Baked Cauliflower with Broccoli Cheese Sauce

This is an excellent veggie side dish (could even be a main) for any feast and is a great variation of a run of the mill cauliflower bake with cheese sauce. This is almost as-is from a Jamie Oliver recipe I found when looking for vegetarian Christmas recipes, and it went really well with the veggie Wellington I made as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled, sliced finely)
  • 50g butter (I always use unsalted)
  • 50 ml flour
  • 600 ml milk (depending on whether you use fresh or frozen veg, you might need a splash more)
  • 500g fresh (cut into florets) or frozen broccoli
  • 75g grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 kg fresh (cut into florets) or frozen cauliflower
  • 2 slices ciabatta loaf (or stale bread)
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme (rosemary would work well too)
  • 2 tablespoons flaked or sliced almonds
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:  

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.

  1. Add the butter to a medium sized, fairly deep pot or frying pan. Fry the garlic.
  2. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and stir with a whisk until you get a paste. Then, gradually add the milk a bit at a time, whisking as you go, until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the broccoli and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked and starts to soften and break down. Using a hand blender, blitz the broc until it’s nicely broken down and blended into the white sauce. You might need to add a little extra splasg of milk if it’s a bit thick (likely if you’re using fresh rather than frozen veg).
  4. Add half the grated cheddar and stir in.
  5. Spread the cauliflower evenly in a baking dish (I used my trusty pyrex)
  6. Pour the broc sauce evenly over the cauli and top with the rest of the cheddar.
  7. Break up the ciabatta into your food processor/blender and blitz for a few seconds. Then add the almonds and fresh thyme, and pulse til blended.
  8. Add a generous amount of olive oil to the bread mix, season with salt and pepper, and then scatter evenly over the broc sauce.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour. Make sure you test the cauli with a fork about 45 minutes in to ensure it’s cooking. Remove when the cauli is soft and the topping is a nice golden brown.

Tip for prepping ahead of time:

I made the broccoli sauce the day before and refrigerated it to save on prep time. When I was ready, I heated the broc sauce in a saucepan, adding a splash of milk  and blitzing it again to loosen it up (it tends to thicken in the fridge). I then followed the remaining recipe steps from there. I wouldn’t advise prepping the whole thing in advance as it’ll likely go soggy and if you baked it in advance and then reheated, the bread topping would likely burn. I did put it all together a few hours before baking, though, and it worked well.

Adaptations:

  • Use a mix of cauli, brocolli, other favourite veggies, instead of cauli only.
  • Use an aged cheddar for a sharper flavour
  • Squeeze a little lemon juice over the cauli
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