My sister Julia lived in the UK for many years and has intimate knowledge of their Cauliflower Cheese Casserole recipe. The British one, a staple in those parts, only has cauliflower as a vegetable; Julia’s version has much more. In fact, her version is very moreish (definition: causing a desire for more) so you might as well forget about having leftovers.
Cauliflower Cheese Casserole
- 1 cauliflower, cut into large chunks (An orange cauliflower was used here.)
- 4 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 2 leeks, cut into large chunks
Cook vegetables, one at a time, in about 2 1/2 cups of water just until tender, 5 – 10 minutes. Remove each vegetable with a slotted spoon, using the same water to cook all three. Reserve water to use in sauce. Place the vegetables in a large shallow casserole dish. This portion of the recipe can be prepared the day before the rest of the recipe. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and chestnuts go well in this recipe too.
Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
- 1/2 t celery salt
- 1/4 t grated nutmeg
- 1/4 c flour
- 3 T olive oil
- 2 1/2 c vegetable cooking water (add milk if necessary to top up)
- 6 oz grated or thinly sliced aged cheddar cheese
- 3/4 T Herbamare salt
- freshly ground black pepper
To make the Mornay style sauce, toast celery salt, nutmeg and flour in a medium sized pot over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. After a few minutes add olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, just until it absorbs the flour mixture. Stir the roux for a minute or two over medium heat, then very, very slowly add the vegetable liquid, bit by bit, stirring until well incorporated. If the sauce accidentally gets lumpy, a sieve or a blender can smooth it out. Add cheese, stirring, turning up heat a little to melt cheese. Don’t let sauce boil. Pour sauce over vegetables.
For thicker sauce, add a bit more flour at the start or use more cheese.
Cauliflower Cheese Topping
- 3 – 4 oz aged cheddar cheese (or more cheese for a crustier topping)
- 2 c homemade, dry coarse breadcrumbs (can be lightly, slowly toasted in a low oven)
- 1 t paprika
Scatter breadcrumbs over vegetables. Cover with cheese. Sprinkle on paprika. Bake at 385 F for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is golden and cheese is bubbling. Let the casserole sit for a few minutes before serving so you don’t scorch anyone’s mouth. Serves 6 – 8.
Note: Can be frozen before cooking and baked after defrosting.
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