My friend Paula is responsible for me making a full Christmas dinner in September. It’s her fault. She made a stuffed turkey the week before and I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, I set about making stuffed turkey breast, slow cooked cider ham, roast potatoes, stuffing, homespun gravy and my favourite – cauliflower cheese. It’s my favourite accompaniment, albeit not the most traditional one.
It’s great to feed a hoard of hungry hounds, perfect for advance cooking and simple, yet crowd-pleasing.
Its creaminess and cheesiness is offset perfectly with the salty ham, but to be fair, it’s good to accompany any meat dish, or veggie dish or to eat all on its own, or to bathe in………erm, no just to eat.
I make this with my eyes closed – I mean, not literally, that would be weird – I make it without any recipe, I judge the quantities my memory and feel and it always comes out well. But for the purposes of blogging, that’s not really gonna cut it, is it? So, I decided to actually weigh My ingredients this time, and chart out how I make my cheese sauce.
Knowing how to make a white or cheese sauce is a great addition to your cooking prowess and opens up a world of other dishes – lasagne (my death row meal), fish pie, chicken and ham pie, mac and cheese and a plethora of sauces.
There are a number of ways to make a cheese sauce. The easiest – open a packet – nothing wrong with this if you’re short on time, and motivation. Another way is Delia Smith’s all in one recipe, where everything is bucked in the pot and brought to the boil. My mamma uses this recipe and swears by it. The method I lean towards is the roux method – where you make a butter and flour roux, slowly add the milk and remaining ingredients and then bring to a boil…..now that I write this out, it does seem like a faff, why don’t I use methods one or two?? I dunno, habit I guess.
Although I’ve kept this simple, you could add to the sauce – paprika, bacon bits, spring onions, chorizo………..your life – your cauli cheese……
Whatever method you choose, be sure to add cheese, lots of cheese and make sure it’s good and strong. No mild cheddar – we go full on mature, full on flavour, full on goodness…..mmmm…..cheese…….
This makes a large quantity, enough for two dishes full, so feel free to halve the recipe. I just froze my extra batch.
2 heads of cauliflower, leaves removed and florets separated
75g salted butter
75 g plain flour
1ltr semi-skimmed milk
300g cheese – I used a mix of mature and parmesan, but anything good and strong
Lots of salt and pepper
1. Pre heat your oven to 180c/160c fan. Boil your cauliflower florets super quick in a large saucepan – like 5 mins, just to take the crunchiness out of them. Drain them well and place into an ovenproof dish.
2. Place the butter into the same large saucepan and melt it on a medium heat. Once melted, tip in the flour and stir together.Once it all comes together, let it cook out for about a minute, just to take away the floury flavour. This is your roux.
3. Time to add the milk – this is where things can get tricky. You’ve GOT to be patient at the start – adding it slowly, one splosh at a time. Otherwise it can be a lumpy bugger and takes a lot of whisking to rectify.
4. So using a wooden spoon, mix in a little milk, stirring as you go. The roux will soak up the milk pretty quickly.
5. Once the milk is gone, add a little more. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the mix starts to loosen a little and starts to resemble a very thick sauce. This is when you can start to be daring and add in more milk at a time.
Here is my process
6. Add in your milk till it’s all gone and let the sauce come to a light boil. Stir in 250g of the cheese, the mustard and salt and pepper.
7. Let it come to the boil again and simmer it for a couple of minutes. Once it’s simmering, you can judge if it’s too thick, thin or just right.
8. Pour the velvety, creamy sauce over your caulifower florets, top with the remaining cheese, whack in the oven and cook for 30-40 mins, until golden on top.