Cauliflower Cheese Gratin

I love cauliflower cheese and have many favourite ways of making it. This is pretty much my mum’s recipe, her Desert Island dish, gratin-style, with a punchy cheese sauce. I vacillate between a breadcrumb and Parmesan crust or streaky bacon lattice, both of which add a desirable crisp contrast. It is very, very good with sausages and roast tomatoes as you can see in the accompanying photo and you can read more about that in My Week In Food 17 Jan 21.

Serves 2-4
Prep: 25 min
Cook: 40 min

1 medium cauliflower, approx 700g
35g butter
25g flour
1 tsp English mustard
500ml milk
100g grated mature Cheddar
3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan and
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs or
6-8 thin, rindless rashers streaky bacon

Boil the kettle and heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Divide the cauli into double bite-size florets, discarding coarse outer stalk and core. Cook in boiling, salted water from the kettle for 3-4 minutes until almost tender. Drain, reserving 4 tbsp/100ml water. Tip the cauli into a gratin-style ovenproof dish. Melt 25g butter in a medium-sized pan, add the flour, stirring smooth before incorporating the mustard. Add the reserved cooking water and milk, stirring constantly as you bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes continuing to stir. Stir in the Cheddar, stirring until melted. Check for salt and pour over the cauli to cover. Attempt to flatten the surface and leave to cool, the sauce to set.Mix Parmesan and crumbs. Scatter over the surface and dot with remaining butter.  Alternatively, pull the bacon to stretch slightly to dissuade shrinkage (unlikely) then make a wide lattice. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is crusty or bacon crisp.