Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Cauliflower Surprise

This is a childhood favourite of mine, its a variation of the classic cauliflower cheese. Its such an easy recipe, that's a stick to your ribs winter comfort dinner. When I was a child the surprise was always what else was in there - I think my mum used what ever she could afford really. I put ham or bacon in it but you can leave it out if you are vegetarian.

This is an oven baked dish, but I'm sure would work just as well in the slow cooker - you would need to steam the cauliflower first as you leave it in big chunks. Its a very versatile dish, can be served with macaroni, mash or on its own with some steamed cabbage Nom Nom.

Other than the claulli you can pretty much add what ever veg you like or have, the original recipe has tomatoes in it, but i don't like the combination of creamy cheese sauce and tomatoes.
If you cant have a cheese sauce or don't like it then a spicy tomato sauce works very well for this too.

Spoon usage  3
Skill - some skill
cost - £3.50
serves 4 ( use a small cauliflower and halve the rest of the ingredients for a smaller portion)

1 medium - large cauliflower
1 medium onion or 1 leek
1 small courgette
1 red pepper (or any colour you have)
*hand full of peas (optional)
*hand full of sweetcorn  (optional)
*100G smoked bacon or ham (leave out for vegetarian version)
1 pint of milk
100G hard cheese
2 tble oil
3 heaped tbl flour
2 tps Paprika

remove outer green leaves but don't throw them away- cut into 4 pieces, dont cut away the thick white stem you want the florets whole.
chop the onion - roughly chop
slice the courgette - good size chunks
slice the pepper - roughly chop
cut the bacon into lardons (small pieces) or shred the ham into bite size pieces

1. part cook the cauliflower - steam for 15 mins simmer for 10 (you just want to start the process off don't over cook - you want the florets to still be firm)

2. Drain and set aside


Make the cheese sauce

**If you dont have the energy, time or confidence to make the sauce - use a packet mix or jar of white sauce. The white pasta sauce type things are fine, you can just heat them up add some more milk to thin them down to a pouring consistency (thick double cream) add grated cheese til its melted - and follow the rest of the steps.

Cheese sauce
1 pint of milk
90G hard cheese grated  ** leave this is up to you and how cheesy you like it - set some aside for later
2 tbs oil
3 tbls flour
salt & pepper

use a heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk

1. Pour in the oil and heat over a medium low heat - you want to warm the oil not make it too hot

2. Add the flour and whisk til its smooth, keep stirring and cook the flour out for 1 - 2 minutes turn down
   heat, if it looks too dry add a tiny bit more oil

3. Add the milk and whisk, you need to keep stirring in a figure of 8 motion to avoid getting any lumps.
   when the sauce reaching a slow bubble and is thick (you want a thick double cream consistency) add the
   cheese, pinch of salt and pepper.

4. Whisk until thick and smooth - take off heat

5. If you need a little rest at this point - get some cling film put it on top of the sauce to stop a skin forming


Putting dish together

1. pre-heat oven to 200C gas mark 6

2. Gently fry the onion until translucent, add in the peppers and courgette. cook on a low heat for 3 - 4
    minutes -  put the veg into a deep oven proof dish, add the peas and sweetcorn

3. If using bacon fry until crispy - then add to the oven proof dish and stir in

4. Place the cauliflower quarters on top of the veg - sprinkle on 2
   tps paprika

5. Pour on the cheese sauce so it covers the cauliflower evenly.

6. Sprinkle on the saved grated cheese be as generous as you like.

7.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes

8. Steam the outer leaves - treat like cabbage (discard the hard stalk
    just use the green cabbage like leaf) wash thoroughly and discard the
   outer part -or cook what ever veg you fancy I used carrots

Serve with mash, baked potato, pasta or crusty bread.

*** Note - you could adapt this for a slow cooker - just follow steps above and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hrs. if you want a browned top spoon onto a heat proof dish and brown under the grill

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