower cheese! This simple dish is easy to whip up on a busy school night and serve to the starving hordes after they arrive home, exhausted and ravenous from school.

Finding simple, healthy and quick recipes for your children everyday is a laborious never-ending mission that cannot always be achieved.  I am not of the school where you should cook bland food for your offspring and a different meal for the adults. Who can be bothered with that everyday?

Knocking out a good, simple feast at the drop of a hat can sometimes seem mind-bendingly impossible but cauliflower cheese manages to achieve this job admirably.

Creamy, filling, fantastic value, healthy, vegetarian and topped with crispy olive oil drenched breadcrumbs, cauliflower cheese ticks all the right boxes. Serve it straight from the oven with a heap of hot, sweet buttered petit-pois or a pile of crunchy, fresh salad leaves adorned with a singing French dressing is, quite frankly, very sexy, very delicious and healthy to boot.

Cauliflower Cheese

One gorgeous fat English cauliflower!
(You can use any other vegetables for this dish – Broccoli, leeks, courgettes etc. Or a mixture of them.)
A pint of organic full-fat Milk
A knob of butter
A tablespoon of organic plain flour
A good grated plateful of mature cheddar
A pinch of English mustard powder or a half a teaspoon of any other mustard I recommend Dijon whole-grain
Salt & Pepper


Turn your oven on to 190.

Put some water in a deep saucepan bring to a simmer – drop in the cauliflower florets and any other vegetables your using. Simmer until the cauliflower is just tender – about ten minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. When its melted whisk in the flour – to make a roux – it will seem lumpy – do not fear. Put the pan back on a low heat and slowly add the milk whisking furiously each time. Eventually you will have a beautiful béchamel sauce.

Keep the béchamel on a low heat and add the cheese, the pinch of mustard and a good grinding of pepper and salt, stirring gently to allow the cheese to melt.

Place your vegetables in a baking dish and smother with the rich sauce.

Rub two slices of day-old wholemeal bread between your hands to make some breadcrumbs – sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cheese sauce. Liberally drizzle olive oil over the breadcrumbs and push the dish into the hot oven.

Leave the dish in the oven for about 30 minutes it will bubble and the crumbs will toast to a rich golden and give the dish a crunchy unctuousness.

Et Voila! Serve with hot buttered petit pois or a crunchy green salad.

As seen on Crumbs.

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