A dish of golden brown, cheese-covered cauliflower

This cauliflower cheese recipe is really an homage to smoked cheese. Smoked cheese, you say?

Yes indeed. Cold smoking  (at low temperatures) over several hours, allowing whisps of smouldering oak, maple, cherry or apple chips to waft over and infuse the dairy (in this case a mature cheddar) with smokey notes that permeate and penetrate and add wonderful pungency to anything you add it to.

Smoked cheese (you can buy it from my shop here but most supermarkets stock smoked cheese) can be used in any recipe that calls for cheese, for example a toasted cheese sandwich, in omelettes, or grated over bean chilli or a jacket potato.

I am a fan of the smoked cheese sauce, using it for mac n cheese or, in this case, a baked cauliflower cheese which is one of our favourite ways to eat cauli. It’s a staple side dish for Great British roasts, but is a worthy vegetarian main couse served with potatoes and a crunchy carrot salad.

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 medium cauliflower, leaves removed and separated into large florets

45g unsalted butter (or olive oil)

45g plain flour

300ml whole milk

80g smoked mature Cheddar cheese, grated

25g Parmesan, finely grated

Sea salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

Method

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the cauli florets and simmer for 5-6 minutes (depending on the size of the florets). You don’t want to overcook them at this stage, as they will turn to mush in the oven and take on the overcooked cauli smell we associate with school dinners!).

Drain the cauliflower and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Leave in a colander to drain while you make the sauce.

Heat a saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir the two together to create a roux. Allow the paste to sizzle in the pan to get the flour cooking.

Now add the milk a little at a time, stirring vigorously, and make sure each addition is well combined before adding more. A sauce whisk is a very useful tool for this step.

Once all the milk has been added, keep stirring while the sauce thickens until you have a smooth, bubbling, glossy white sauce without lumps.

Add 3/4 of the smoked Cheddar, half the Parmesan, a pinch of sea salt and some white pepper. Stir to combine and taste to check the seasoning.

Place the drained cauliflower in an oven-proof dish and pour over the cheese sauce, making sure the vegetables are well coated. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

The cauli cheese is now ready to bake at 170C for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. This can be prepared in advance and then popped in under the roast veg, for example, while meat is resting.

© Linda Galloway 2021