Cauliflower cheese

Rachel Allen freshens up this stodgy, well-loved dish with a crisp, lemon-dressed salad
By Rachel Allen
Cauliflower cheese
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: easy


For the white sauce

  • 300 ml full-fat milk
  • 1/4 carrots, sliced
  • 1/4 onions, sliced
  • 1 sprigs parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 50 g roux

For the cauliflower cheese

  • 1 cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets, leaves reserved
  • 450 ml white sauce, (see above)
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 150 g cheese, grated
  • large pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley

For the salad

  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 large handfuls mixed salad leaves, such as rocket, small baby chard, kale, beetroot, spinach or mustard greens
  • 2 large handfuls sliced radicchio
  • 4 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts

Tips and Suggestions

To make a roux, melt a knob of butter (40g will do for this recipe) in a pan until foaming, then stir in an equal weight of flour. Cook, stirring, for about a minute until the mixture forms a smooth paste which leaves the sides and base of the pan cleanly.


1. For the white sauce: place the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley, thyme and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for about 10 minutes.

2. Strain the milk through a sieve placed over a small clean saucepan and bring the milk back to the boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well combined and smooth. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes, or until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Measure out 450ml for the cauliflower cheese.

3. Fill a large saucepan with water to a depth of about 2.5cm/1in and add a little salt. Arrange the cauliflower leaves in the bottom, sit the cauliflower florets on top, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the stalks are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the cauliflower (discarding the leaves), drain well and arrange in a gratin dish.

4. Heat the white sauce in a small saucepan over a low heat and add the mustard and most of the grated cheese, reserving a little to scatter over the dish later. Stir until melted, then season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.

5. Preheat the grill to high.

6. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower in the dish and then scatter with the reserved cheese. Place the dish under the grill for 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbling. Scatter the chopped parsley over just before serving.

7. For the salad: whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

7. Place the salad leaves, sliced radicchio and toasted walnuts in a salad bowl and drizzle over the dressing. Toss well to coat evenly with the dressing. Serve with the cauliflower cheese.

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