Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cauliflower Cheese

I remember when my older sister started to earn money, probably around 14 or 15 years old. She and I both spent our teenage years teaching younger Chinese children - mainly additional help with English and Maths, and preparing children for the 11+. Often the children just needed some extra attention, as their parents were busy in the evenings working in takeaways or restaurants, and didn't have English as a first language. For some reason, my younger sister didn't follow this route of money-earning, but was instead set to work in a friend's chippy, for the princely sum of £1.42 per hour! Tuition was far more lucrative, and for those years, I think my rates ranged from £8 - £15 per hour. Not bad!

Anyway, at around this time we also started being allowed out to town on our own after Saturday Chinese Youth Club at the Pagoda Centre. My sister used to buy us treats with her wages (we still laugh about how my parents constantly told everyone she was so caring and generous for buying us a yoghurt!!). As a special treat, we sometimes also got western ready meals from Marks and Spencer for our dinner - two favourites being cottage pie and cauliflower cheese. I'm still hugely comforted nowadays by a plate of cottage pie, or cauliflower cheese, both served and mixed up with rice, of course.

My eldest and youngest loved this cauliflower cheese last night, although the middle one fussed and turned up his nose. We had it with boiled new potatoes and chicken thighs wrapped in pancetta, and it was very pleasant - although if we had not had potatoes to be used up, I would have definitely served it with rice. It could be varied by using broccoli florets, and maybe sprinkling some breadcrumbs over the top.

Update: I added macaroni to this dish last night, and it went down brilliantly with at least two children. Cook approx. 50g macaroni per person for 2/3 the time stated on the packet. Stir it into the cheese sauce before pouring it over the cauliflower, sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven.


  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower
  • 40g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • (Optional) A pinch of mustard powder, or a teaspoon of mustard (English or Dijon would be fine)
  • 130g grated cheddar cheese
  • (Optional) Grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
  • A small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and ground white pepper to season
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side


  • Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, cut into florets and rinse
  • Plunge the florets into boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain and arrange snugly in a baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 185 degrees fan
  • Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and when it starts to bubble, add the flour. Using a balloon whisk, mix the flour and butter to form a roux, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time
  • Add the milk to the roux, a splash at a time, whisking as you go. You will find that the roux remains lumpy, then eventually starts to thin and flow. Keep the heat on medium, adding more just as it begins to bubble. When all of the milk is added, you should have a thick, glossy sauce
  • Add the cheddar cheese and (optional) mustard, reserving a little cheese for sprinkling on top. Continue to stir the mixture until the cheese has melted and the sauce is of a smooth consistency
  • Pour the sauce over the cauliflower cheese and sprinkle the remaining cheddar (and parmesan if you're using it) over the top. Place it in the oven for 25 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling
  • Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before serving
Cauliflower Cheese

Served with Chicken Thighs wrapped in Pancetta and Boiled New Potatoes

1 comment:

  1. I did do tutoring and also worked at Spar! Chippy was the worst though