When you have a cauliflower and you add a little cheese you can’t fail to make something unfathomably gorgeous. There is no other place I know of that you can get a purple cauliflower apart from my local farmers’ market. If you saw it at a glance you may have to do a double take to reassure yourself that it is real.
I think the cauliflower is a very lucky vegetable. It’s no looker but I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t think the union of cauliflower and cheese is glorious. Being purple as opposed to its equally delicious, much paler, white cousin adds something extra to what might otherwise have been a beige overload on the side of the plate.
As you can see from the florets they are white inside but if anything, I reckon this makes it even more charming. For some reason I think of the cauliflower as a manly vegetable but purple seems to make it more ladylike.
To make yourself an unctuous, cheese laden, bubbling cauliflower cheese you’ll need a cauliflower, butter, flour, milk and some stupendously delicious cheese. All the measurements depend on how much cauliflower you have and how much sauce you like. First of all steam the cauliflower until it still has a little crunch left. I can’t emphasise the importance of steaming it to retain as much colour as possible. If you boil it the finished dish might look like an accident.
Melt the butter then stir in enough flour to make a dry paste. Cook this for a minute or two so you don’t end up tasting the flour when it’s finished. Add the milk a little at a time whisking it in like your life depends on it. Keep it over a low heat until it has thickened slightly adding more milk if it is too thick. If you have the time it’s great to infuse the milk for about an hour with onion, cloves, bay and nutmeg before you use it.
Grate your chosen cheese; I used a lovely young blue cheese so it was more of a crumbling than a grating. Stir the cheese into the sauce with the heat turned off and put a little cheese to the side for later. Put the cauliflower into an oven dish and then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and if you have some breadcrumbs available for scattering all the better. Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 20-30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
I’m not sure if there’s anything as comforting or as soul warming as cauliflower cheese. I could eat it on its own quite happily but this particular one was enjoyed with some magnificent, proper, meaty sausages. The sauce that went in as white does tend to come out with a slight periwinkle hue but if you dim the lights no one ever need know. At the end of the day when something tastes this good, who cares what it looks like?