“I’ll eat half. Oof. No. I’ll eat a third. Fine, fine, I’ll eat a quarter. Gah. GAH. Okay, I’ll also eat some grated carrots.”
See here the, increasingly annoyed, voice in my head as I tallied up Weight Watchers points for the cauliflower and cheese I had just slid into the oven. My beautiful plan of eating half the pan turned into a decidedly more restrained serving decision as I asked the calculator how much for the cheese? and the flour? and, oh my god, the butter? The grated carrots were necessary stomach feeling, believe me. (And no points, because vegetables. Love the lovely Weight Watchers.)
This followed on an hour and a half in the kitchen putting together the cauliflower and cheese. It wasn’t hard (except for getting the lumps from my white sauce, but that turned out not to matter, what with all the lumpy cauliflower I stirred in) but it took so. much. more. time than I’d anticipated. Boiling cauliflower and giving it a rest to dry. Steeping milk with aromatics. Grating cheese and then more cheese. Stirring the sauce. All of it slurped up time as greedily as I would have slurped up the resulting cheesy sauce had it not had that many calories.
Sitting behind my plate of roast beef and a small puddle of luridly yellow cauliflower (I’d added curcuma for health and an unreal glow), I was kind of happy I’d gone through all that, though. A few bites were enough to transport me back to last summer, sitting in a Christchurch, UK, pub and digging into a massive, delicious Sunday roast lunch.
And then the puddle was gone and I was back in the NL, crunching my way through a pile of carrot as I fielded question after question after question from my toddler. A whole different kind of lovely, I suppose.
Cauliflower and cheese
From The Vegetarian Option, Simon Hopkinson
- 1 large cauliflower
- 500 ml milk
- 2 cloves
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 75 gr butter
- 50 gr flour
- 200 gr grated cheese, plus more for the top
- salt and pepper [And curcuma, if you like things yellow; this is not in the original recipe but a fun way of sneaking a bit of immune-boosting curcuma into your meal. Be sure to add at least a few good grinds of pepper if you do, so your body can absorb the curcuma.]
Slice the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Toss them into a pan of salted, boiling water and cook until almost tender. Start checking at 5 minutes or so. Drain and turn the pieces out onto a towel to dry further. They’ll keep giving off water for several minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 190C.
Put milk, cloves, the bay leaf and onion into a pan and bring to a boil. Boil gently for two minutes, cover the pan, remove from the heat and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Fish out the aromatics and set the milk aside.
Melt the butter, stir in the flour and keep stirring over medium heat for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and add all warm milk at once. Beat until everything is mixed, return to a low heat and keep beating (beat, beat, beat!) until the sauce is thick and smooth. Leave on very low heat for 10 minutes, then add 200 gr of cheese and stir again until it has melted. Add pepper and salt to taste.
Mix the drained cauliflower into the sauce, put in an oven-proof vessel and sprinkle with the extra cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the surface is beautifully blistered and the edges are bubbling.
Serves at least 4