Classic Cauliflower Cheese

No, I’m not holding out on you, I promise.  I wanted to wait and buy the loveliest fresh Cauli and Eggplant at the markets on Saturday. Here’s MFK favourite Veggie Dish No.2. I’m sure many of you already make a classic Cauliflower Cheese at home. But for those who haven’t tried or would like new inspiration, here’s my very old recipe. Adapted and converted to metric from “The Schauer Australian Cookery Book” and my Granny.

This lovely foundation white sauce is so versatile; to top your cauliflower, for covering seafood for a luscious crab mornay and also a great potato bake.  Makes a terrific celery sauce, onion sauce, parsley or asparagus white sauce too, with just one of those ingredients added to this recipe. I also use it as my bechamel sauce layer for lasagne - with finely chopped onion and carrot, a bay leaf and a sprig of parsley.

Ingredients -  1 medium cauliflower  ❤ 50 grams butter (2 heaped tablespoons) ❤ 50 grams plain flour (3 tablespoons) ❤ good pinch of salt ❤ pinch of nutmeg ❤ cracked pepper & pinch of cayenne ❤ 600ml milk / at least 1 pint ❤ ½ cup cheddar or tasty cheese, grated plus extra for sprinkling on top ❤ squeeze of lemon juice (Serves 6 as a side dish)

Method + Tips - Grate cheese. Prepare cauliflower by removing outer leaves, cutting into large florets and washing well.  Steam cauliflower in a pot of boiling water for approximately 10 minutes or until just cooked. Strain and arrange in a large baking dish in one layer and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to hot 220°C (425°F). 

To make the white sauce.  Melt butter over low heat in a small non-stick saucepan. Remove from stove and mix in flour, stirring well with a wooden spoon to combine until smooth. Add the salt, cayenne and nutmeg pinch and return pan to stovetop. Begin adding cold milk very gradually, stirring the entire time until mixture comes to the boil.  Simmer very gently for a couple of minutes, stirring as needed. Don’t walk away!  Your white sauce needs you.

Add the grated cheese and stir in well. Remove from heat as soon as the sauce is thick and smooth and before it starts catching on the bottom of the pan. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a little more salt to taste if necessary.

Pour the white sauce over the cauliflower to cover florets completely. Sprinkle with extra grated cheese and cracked black pepper.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until white sauce starts to turn golden brown on top.  Pop under the griller for a minute or two if necessary (but be careful - no longer or it will burn!)

Tips: Add a pinch of Cream of Tartar to your cauliflower when steaming it - this retains its pure white colour. Qualities of a great white sauce; smooth, clean white colour, rich flavour,  lump free and thoroughly cooked starch in the flour. To achieve this, always use a small saucepan and a wooden spoon to stir. Get your whisk out if it happens to go lumpy and whisk like crazy if necessary to remove any lumps.  Always remove the pan from the heat when adding in the flour. Flour and direct heat aren’t friends.  Ever tried to wash a floury dish with hot water? Always use cold with flour. Add the milk gradually to ensure a smooth creamy sauce,  never all at once and stay with it.  White sauce shouldn't boil after adding the cheese or any other ingredient after which the sauce is named.