Thursday, 31 January 2013

Cauliflower Children

Cauliflower cheese is not entirely unlike Children.
  • It’s unhealthy
  • And time-consuming
  • And easy to cock up
  • Especially if you don’t give it your COMPLETE ATTENTION at all times
  • The mess is astonishing
  • At some point in the process you will swear Never Again.
  • You will also announce that it is Just Not Worth It

Unlike small people however, you soon realise that it is ALWAYS worth it - particularly when paired with a green salad or avocado (which is not something you’d automatically put on a plate with a child). 

I did try to minimise the mess-factor by using an oven-proof pan for the cheese sauce, but some dozy cow from the council called around just as I was mid-roux, and by the time I’d managed to shoo her away (“I’m making a ROUX!” I finally yelled – how mad must she have thought me?) and got back to the kitchen it HAD BURNT, so I had to start again from scratch, in a clean pan.  The final pan / implement count was:  three pans (cauliflower x 1, cheese sauce x 2), one colander (cauliflower), one jug (milk), one cheese grater (um, cheese), one food processor bowl and blade (bread-crumbs,) one chopping board (cauliflower and cheese), two knives, one wooden spoon, two regular spoons, and one server thingy.  And that’s before I served it up.  Which is ALOT of washing up for one dish.  (I daren’t leave it for the au pair – not least because she has a weekend in Sweden planned in June which she can’t miss...)

So, as with a third child, I have finally accepted that when it comes to making cauliflower cheese, you should never say never.

(Ps:  Rachel made cauliflower cheese recently, which I suddenly thought of when there was NOTHING in the fridge apart from a cauliflower, some milk, and – hurrah! - some cheese.  Her recipe is probably alot nicer than mine, however calls for the white sauce simmering for 20 minutes, which is just too long in this house. Once I start cooking, I want my food NOW, or as close to as possible. I also use more cheese, because, as with wine (for me) and Calpol (for them), more is more.)
Cauliflower Cheese

You need (for 4):
  • One large cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 600 ml milk (any type)
  • 150g grated cheese (ideally a mix of strong cheeses;  I used cheddar and parmesan in equalish measures)
  • Two heaped tablespoons butter
  • Two heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • A couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c / 170c fan / 375f

Cook the cauliflower florets in a pan of boiling water for about 5 minutes – until they’re softened but still have a bit of bite.  Drain and leave to one side.

To make the cheese sauce:

Heat the milk (in the microwave is easiest).  You want it just below boiling. 

Melt the butter in a deep pan.  When it starts to sizzle add the flour and mix well with the butter.  You’re aiming for a dry, chalky mixture, with no obvious melted butter visible, so if necessary, add a bit more flour to get this.  Stir over a medium heat until it starts to stick slightly to the pan.

Do NOT answer the door for ANYONE.

Stirring like a lunatic, pour in the heated milk a couple of splashes at a time; the first few splashes will sizzle and (seemingly) evaporate, and the mixture will resemble thick paste.  Keep adding the milk, a bit at a time, and stirring frantically, until the mix has the consistency of double cream. 

Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then remove from the heat. 

Add the cheese (keep back a small handful), and stir well to combine it. Taste, adding salt and pepper if needed.

(Alternatively, just buy a good ready-made béchamel sauce – about 750ml – heat through, and add grated cheese, to knock 20 minutes off your prep time, and hours off the cleaning up.)

Bung the cauliflower into the sauce, stir well to mix, then either keep in the pan – if it’s oven-proof – or slop into a separate oven-proof dish.  Either way, sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and the rest of the grated cheese, and dot some butter on top, then stick in the oven.

A scant 20 minutes later, you will have perfection in your kitchen.

Which is not something most parents can often honestly claim.


  1. Love your makes me laugh. I can think of most things I make that use up every utensil in the house. I come out of the kitchen looking like a demented mad professor with offerings, only to have my 11 yr old pull a face and say 'ugh..what's that?' x

  2. I LOVE cauliflower cheese, or indeed, anything covered with breadcrumbs and cheese. I always make masses of breadcrumbs at once and store them in a lunchbox in the freezer, because lugging the food processor in and out of the cupboard, not so much fun..

  3. Cauliflower cheese is my favourite such a comfort food but I never make it because the fat content scares me! My friend makes a delicious cauliflower soup which I think just involves cauliflower milk don't quote me on that i'd have to check that!

    1. I use skimmed milk in a vain attempt to convince self that it's healthy. I think a trick could be to use v string cheese, so you use less... I am something of a cheese addict however, so NEVER use less

    2. Strong. Not String. Cannot think of a single recipe which would benefit from the use of string cheese.

  4. Just a quick idea: if you use low fat spread, use 2 tbsp of that, 2 tbsp flour and 1/2 pint milk, put them all in the pan at once, turn on the heat and whisk it continually with a balloon whisk, it is lower fat and lump free. And less stress. But still...don't answer the door!

  5. I just want you to know that I picture you as the hot slutty bridesmaid in the "Horse Outside" video, now that I know you're Irish. That is all.

  6. In case that made no sense:

    1. So I was thinking of something witty to say in response to this, but having watched the video again, all I can think is -God, I wish.... Now it's closer to mrs Doyle from Father Ted. Without the rosary beads and the tea tray, obviously

  7. You can make breadcrumbs (adequate enough ones but not a grade panko quality) by grating a frozen slice of bread. Easy peasy and less cleaning.

    1. I never ever thought of that. Makes perfect sense tho. thanks.

  8. Make your cheese sauce in the microwave, woman! No burning, less stirring, easier washing up and way, way less time-consuming.

    Melt butter in microwaveable bowl. Add flour (roughly same amount of tablespoons as butter) and stir. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add some milk and stir. Microwave one minute. Add more milk, stir again (these are all easy stirs, no heavy duty whisking involved!). Microwave one minute (or less if you aren't making very much). Repeat until desired consistency. Add cheese, stir and microwave for the last time. Final stir and you're done.

    No pan watching so you can even answer the door...

    1. That's how my Mum makes it, and it's always delish. I find something quite relaxing about the traditional process - unless I'm interrupted, of course - but I'll try this next time. AND Attila's suggestion too.

  9. Locks door, starts to make cauli cheese.

    Thanks great recipe and fun read. Found you through Frugal Family in Fife.

    Nice blog!

    Off to subscribe

    1. Thank you Orkney, and welcome! It's lovely to cyber-meet you.

  10. i now turn off the heat once I've cooked the roux, then add the milk bit by bit and only turn the heat back on to thicken up/add cheese...stress level reduction = high - bicep workout =reduced...