Knowing how to make a basic white sauce is one of the world’s best things. It’s cheap when you know how to make it for yourself. It’s full of goodness and can be used to stretch other food nice and far. Most Brits love a cauliflower cheese, but of course you can shove any veg in there; broccoli, roasted leftover veg and of course, pasta.
My mum used to make cauliflower cheese into a meal for 6 by piping finely milled mashed potato around the inside of an oven proof dish; my dad loves whole tinned tomatoes in the middle. Topped with breadcrumbs and baked for 20 minutes, please can I suggest you try this? It’s frugal, and delicious.
Top tips for cheese sauce:
- If you have rinds from your ‘parmesan’, use them to flavour the milk that you’ll be using. This means you’re using less cheese in the final dish, and making the most of the flavour from the cheese. I use mine at least twice, and then the dog has a lovely chew toy… instructions here.
- Never walk away from the pan. Ever. It could burn on the base, boil over, set into a thick lump… more trouble than its worth
- If you have a balloon whisk, use it! It’s much more effective than a wooden spoon.
You can bake the dish without par-boiling the cauliflower. If the oven is already on, then go for it. But, that is a lot of electricity for one meal if you’re only cooking the one dish! If baking with the cauliflower from raw, bake for about 40 minutes.
Cauliflower Cheese with mash & tomatoes
- Saucepan with lid
- Optional: pan and steamer
- Balloon whisk
- Serving bowl
- Heatproof jug
- Ovenproof dish
- 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
- Turn the oven to 180C
- Make the mash: peel the potatoes, and steam/boil/microwave in salted water until cooked through
- Once they are cooked through, mash with plenty of butter, and season. Really make sure there are no lumps (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.
- Steam/boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes/microwave for about 3, so it's halfway cooked
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), and 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 use a spoon to place the tomatoes in. Keep the leftover sauce to add to a tomato sauce.
- Cover with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and 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 & the sauce is bubbling
- If you’re not planning to eat this dish within 3 days I’d play it safe and pop it in the freezer