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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Fried Cauliflower and Broccoli with Cashew “Cheese” Sauce

Last year I went to Vegfest London. I was expecting a spectacular selection of meat free foods but instead I was presented with a vast array of meat and cheese substitutes. I tried a sample from one of the cheese shops. Quite possibly the most vile thing I have ever tasted and the taste lingered in my mouth. Yuk Yuk Yuk!

So when I saw Lee Watson‘s Creamy Cashew Cheese Sauce I wanted to see if a vegan cheese existed that could knock my socks off. To be honest I’m now 25 days into Veganuary and haven’t missed cheese at all. Veganuary has been an eye opener, trying so many new ideas and ingredients. I’m loving it. This cheese sauce is amazing.

So here is a vegetarian classic caulflower cheese with a few twists. This made enough for 2 with enough left for snacking on before bedtime or for a packed lunch at work tomorrow for one.

For the sauce:
100-120g raw cashews – soaked for a few hours or preferably overnight in the fridge
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a big pinch of turmeric (watch out as it will stain your fingers and everything you touch)
salt
1 teaspoon English mustard
approx 200-240ml dairy free milk – I used Soya. Almond would be good too

Check everything in the food processor except the milk. Switch on then slowly add the milk until you have a smooth, thickish, creamy sauce. If you need more liquid top it up with water.

For the rest:
Half a head of cauliflower – chopped into florets a size that you like
half a head of broccoli – same as above
1 leek – cut in half lengthwise then sliced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
Breadcrumbs
Fresh Basil leaves – finely shredded
1 heaped teaspoon paprika powder
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the cauliflower, broccoli and leeks. Fry over a medium heat until the cauliflower is browned. This adds tons of flavour that you just don’t get if you boil it. Now add a splash of water, cover and leave to steam for about 5 minutes until everything is just tender.

Put into an oven dish the pour the sauce over. Mix the breadcrumbs, basil and paprika in a bowl with a little salt and pepper, then spread over the vegetables. Drizzle with a little olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C until the crumbs are brown and crispy.

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Cauliflower & Kale Tart

Tart, flan, quiche. Call it what you will, the combination of light, fluffy egg and thin, crisp pastry is something I never tire of.

Frying the cauliflower until charred brings out flavour. Don’t be afraid if you think you are burning it. The more colour, the more flavour.

I cheated here and used a ready rolled packet of shortcrust pastry. Less washing up and so much easier despite the fact they are made just a little too narrow for most tart tins.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small cauliflower – divide the florets then slice
A couple of handfuls of kale or cavalo nero
1 onion – finely sliced
8 eggs
2-3 tablespoons creme fraiche
100g or so of strong cheese – grated

Put the oven on to 180C

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cauliflower over a medium heat until browned and slightly tender. Remove from the pan and fry the onion until it starts to brown.

Set aside to cool.

Plunge the kale into boiling water for 5 mins. Drain then leave to cool.

Beat the eggs and creme fraiche in a large bowl then add the grated cheese and the cooled vegetables.

Roll the pastry a little to fit then use it to line the base and sides of a deep pie dish, making sure there are no cracks or holes. If you have any cracks the filling will seep through leaving a soggy base to your tart. Spread the mustard over the base of the pastry, then tip in the filling mixture.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned on top and set in the middle. Leave to cool and set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Deep-fried Ricotta

Deep frying anything always make it taste better, especially cheese. Inspired by a recent lunch at Luna Rossa in Notting Hill.

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Makes 8-12 balls

250g ricotta cheese
70g parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent)
1-2 eggs
breadcrumbs (panko work best here)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sunflower oil for deep frying

Drain the ricotta and put in a bowl. Finely grate the parmesan into the same bowl. Mix well and place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Take 2 bowls

In bowl 1 crack one of the eggs and beat well
In bowl 2 tip out some of the breadcrumbs, mix in the oregano

Take the cheese mixture from the fridge and shape into small balls – smaller than a golf ball.
Dip the cheese ball in the egg, then the breadcrumbs. For extra crispy coating, repeat again. Place the breaded balls on a plate
Repeat using the second egg and more breadcrumbs as you need them until all the cheese has been used up then return them to the fridge.

Heat the oil in a pan. When hot, fry a few balls at a time. They need about 2-3 minutes – just until the breadcrumbs brown.

Serve immediately with a tomato and garlic sauce (like the one used here) or chili jam

Abel & Cole Cheeses

Those nice people at Abel & Cole sent me a box of organic cheese to try out….for free. How very kind of them. In the somewhat grubby but obviously re-used polystyrene box I got some Perl Las blue cheese, Websters Somerset Brie and a very tasty cheddar (at least that is what it says on the pack).

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So what to do with all this cheese?

First up, the Perl Las

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Celery, Cashew and Blue Cheese Soup

Knob of butter
1 onion – chopped
3 cloves garlic – chopped
1 head of celery, leaves and all – chopped
50g unsalted cashew nuts
A few more cashews for garnish
1 glass of white wine
About a litre of vegetable stock
80g blue cheese
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large pan, then fry the onion, garlic and celery with the lid on until starting to soften, but not browned. Remove the lid and add the wine. Let the alcohol evaporate and the wine reduce, then add the stock – just enough to cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil then add the cashews and simmer until the celery is soft.

Blend with a stick blender or in a food processor then strain through a seive to remove the stringy celery bits.

Roughly chop up the cheese and add to the strained soup then whiz again to blend the cheese in. Return to the heat and keep warm.

Break up the remaining cashews and toast in a dry frying pan. Ladle the hot soup ito bowls and sprinkle some of the toasted cashews on top. No photo of this as I couldn’t make it look appetising against the white soup bowls I own.

The Perl Las is quite strong and does have a slightly bitter aftertaste, but the sweetness of the cashews tames this.

Next, the Tasty Cheddar

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Cheese Souffle

150ml milk
25g butter
25g plain flour
75g cheddar cheese – grated
Pinch chili powder
ΒΌ teaspoon dry English mustard powder
A little grated nutmeg
3 eggs – separated
Salt, pepper

Place the milk, butter and flour in a pan. Heat and stir vigorously until blended then add the chili powder, mustard and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir well then leave to cool a little.

While colling, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Add the egg yolks to the milk, butter and flour mixture then, using a metal spooon, fold in the egg whites.

Put the mixture into a greased souffle dish or six greased ramekins and place on a baking tray. Bake at 180C for about half an hour until set but still soft.

They call it tasty cheddar and that’s exactly what it is.

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I ate the brie with french bread and beetroot relish. Delicious.

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