In the modern world, we are constantly bombarded with messages of healthy eating, clean eating (no phrase annoys me more!) and food fads but sometimes we all need proper comfort food. It’s a time to forget calorie counting once in a while and eat what makes you happy and cauliflower cheese is definitely one of those meals! Cauliflower cheese needs no introduction as it is exactly what it says it is- no pretention! It can be the main event or a side dish for a whole host of dishes. It also allows you to play around with a mixture of cheeses to make it as savoury as you want and cheese sauce is also a perfect way to use up any odds and ends of cheese that may be lurking in your fridge. In this recipe, I have given you the basic cheese sauce recipe that I use but feel free to add blue cheese if you like as cauliflower can stand up to the sharpness of it. Fried off cubes of pancetta are also a welcome addition!
Ingredients- serves 3-4
45g plain flour
45g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
1. Kick off by preparing the cauliflower. Clean it and cut into large florets. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and boil until the stems are just tender- it will continue to cook when it is baked so it needs a bit of texture still at this stage. Drain well and set aside while you make the sauce.
2. For the cheese sauce, use a pan and heat over a medium heat. Melt together the butter and flour to form a roux. Gradually add in the milk and cream; making sure you keep stirring to ensure that no lumps form. If any lumps start creeping in then remove the pan from the heat and whisk it like your life depends on it before returning to the heat. Continue to stir and simmer until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add in the parmesan and season to taste.
3. Choose an ovenproof roasting dish that will fit the cauliflower in a single layer. Arrange the florets and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with grated cheddar and a little extra parmesan if you like. Bake at 200c/ 180 fan for around 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Cauliflower cheese- like a cheesy hug for soul!
Burns Night is just around the corner and this is perfect as part of your celebrations although there is no reason that this dish has to be confined to being eaten on only one day of the year. Think of a Scottish version of bubble and squeak and you’re on the right track. Rumbledethumps (its official name!) uses seasonal vegetables to create a moreish dish which can be served on the side of haggis (for the fans) or something along the lines of sausage. Traditionally rumbledethumps uses a mix of potato, swede and either kale or cabbage however with the rise of the mighty flower sprout I used this instead.
Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 medium swede
600g floury potatoes such as Maris Piper
100g unsalted butter
1 large red onion- finely sliced
200g flower sprouts, cabbage or kale
Salt and pepper
50g grated mature cheddar
1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Prepare the swede and potatoes by peeling them and cutting them into large chunks. Bring a pan of boiling water up to the boil and cook the swede and potato until tender before draining well. I make sure the chunks of potato and swede are about the same size and boil them together but you could boil them separately in two lots if you prefer.
2. Shred the flower sprout leaves (or cabbage or kale). Melt the a knob of butter in a separate pan before adding the sprouts and onion to cook for a few minutes until softened. When they are ready simply set aside.
3. Take the drained swede and potato and lightly mash the chunks. You are after a rough mash so don’t overdo it! You will find that some potato pieces mash down a bit more than others and bits of swede will stay relatively chunky but that is exactly what you are after. Toss in the remaining butter and stir through. Next, stir in the sprouts before stirring to combine well and then season to taste. A good crack of black pepper doesn’t go amiss here! Place the vegetables in an overproof dish before topping with grated cheese, such as a cheddar. I cook mine in the same shallow casserole dish that I sautéed the sprouts and onion in; saves on washing up!
4. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and cook for 30 minutes before removing the cover and placing it back in the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Serve with your choice of meat and tuck in!
For those of you who indulge in haggis I have the perfect way to finish up any odds and ends… Crumble any leftovers into any leftover rumblethumps or a plain mashed potato and shape them to form potato cakes. Fry in a pan until golden and crispy and serve with a poached egg perched on top and a good dollop of tomato chutney.
Chloedethumps- a modern twist on a delicious Scottish classic!
Who doesn’t love macaroni cheese in its many, deliciously rich guises? This version of macaroni is a spicy revelation which needs to be part of your menu at home. Unlike when I make a classic version, keep the cheeses simple; I have used parmesan and cheddar as blue cheese would not go with the nduja.
Nduja is becoming more accessible and can now be found in a lot of supermarkets and Italian delis. I particularly like the version from Eat Drink Ideas- they can be found on St Albans Market on a Saturday as well as online here. It’s a soft salami which lends itself to use in a range of recipes such as soups, stews and pastas. As we are breaking with tradition, I have not used traditional macaroni, but instead I have gone for larger tubes which hold the sauce just as well.
Ingredients- serves 4
400g pasta of your choice
40g plain flour
200ml double cream
As much parmesan and cheddar as you dare!
1-2 tbsp nduja depending on how much spice you can handle
1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large pan of water and bring it to the boil; cook the pasta shapes of your choice according to packet instructions. Remember to keep the pasta al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta well and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter and flour together in a pan over a medium heat and stir well to combine. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep it moving so lumps don’t form. Simmer and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, season well and add in the cheese and nduja. The nduja will melt into the warm sauce; stir well to distribute. Add the pasta into the pan and make sure each piece of pasta is well covered in the delightfully spicy sauce.
3. Tip the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with some extra cheese; bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leftovers also reheat really well if you give the pasta a quick blast in the microwave (if there’s any left of course!).
Spicy nduja macaroni cheese- a modern twist on a classic!