I love cheesy cauliflower cloaked in bubbling white sauce, but not a morsel has passed my lips since I started my low-carb regime last year. Then it occurred to me – why not make a ‘white sauce’ from puréed cauliflower? I did, and that’s why I’ve called this new recipe Double Cauliflower Cheese. It’s also doubly cheesy, with a topping of both Cheddar and Parmesan. I’ve added some sympathetic flavours – mustard, lemon, nutmeg and white pepper – to the sauce to tone down the caulifloweriness, and I’m pleased with the result. This is gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, and well suited to anyone on a Low-Carb High Fat (#LCHF) regime.
|Low-Carb Double-Cauliflower Cheese.|
|Wine recommendation from Michael Oliver: Boland Cellar Five Climates
Chenin Blanc 2014. Go to the end of the page for more detail about this pairing.
This isn’t difficult to make, but to achieve a silken purée you will need a fairly powerful food processor fitted with a metal blade. If you don’t have one, you can use a liquidiser or stick blender and a lot of patience. Don’t add the cream to the sauce too early if you’re going to be whizzing it for a long time, as it may thicken or even turn to buttery granules. If you find your sauce is a little grainy despite your patient blitzing, push it through a sieve before you pour it over the cauliflower florets.
This is good with a squirt of tomato sauce, my family reckons, but I like it flecked with Tabasco. If you want to add real luxury to the dish, throw in some crisped bacon bits when you assemble the dish, or use cubed, fried gammon, as I’ve done in this recipe: Luxurious Broccoli ‘n Cheese with Gammon, and a Parmesan Crust.
And if you’re not on a low-carb regime, try my Luxurious Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks, which has an indulgent topping of buttered breadcrumbs.
This recipe will make slightly more sauce than you need, but you can cover the remainder and save it for dolloping over steamed veggies later in the week. For extra flavour, and if you have time, infuse the hot milk ahead of time with a bay leaf, a slice of onion and a clove.
Low-Carb Double-Cauliflower Cheese
2 large heads cauliflower, or 4 small ones
5 Tbsp (75 ml) water
½ cup (125 ml) hot milk, plus extra for thinning
4 Tbsp (60 ml) cream
2 Tbsp (30 ml) butter
2½ cups (about 150 g) grated Cheddar
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
a pinch or more of freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
a pinch of white pepper, to taste
a squeeze of lemon juice
For the topping:
1 cup (250 ml, fairly loosely packed) grated Cheddar
5 Tbsp (75 ml) grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
sweet paprika or cayenne pepper, for dusting
Heat the oven to 180 ºC, fan on.
First make the sauce. Remove the green leaves from one of the cauliflowers (or two, if you’re using small caulis). Trim off the stalk and cut the cauliflower lengthways into quarters. Now use a sharp knife to cut away the core, and break up the florets.
Heat a large pot over a medium-high flame, add the water, the cauli florets and a pinch of salt. Cover and let them steam for about 15 minutes, or until the stalks are very tender. Check the pan now and again, adding more water if the pan starts to dry out. If you’d like a nutty taste, let the water dry up so the florets take on a little golden colour, but watch them carefully so they don’t scorch.
|Whizz the cauliflower with the butter, cream
and milk to a fine purée.
Drain the cauliflower in a colander for 2 minutes then tip it, piping hot, into a food processor (or return it to the pan if you’re using a stick blender). Add the milk, cream and butter and whizz to a fine, soft purée.
Now, while the mixture is still hot, add the grated Cheddar and process until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Add the mustard, nutmeg and white pepper and mix well. Now thin the sauce with more hot milk so it’s about the consistency of a thickish white sauce.
Season to taste with salt. Add a spritz or two of lemon juice – just enough to give the sauce a little sparkle. Set aside.
Cut up and steam the remaining cauliflower, as described above, but cook it until it is just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. (I do this in the microwave, in a big bowl tightly covered with clingfilm – it takes about 7 minutes, on high.) Drain well in a colander for three minutes, then tip the florets into a large buttered oven-proof dish.
|Top the cauliflower cheese with grated Cheddar, Parmesan
and a dusting of sweet paprika or cayenne pepper.
Pour over the reserved sauce – just enough generously to coat the florets – and sprinkle with the Cheddar, Parmesan and a dusting of sweet paprika (or cayenne pepper if you fancy that).
Bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.
Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 as a side dish.
Wine pairing by Michael Olivier:
It looks like: Pale gold straw in the glass. Gem bright.
It smells like: Classic Chenin. Tropical fruits like guava. Honey. White flowers.
It tastes like: Excellent mouthful of wine with great breadth and depth of flavour. The guava is in full presence, as are slice ripe pear and red apple. While dry, there is a whisper of honey. Long aftertaste, clean, crisp and fresh.