When my sister arrived from Sydney on a visit, our first meal together was cauliflower cheese. When we visited our brother in Spain, she made it for him. Cauliflower cheese is a tradition in our family. You could say we were weaned on it; it was probably mother’s Desert Island dish. Great though it is as a side dish, particularly with lamb and grilled pork chops, I love turning it into a complete meal with a lattice of smoked, streaky bacon over the top and hard-boiled eggs hidden in the sauce. I also like tuning up the sauce with Dijon mustard, tangy farmhouse Cheddar and a Gruyere and fresh breadcrumb gratinee. We ate it with roast tomato halves – smeared with olive oil and slow-roasted for about an hour on a foil-lined roasting sheet until soft but still juicy – and folds of prosciutto. The other night I served it with Cumberland sausages cooked at the same time. In Spain, it accompanied roast pork with rosemary boulangere potatoes, green beans and apple sauce.
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 25 min
500g cauliflower florets
1 tbsp flour
1 dsp Grey Poupon or Maille Dijon mustard
75g grated mature Cheddar
25g grated Gruyere
Boil the kettle. Half fill a spacious, lidded pan with boiling water from the kettle, add 1 tsp salt and the cauli. Don’t worry that it isn’t completely immersed. Return to boil, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes until just cooked when pierced with a knife. Drain and reserve 150ml cooking water. Boil the eggs in a small pan for 9 minutes. Drain, crack all over, peel under water and leave to cool. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, stirring until smooth then off the heat, stir in the mustard followed by the milk and reserved cauli cooking water. Return to the heat and stir with a wooden spoon as it comes to the boil. If it turns lumpy, beat with a globe whisk. Add a pinch salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the Cheddar and stir until melted. Tip the cauli into a suitable gratin-style pan and scatter with coarsely chopped egg and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Spoon over the sauce to cover. Tear the bread into pieces into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz to make crumbs. Mix with the Gruyere and scatter over the top of the cauli. Make a lattice with the bacon, bearing in mind that it will shrink as it roasts. Heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7 and cook for 15-25 minutes until the bacon is very crisp, the sauce is bubbling round the edges and the top between the lattice is golden.