A good cauliflower cheese is a recipe really worth having in your repertoire. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like cauliflower cheese – adult or child – and it’s one of those special, simple and frugal recipes that really makes a fantastic meal on its own or plays an important role in something more special.
Paired with a punchily dressed green salad, it’s a perfect weekday supper, and on the side with roast meat, perhaps beef, lamb, chicken or even cooked ham, it is a very special accompaniment.
This recipe is totally foolproof and one I hope you will use time and time again, as I do. Bacon makes a nice addition – I like smoked back bacon here as the smoky flavour works well, and the fattiness of streaky is too greasy. Feel free to mix and match the cheeses, depending on what you have in. The cheese needs to be firm and full flavoured, and I would recommend Cheddar, Gruyère, Lincolnshire Poacher, Berkswell and Parmesan, although I’d only use about 25% Parmesan.
The breadcrumbs on top should be fresh, not dried, and I make mine with stale crusts of good, artisan bread in the food processor. If you don’t have any, just leave them off. And of course, you could make this with half broccoli, half cauliflower. It’s totally up to you.
As ever, I really hope you like this recipe, and do, please let me know if you make it. I am on Twitter as @charlotte_pike_ and Instagram as @charlottepikefood
- 2 small or medium sized cauliflowers, leaves removed and cut into florets
- 6 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into 1cm strips (optional)
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 600ml whole milk
- Sea salt and pepper
- 1tsp Dijon mustard
- 300g grated cheese – I use either all mature Cheddar or half Cheddar, half Gruyère
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas Mark 4. Set aside a large ovenproof dish.
- Start by boiling or steaming the cauliflower until it is just slightly tender. Don’t cook it more than this, or it will collapse into a mush when baked. Drain well once cooked and set aside.
- Meanwhile, fry the bacon, if you are using it. Fry it separately in a pan, adding a few drops of olive oil if needed. Fry until golden brown and set aside.
- Next, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Once it is fully melted, add the plain flour and beat in using a wooden spoon to form a thick paste. Now, pour in the milk, a little at a time, keeping the pan over a moderate heat so it doesn’t burn. Beat well after each addition, only adding more milk when you have fully mixed in the last lot. After a couple of additions of milk, transfer to a whisk to mix, to ensure any lumps are beaten out.
- When all the milk has been added, ensure the mixture is whisked until smooth. Then, cook over a moderate heat, stirring continuously until the mixture bubbles, to ensure the flour is cooked.
- Now, season well with sea salt, pepper and mustard. Taste to check the seasoning. I like to be generous with the pepper. Now, add around 2/3 of the cheese and whisk in until it is melted.
- Place the cooked cauliflower in the baking dish with the bacon, if you are using it. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, followed by the breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the dish is golden brown.
- Serve hot either on its own with a green sauce on the side, or as a side dish, maybe to accompany some roast meat.
- This cauliflower cheese will freeze well and can be reheated if you have any leftover. It’ll keep for around 3 days in the fridge.