Traditionally, cauliflower cheese is boiled cauliflower served with a relatively light and basic cheese sauce. That is how cauliflower cheese has always been served by my mother. I prefer to use a few well-placed additions to “tart” things up a little. Serving this British classic with an oven-cooked topping of breadcrumbs, parmesan and thyme elevates it from a simple side dish. This is one recipe for cauliflower cheese that deserves to be eaten as a main with sides of its own.
The differences don’t end there. Infusing your milk with bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns improves greatly the flavour of the all important cheese sauce. Of course, this isn’t a necessary step, but if you take the time to add a few complementary and inexpensive ingredients here and there you’ll end up with one cracking cauliflower cheese.
Infused milk doesn’t just work well in savoury dishes – check out my recipe for Spiced Rice Pudding for proof!
If we’re being honest – always the best policy – cauliflower cheese never “did it” for me in my youth. Cauliflower itself was boring and without anything but a thin layer of cheese to cover it, it held absolutely no allure. This recipe changed things. Introducing a few interesting elements to what could, a few years ago, have been described as another “tired English tradition” has resulted in a recipe that is still cheap, but far more captivating.
- 1 cauliflower
- 568ml whole milk (1 pint)
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 5 peppercorns
- 50g plain flour
- 50g salted butter
- 75g mature cheddar cheese, grated
- ¼ tsp English mustard
- a little nutmeg, freshly grated
- 30g wholemeal breadcrumbs
- 30g parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- a pinch of salt
- Tip the milk, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns into a small pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside (lid on) to infuse.
- Meanwhile, prepare your cauliflower by removing any outer leaves and cutting into individual florets. Bring to the boil in a pan of salted water and cook until tender. Arrange in a suitably sized oven-proof dish.
- After 15 minutes strain the milk and transfer into a measuring jug. Take a large pan and melt together the butter and flour until thick (roux).
- Bit by bit whisk the strained milk into the roux. Bring to the boil and add the cheddar and mustard. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Mix together the parmesan, breadcrumbs, thyme and salt. Pour the thickened cheese sauce over the prepared cauliflower and top with nutmeg and the breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake the cauliflower cheese at 200C/180C(fan) for 20-30 minutes until cooked through and crispy on top.
Cost: Though arguably a year-round performer, cauliflower is more-or-less at the height of its season around now. At this time of year a good, large example should set you back no more than 80p or so.
That means that even with a few additions, this simple and speedy recipe for cauliflower cheese should set you back in the region of £2.50.
28 replies on “Cauliflower Cheese”
I like how you infused the milk with lots of wonderful flavors. I could eat a whole dish of your cauliflower…it sounds great!
Thank you, Karen – I’m going to have to make some more soon.
Never thought of infusing milk with other flavors; great idea!
It’s so simple and adds so much!
My mother used to, and still does, serve it as a main dish with the addition af a little chopped and fried bacon added to the cauliflower and cheese. The latest report is that her great-grandson, who will be three next month, thinks that it is YUM!
I still think that it is yum too, by the way. I’m rather partial to blue cheeses so odds and ends of them have found their way into mine from time to time, The frugal use of left over, slightly gnarly looking bits as well as cheeses that have ‘gone blue by association’ in the cheese box.
It sounds yum! She has a discerning great-grandson. I’m afraid I’m not such a blue cheese kinda guy, but +1 for the frugality.
oh lawdy lawdy… this looks delicious. wondering if you ate it as a side? I think I’d dive in and just eat the whole damn bowl!
We shared it as a main 🙂
Wow this looks like my kind of comfort food. I look forward to reading more of your blog. Great photos. Emma xx
Awesome – thank you, Emma!
Sounds good. Grainy mustard, shallots, onions perk up cauliflower. Just one health suggestion, steaming or roasting vegetables is much healthier than cooking them in boiling water, which is where all the nutritional benefits end up, in the water.
Yes. Unfortunately, I don’t have a steamer and I actually prefer the texture of quickly boiled cauliflower. Also, boiling it for 5-10 minutes removes hardly any of the nutritional benefits, compared with boiling a vegetable almost half to death.
Sounds yummy – I love the idea of a crunchy topping!!
It adds a nice contrast to a usually quite one-dimensionally textured dish.
You’ve taken cauliflower cheese to a whole new level – delicious!
This looks unfairly good!
Not unfair 😀 – it’s easy!
I love cauliflower and love cheese. My partner can’t take cheese so I steam it for him. Here’s the thing that I realised long ago – cauliflower is bland which is why cheese and cauli make such great partners. But what else can you do with it if you’re leaving out the cheese?
Your partner can’t take cheese?! That’s such a shame. It’s good in soup, or you could cover florets in spices and roast it?
I love a traditional cauliflower cheese, but would love to try your version! The crispy topping sounds amazing!
Please do – the crispy topping is a must!
this looks incredible. I want that now!
I love a good cauliflower cheese!
This looks delicious, will definitely be trying this one this week! Infusing milk with herbs and spices is a really great idea for spicing up simple recipes.
Thanks for the like on my blog post. Have been really enjoying reading through your recipes, and am following as being a bit of a foodie on a student loan budget can be tricky – so really glad I found your blog!
It absolutely is – I always infuse now, for sweet or savoury. I’m glad you like the blog – I’ll have to check yours out more thoroughly. Enjoy Oxford it’s a lovely place – I’ll probably be cycling through in a few weekend’s time.
I think I had cauliflower cheese at a very chi-chi restaurant a couple of years ago (imagine!), and I can’t wait to try your version! I think I have everything I need to make it, but please tell the dumb American… what is English mustard? Is it mustard that hasn’t been ground into a runny paste?
English mustard is thick and yellow – definitely don’t use the grainy stuff!