CAULIFLOWER CHEESE, HACKED

How to make a magnificent cauliflower cheese, even when life happens.

So we bought a cauliflower; a beautiful tight fist of crisp, snowy forest in a swaddle of green leaves. So beautiful right now, and so cheap. All day we debated how best to cook it.

Broken up into florets and roasted until golden, then tossed in a fruity-sweet vinaigrette with parsley and pistachios? Cooked with potato and milk into a creamy puree or with leeks and chicken stock into risotto? Grated into cauli-crumbs then pan-fried into spicy fritters? Cut into steaks and schnitzelled?

Who were we kidding? From the moment that cauliflower entered the building it was going to be cauliflower cheese. Ooey, gooey, creamy, and above all cheesy, cauliflower cheese.

Then, life happened.

I tripped over the roots of my favourite Moreton Bay fig tree while uncustomarily jogging, broke a finger, and spent the rest of the day admiring the can-do attitude of the triage staff in the Sydney Hospital (big thank you to all you amazing people).

Now I look like a half-wrapped Egyptian mummy, while learning to type, eat, pour red wine and apply eye-liner with my left hand.

SO, no grating of cheese or stirring of bechamel for me right now - just a steely determination to make cauliflower cheese anyway I can. Look away now, all those keeping up high gastronomic standards while in lockdown, for we are about to apply sliced cheese to cauliflower, and we care not.

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE, HACKED

1/ Cut your cauliflower into quarters and steam, not boil, them for around 10 minutes - until the treetops are just-cooked and the trunks are still nice and firm. 

2/ Do this ahead if you like - it will be better - and let the cauli cool and dry out.

3/ Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, season well, and cover each quarter with two slices of cheese (what cheese? See below).

4/ Bake at 200C for 15 mins or until the cauliflower is tender and wrapped in melted cheese like a swathe of golden bandages.

5/ Dust with paprika (through a fine sieve), throw on a little sea salt and cracked black pepper, and serve hot.

What cheese? I tested strong, bitey cheddar slices, sweet Jarlsberg, and a random mozzarella, and decided the best is a first layer of Jarlsberg and top layer of cheddar. Also quite like what happens with a grating of parmesan over the top as well. Cheese-on-cheese, yeah.

You may prefer to make a proper white sauce with a roux of flour and butter, then spike it with Dijon mustard and stir in a shitload of grated gruyere, and good for you.

Or you might think this is just what your situation calls for, with whatever cheese you have in the fridge. Likewise, good for you.


Thanks for reading! And liking, commenting, subscribing, or sharing.

Special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for being my right hand.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.