Nutty Cauliflower Cheese

Regular readers of this site may have noticed I am a big fan of cauliflower. This is a slight twist on a classic, adding leeks and walnuts to add texture, flavour and a little bit of healthiness.

Makes enough to feed four adults

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower – cut into florets
1 leek
100g chopped walnuts
Large knob of butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon English mustard
500ml milk
150g cheese – something strong like cheddar, gruyere or red leicester

Start by cooking the cauliflower. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large pan. When hot, add the cauliflower and fry, stirring occasionally, until browned in places. A little bit of black won’t hurt either. All that colour adds a rich flavour and a little sweetness. Once browned, add about 50ml water and cover. Allow to steam for around 5 minutes to help the cauliflower soften. Remove from heat and pop the cauliflower into a baking dish. Season with a little salt and black pepper. A little grated nutmeg is nice at this stage too if you have it.

Now for the sauce. Heat the butter and one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. When the butter has melted, add the flour and the mustard. Stir over the heat for two minutes then add the milk, slowly, stirring all the time until you have a smooth liquid. Heat and keep stirring until thickened. Add more milk if it gets too thick but keep stirring to prevent the flour separating and burning on the base of your plan. Not only does that give the sauce a burnt flavour, it ruins your pan. When nicely thickened, add the cheese, either sliced of grated. Keep stirring over a medium heat until the cheese has melted and you have a thick, creamy, cheesy sauce. Pour this over the cauliflower.

Cut the leek in half lengthwise, wash well, then slice into fine half rings. Sprinkle these over the top of the sauce. Now sprinkle the walnuts over the top then pop the whole thing into the oven at 200C (or 180C for a fan assisted oven_ and bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.

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