It’s pouring with rain here today and so my mind turns to more warming comforting foods. Throw away the crisp salads (well it feels very carefree to say this, probably won’t happen though as I do value my health) and bring on the old classic favourites! Just today.
Cauliflower Gratin isn’t part of the polished ‘blingy’ dishes that have just hit the restaurant runways, however this delicious accompaniment has continued to knock the socks off all self-respecting roast meals since, well I can only imagine, since people started to eat food! Roast meals are great, but people’s eyes seem to open just that little bit wider when they see Mr Cauliflower Gratin on the side!
Which brings me to the humble cauliflower itself. Probably not from a very ’well liked’ family, being the cabbage family (actually I think there are some devoted fans out there) and I do think cauli’s are prettier on the eye separated into cute little florets - rather than one eye-balling the whole thing. Poor old Cauliflower, he doesn’t win many vegetable beauty pageants, but certainly can turn on the flavour charm when he gets together with old cheesy!
On a more serious note though, cauliflower’s main source of calcium is in the green leaves. Many, I think throw these out, including me, up until I learnt this little fact.
And quality is not necessarily in the quantity, meaning big cauli’s may not be better flavour- wise. Choose one that is dense and heavy, a clean white or cream colour (without those unsightly blotches) and stay away from the ones that have yellowing leaves (Nah not fresh.)
Cauliflower Gratin (two servings with some leftovers)
1/2 a head of cauliflower
2 cups of milk
1/2 medium brown onion, diced
2 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp plain flour approx.
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 cup fresh parmesan
1/2 teaspoon of fine white pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup of ‘rustic’ breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan
Step 1. Separate the cauliflower into similar size florets and add to a saucepan. Add onion and pour over milk to half cover the ingredients. Cook with lid on until cauliflower is tender (about 15 minutes.) Preheat oven at 180 degrees.
Step 2. Cheese Sauce – Melt butter in another saucepan and add garlic and cook for 10 seconds then add enough flour to make a velvety smooth paste. The thicker the paste is at this stage, the thicker the sauce will be. Stir paste for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour then add milk whilst stirring. Add white pepper, thyme and parmesan and stir continuously until sauce thickens. Remove from flame and set aside.
Step 3. Topping – Toast a slice of thick mulitgrain bread in the toaster (to dry the bread), then put in a food processor along with salt and pepper, parmesan and some extra thyme and whiz until it becomes breadcrumbs.
Step 4. Remove cooked cauliflower and onion from heat a strain.
Step 5. To Assemble – Using two individual ramekins, spoon cheese sauce mixture onto the base of the ramekins. Add cauliflower florets and onion to fill, then spoon cheese sauce over the top of the cauliflower, making sure that all the gaps are filled in and around the cauliflower with cheese sauce. sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over the top. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then place under the grill for 5 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden and cheese has melted.
N.B. I found that it is important to ensure that the cheese sauce is of custard consistency (not too thick) and to also ensure that there is a lot of cheese sauce in and around the cauliflower. It helps to fill the ramekins 3/4 cauliflower and the rest with cheese sauce as the cauliflower absorbs sauce whilst cooking.