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Cauliflower cheese is a staple side dish that goes well with almost any main – whether it be roasted chicken, beef, or any other classic roast dinner favourites. Though it can seem complicated to make, it is just a simple roux and cauliflower chunks that make up the base of the dish, though this is where it can quickly wrong. According to Debbie, a chef at the Proper Foodie, the way you cook the vegetables holds the secret to the perfect consistency.
Making a roux for your cauliflower cheese is easy to do by using plain or all-purpose flour, butter and milk.
It really is as simple as heating the ingredients in a pan until they turn nice and thick, though it can quickly go watery and loose when you add the cauliflower.
According to Debbie, many people think too much milk in their roux is to blame for a lacklustre sauce, it is actually the water content in the vegetables that are to blame.
She said: “Cauliflower cheese can go watery if the cauliflower is overcooked. Overcooked cauliflower releases water, which will seep into the rest of the dish. So even if your sauce was thick when it went in the oven, if it’s in there too long, the water from the cauliflower will cause it to go watery.”
To avoid this happening to your own dish, she recommended keeping the baking time to a maximum of 20-25 minutes.
However, if you think the dish is not looking brown enough by this point, you can remove it from the oven and place it under the grill for one to two minutes on a high setting.
When it comes to perfecting the roux which forms the basis of this rich, creamy food, there are a few other things you can do to achieve the perfect consistency.
The Proper Foodie chef said: “This paste is the starting point for making the cheese sauce. Many recipes say to use equal amounts of butter and flour, but I prefer to use slightly less butter, to give a thicker roux and to stop any excess butter from forming on top of the finished sauce.”
Another tip is to make sure you stir continuously while the roux is being made. This is essential when you begin adding the milk to the flour and butter mixture.
The minute you stop stirring, lumps may form that can then not be removed even with more vigorous stirring.
Debbie noted: “You can also remove the pan from the heat as you need to if you feel it’s getting too hot or if you can’t stir fast enough to stop lumps forming.”
If you do this and a “skin” appears on top of the sauce, try placing a piece of cling film directly onto the surface of the sauce as soon as you take it off the heat.
When you are ready to use it remove the cling film and use a spoon to scrape any sauce off the cling film and back into the pan before adding it to the cauliflower.
To make your own cauliflower cheese from scratch, you will need:
- 20g butter
- 30g plain flour
- 250ml milk
- 50g cheddar cheese, garated
- One medium cauliflower with the leaves removed, cut into florets
- 30g cheddar for the topping
- Black pepper
- Fresh chopped parsely
Start by making the roux. To do this, place a small pan over medium heat on the hob and add your butter. Once melted, stir in the 30g of plain flour to form a paste (the roux).
Turn it into a white sauce by gradually adding the milk while continuing to heat and stir. Once all the milk has been added, you should be left with a “full-flavoured”, “silky smooth” white sauce.
Reduce the heat to low and add 50g of the cheese and stir until melted. Next, spread the cauliflower florets across the base of an eight-inch shallow oven dish and pour over the sauce to cover them.
Top with some more cheese and bake for 15 minutes at 180C. Remove from the oven and check to see if the cauliflower is cooked by skewering with a knife. If not, return to the oven until done.
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