Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cauliflower cheese with parmesan and almonds

They had some really nice cauliflowers in the greengrocer the other day which prompted me to make this cauliflower cheese with a twist. My husband isn’t mad about cooked cheese anyway so I decided to cut the amount of cheese and top it with flaked almonds which I reckoned would go well with cauliflower. (They really do). I think some chopped ham would be nice too if you want to make it more substantial.

The main thing is to use a strong, dryish cheese so you don’t have to use too much and can keep the flavour and texture light. I used some mature Old Winchester which I happened to have after a cheese festival but you’re probably more likely to have parmesan which would be fine. (Frugal cooking is, of course, about using what's in the fridge.)

Serves 2-3 as a supper dish, 4-6 as a vegetable

1 medium-sized cauliflower
30g butter
25g plain flour
350-400ml semi-skimmed milk
25-30g mature Pamesan or Grana Padano or 50g strong hard cheese like Old Winchester, Comté or Cheddar, grated
2 tbsp light cooking oil
50g flaked almonds
Salt and white pepper

Cut the outside leaves off the cauliflower but keep any tender, inner leaves. Cut the florets off the stalk and divide them into even sized clusters. Steam or boil the florets and inner leaves until just tender (about 6-7 minutes), drain and tip into a shallow buttered baking dish.

Melt the butter gently in a small non-stick saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a low heat for about 30 seconds. Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the milk bit by bit, stirring between each addition. When you’ve added half the milk you can pour most of the rest of the milk in one go, holding back a little to see if you need it.

Bring the sauce to the boil, turn the heat right down and simmer for 5 minutes until thick and smooth. Take off the heat and add most of the cheese. You should be able to taste the cheese but it shouldn’t be overwhelmingly cheesy. Add more if you like then season with salt and white pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thick add the remaining milk or a couple of spoonfuls of the water you’ve used for cooking the cauliflower. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower florets.

Preheat the grill to a medium setting. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the flaked almonds over a low to moderate heat until they begin to colour then sprinkle them over the cauliflower. Place the dish under the grill (not too near the heat) until the almonds are light brown and the sauce starts to bubble.

Do you have any favourite additions to cauliflower cheese or do you prefer the classic version?

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