The clocks have gone back, every leaf from miles around seems to be dropping in our garden, and I’m wearing a coat to walk the dog – Autumn is officially here, and cauliflower cheese is exactly what I want to eat. Surely the sheer quantity of vegetable here counterbalances the vast amount of cheese involved, right? By all means chop the cauliflower into florets first, or leave the cauliflower whole like this and then slice or cut wedges for a zhuzhed up version of this absolute classic. I’ve flung on fried shallots because I love them, but I wouldn’t argue with you if you added crispy bacon pieces instead. Serves 2-3 as a meal, or 6 as a side dish.
1 large cauliflower
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
0.5 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dijon mustard
200g mature cheddar, grated
Olive oil to fry shallots
- Cut any gnarly looking leaves off the cauliflower, but leave the rest intact, then bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
- Submerge your cauliflower as best you can and set a timer for 15 minutes – turn your cauliflower over with 5 mins to go if yours (like mine) isn’t fully submerged.
- Drain completely and put the cauliflower in a deep sided ovenproof dish.
- Turn on your oven to heat to 160C fan.
- Melt the butter in a medium sized pan, then mix in the flour and paprika and cook, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the milk a good slurp at a time, stirring until smooth before adding the next slurp. I start with a wooden spoon then swap to a balloon whisk to do this.
- Finish off your sauce by mixing in the mustard and 2/3 of the cheese.
- Pour over the cauliflower, scatter the rest of the cheese over the veg and bake in the oven for 35 mins or so until browned.
- While the cauliflower bakes, finely slice the shallots and fry them in a couple of tablespoons of oil until brown. Remove to kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and crisp up.
- Serve and dive in.