Once the main Christmas feast is over I usually find myself swearing I will never eat another heavy meal like that again. Well, at least not until the next big festivity that is… I have been experimenting recently with various vegetable based dishes because I adore them… A meal is never complete for me without copious amounts of vegetables. My most recent creation occurred yesterday when I was faced with the most beautiful looking cauliflowers in the supermarket. I knew what I had to do – its been sometime since I had enjoyed a comforting meal of cauliflower cheese, one of my favourites from my childhood. I ventured next to the cheese counter and found a wide selection specially brought in for the festive season. I selected a beautiful queso de cabra semicurado (semi cured) and a beautiful blue cheese Bergader Epelpiz.
- 1 medium cauliflower (approx 1lb/450g)
- 2 oz/ 55g butter
- 2 oz/ 55g all purpose/plain flour
- 1 level tsp grain mustard
- Large pinch salt
- 1 pint / 460 ml milk
- 50g Blue Cheese – I used Spanish Blue Cheese but feel free to use whatever tickles your fancy
- 50g Cured or Semi-Cured Cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
- 50g Jamon Iberico (Cured Iberian Ham – Optional)
- Heat the oven to 395F/200C/Gas 7
- Remove the green outer leaves from the cauliflower. Make cut a deep cross in the bottom of the stem then steam whole over a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the cauliflower from the heat and leave to cool. I find steaming significantly better than simply cooking in water or stock but this is also an option if you should cheese.
- Now its time to make the sauce. Place the butter and flour into a large saucepan. Over a low heat stir the butter and flour until the butter has melted and the flour is incorporated. Add the salt and mustard and continue stirring for 2 minutes. You do this to cook out the taste of flour and soften the starch grains.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add the milk in one go and whisk vigorously until all a smooth sauce is formed. Continue to stir until a nice thick and glossy sauce forms – this normally takes around 5 minutes. You can add more milk if the sauce is a little thicker than you would like – it should be relatively thick but still have pouring consistency. Add the grated cheeses and stir until they have melted. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Break the cauliflower florets from the stalk.Place the florets in a greased baking dish large enough to hold all the florets in one layer.
- Heat a small frying pan and lightly brown the cured ham. Set to one side.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower ensuring all the florets are covered. Top with the cured ham and sprinkle with a little extra grated cheese and a little black pepper.
- Bake in the hot oven until the sauce is bubbling and golden brown on the top. This should take approx 30 minutes.