Giles and I have been friends since I was 18 and (forced to go to) at the Marlborough Secretarial College in Oxford, and he was at Oriel, and Vivien and I would go to his rooms for coffee and to listen to Mahler and OMD and the Roman Catholic Manifesto. Giles is tall, handsome, curmudgeonly, is a fan of single malts. His house in Wandsworth was always filled with the smell of delicious curries, his signature dish. This cauliflower cheese was something he just threw together while staying with Minky and me in California last year. Quite the best cauliflower cheese I have EVER tasted. -- MsW
|The brilliant Giles w/ MsW at Soho House, 2012|
A cauliflower cheese with nobs on………..(and a lot of calories probably)
Comfort food at its very finest for bleak ,cold and windy nights. Just perfect for California then.
1 large cauliflower or two smaller ones
Good knob of butter
250g good bacon chopped into half inch pieces. or lardoons, smoked or unsmoked according to preference
Flour for bechamel
1 pint of milk (whole fat please)
¼−½ pint of decent double cream (single acceptable)
All those small bits of hardening old cheese that populate your fridge (see recipe)
Some good mature cheddar, grated (by you!)
Couple of handfuls (?) of breadcrumbs
1. Cut the cauliflower into florets, not too small, nor too big. Place in wide-bottomed pan, just cover with water and bring to boil. When al dente, 8-10 minutes perhaps, remove the florets from the water with a draining spoon, place in a colander to drain thoroughly and place in a lowsided casserole. Turn the heat up on the remaining water to maximum and reduce until you have just a few tablespoons left.
2. In a medium sized non-stick pan, melt your knob of butter and add the chopped bacon or lardons. Fry until almost crisp and place onto kitchen towel to drain. Then sprinkle over the cauliflower in the casserole.
3. Add another smaller knob of butter to the remaining bacon fat and proceed to make a quite thin béchamel, using first the cauliflower stock, then the milk..
4. Add your cheese, while still on a gentle heat and stir gently as it melts into the béchamel. It will thicken the sauce still further. A word on the cheese here: you can use virtually any cow’s cheese – not convinced by goat’s or sheep in this context - and whatever varieties you have to hand. For me, some blue cheese is essential; a smoked cheese is also good in a modest quantity. I tend to save the cheddar for the topping only, but it is completely up to you. (This is a good dish to make in the days after a dinner party, if you have had a cheese board.)
5. Finally add the cream and check the seasoning; lots of black pepper and probably not much salt needed. Pour evenly over the cauliflower, so that all the florets are covered with a nice layer of your cheese sauce and the level comes about half-way up the sides of the casserole. For me the jury is still out as whether you add the grated cheddar first or the breadcrumbs. You make your own mind up. Then 15 minutes in a medium oven followed by 5 minutes under the grill to achieve a good even crispy brown.
Serve with some crusty bread. A good chilli sauce, perhaps harissa, is, for me, a must. And a bottle of big fruity red, of course.
It is also perfect as an accompaniment to a fine, preferably bloody, steak………