During my fridge full of milk conundrum, lots of people suggested a cheese sauce freezing for another day.
So I thought: I’ll let you know why MY mum’s cheese/white sauce is the best. You’re WELCOME.
My mum taught me to gently heat the milk with a bay leaf, seasoning and nutmeg, and leave it to stand for a few hours. I go a little further and add a leek stalk (if I have it, or some onion ends or half an onion), a parmesan rind (if I have it – it means I need less cheese in the final sauce), and maybe some parsley – preferably just the stalks. Don’t let the milk boil. And then leave the milk to stand for anything from 5 minutes to overnight – take the onion/leek out after an half an hour though, else the flavour will dominate.
If, when you go to make your white/cheese sauce, you don’t need all the milk, just freeze it and label it “seasoned milk”. So you don’t put it in your tea.
Once you’ve tried seasoning your milk you won’t go back…
Now this cauliflower cheese is how my mum made it, to feed a family of 6 a few days before payday. A ring of mashed potato because cheese sauce and mash are heavenly; plus it was cheap as chips. The plum tomatoes in the middle are beloved by my dad. As a kid I didn’t get it at all, but the sharp tang and thin sauce just work. Don’t fight it.
So make your cheese sauce, and if you like, make your cauliflower cheese and freeze it for a skint January evening.
(Note – my mum made this for 6, but I’ve given quantities for 4, as not many people are mad enough to have a family of 6 these days)
(Leftover milk) cauli cheese
Serves 4, heartily
For the mashed potato:
700 grams floury potatoes such as white/red/King Edwards/Maris pipers
50 grams unsalted butter
50 ml milk
For the cheese sauce
500 ml milk
Aromatics – all optional but all lovely: freshly ground nutmeg, parsley stalks, leek tops/half an onion, parmesan rind
Salt & pepper
50 grams unsalted butter
90 grams plain flour
Around 100 grams strong cheese – whatever you like, including cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, even emmental, gouda – this is a great way to clear the fridge
1 teaspoon mustard
Optional: 1 tin whole plum tomatoes
Saucepan with lid
Optional: pan and steamer
About an hour and a quarter (though around 35 minutes of that is the baking time)
Place the milk in a saucepan with any aromatics
Gently heat until about blood temperature and then leave for at least 5 minutes or up to a day
Remove any onion flavourings after half an hour
Turn the oven to 180C
Make the mash
Steam or boil your potatoes with plenty of salt
Once they are cooked through, mash with plenty of butter
Only add enough milk to make the mash the right consistency for you; you can use more if you like
If you have a potato ricer or mouli, this is the time to break it out – you want a really creamy mashed potato. No lumps thanks.
Make white sauce
Strain any aromatics from your milk
Place a saucepan on the hob and melt the butter
Add the flour and, using the balloon whisk or a fork, mix the flour in
Splash in about 50ml of the milk and make a thick paste
Keep on adding around 50ml of milk, whisking until all the flour/butter mixture is combined
Bring gently to the boil and, once it’s popping gently, turn the heat down and stir occasionally for 5 minutes
Add in the cheese/cheeses and mustard (if using)
Steam the cauliflower for about 15 minutes, so that it’s not fully raw
Mix the half-cooked cauli and cheese sauce together
Assemble the dish
Squash the mash around the edge of your oven-proof dish
Next, pour in the cauliflower cheese
If using the tomatoes, make a well in the middle and pour in
Cover with a thin layer of grated cheese
NOTE – if freezing the whole dish, leave it to cool, cover, label then freeze
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through
If you’re not planning to eat this dish within 3 days I’d play it safe and pop it in the freezer
Got a question? Ingredient you need help with? Get in touch: