My mum is here from London and the minute she lands in NY my nostalgia of London comes gushing in. She has just come back from her vacation in India where yoga and fruit were high on her priority list. So, in the past 10 days, we have eaten lots of fruits, vegetables and more fruit and intermittent Ram Dev breathing exercises (which I have warned mum, looks a little creepy when she does it on the subway). Yesterday, she said she had a craving and at this point I figured she must want Houstons famous slow cooked ribs (now known as Hillstones, in nyc)..what else could it be? I was wrong, it was cauliflower cheese. Ah, the nostalgia hit me like a bowling ball in my stomach; I was having my Proustian moment of the ‘madeleine’ reminiscing of all those dinners at my aunty Babli’s (though we grammatically incorrectly have called her Bubbly aunty all our lives). I was just an awkward adolescent in those days with braces in my mouth hanging out with the family at aunty Babli’s with people fighting for air space, cousins doing circus stunts and of course ‘cauliflower cheese’. With almost tears in my eyes and imagined ‘bliss point’ in my mouth’, I turned to my mum and said ‘allow me’.
My kids and husband love cauliflower and when I made this dish, they simply couldn’t eat enough. My husband, a loyal chicken fan, where chicken features in his daily two meals a day diet actually ate this with dish with just a hunk of toasted French bread. This cauliflower cheese veers away but only very slightly from the traditional recipe with the final sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese and panko crumbs.. a small addition adding a large impact.
1 large cauliflower
6 tablespoons of flour
600ml of milk
12 oz of cheese
1 ½ tsp of ENGLISH mustard powder
Freshly course black pepper
Salt to taste
0.25 cups of panko crumbs
0.25 cups of freshly grated parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Pull apart cauliflower into medium sized florets
3. Steam cauliflower for about 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower softens. You need to be attentive here and not over cook or the it will get too soft.
4. Add cauliflower to baking dish
5. In a separate pan add milk, butter and flour and on medium heat whisk until it is smooth and sauce thickens to a custard like consistency. This may make a food connoisseur frown, but if your sauce becomes lumpy, pull out your hand blender and give it a quick whiz.
6. Add ¾ of your cheese, your mustard powder, freshly cracked black pepper and once cheese has melted add salt to taste (do not add salt before this point as the cheese is salty and so it needs to fully melt before you can gage how much salt is required.
7. After a minute of cooking the sauce, turn it off and pour sauce over the cauliflower
8. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs over the cauliflower cheese dish and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the dish is golden brown.
Serve with a chunky piece of griddle toasted French bread and salad. Bon appétit!
Pearls of Wisdom
I limit how much I cut the cauliflower with a knife, one loses the beauty and integrity of the vegetable. You can use the knife to get started and then pull away florets by hand.)
Please don’t skimp on your cheddar cheese or mustard, get a nice aged cheese and a real English mustard powder. This is what will set your cauliflower cheese apart by adding richness and depth to the flavor. The traditional recipe does not use parmesan cheese but I urge you to try for it’s bold flavor, taste bud tickling saltiness and crunch.