Roast dinner stalwart, cauliflower cheese, is given a bit of a makeover, ratcheting up the richness with mustard and truffle oil, then covered with a crispy and crunchy topping of parmesan breadcrumbs and almonds. In a variation to most recipes, the cauliflower is given a quick, hard roast first, which concentrates the flavour and also reduces the amount of moisture that can leak out into the sauce, thereby reducing its cheesy intensity, which is never a good thing. This recipes will feed many, so cutting it down is fine.
5ltrs whole or semi skimmed milk
2 fresh bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium cauliflowers
Salt and pepper
120g unsalted butter
120g plain flour
170g strong cheddar cheese, grated
3tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
60g 22-month Parmigiano Reggiano, roughly grated
100g fresh breadcrumbs or 60g dried
60g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 225C fan / 235C non-fan. Place the milk, bay leaves and garlic into a pan and bring to the boil. Turn heat off and allow to infuse till ready to make the bechamel.
Trim the outer leaves from the cauliflower (keep the smaller, less stalky leaves to add into the mixture afterwards) then cut into large chunky florets, working from the core towards to the surface. Place these in a bowl and dress with the olive oil then season well with salt and pepper and mix to coat. Spread on a baking tray roast in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges have begun to colour, and the cauliflower has softened. Turn the oven down to 180C fan/ 200C non-fan.
When ready to start making the bechamel, you might need to warm the milk up again, so that it is hot to the touch. If so, keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat and when melted completely, add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Cook this out on a medium heat for about a minute then add about 200ml of milk and whisk. A thick stiff paste will form but keep adding the milk gradually, stirring constantly, until all of it has been incorporated. Removed the bay leaves if you wish. Keep the heat at a level so that bubbles gently rise to the top, but not boiling, whisking constantly for around 10 minutes. Its ready when you can no longer taste the flour and the bechamel is glossy and smooth.
Remove from the heat and add in the grated cheddar cheese, mustard and truffle oil and whisk to combine. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if necessary.
Add the cauliflower and retained leaves to the pan of bechamel and coat thoroughly. Pour into a deep oven proof dish and place into the oven for 20 minutes.
Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan and flaked almonds in a bowl. Remove the cauliflower cheese from the oven and cover with the breadcrumb mixture then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, or until nicely browned all over on the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.