Vegan Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese is a traditional, delicious side dish consisting of roast cauliflower in a rich, creamy Béchamel sauce, topped with copious amounts of crunchy cheese.

Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6 (as a side)Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 840g/30 oz/1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets with leaves removed
  • 650ml/6½ dl/just over a pint/2¾ cups of unsweetened soya milk
  • 40g/1½ oz/4 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 60g/2 oz/4 tablespoons of plant based margarine
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 80g/3 oz/6 tablespoons of grated vegan cheddar
  • 40g/1½ oz/8 tablespoons of grated vegan parmesan
  • 28g/1 oz/4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

Special Equipment

  • Two medium sized saucepans
  • A colander
  • A medium sized casserole dish
  • A whisk

Method

  1. Set a saucepan of water on the hob over a high heat and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower florets and boil them for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and drain the florets.
  2. Put the florets in the casserole dish and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
  4. Next, make the Béchamel sauce. Add the margarine to another saucepan and set it on the hob over a medium heat. When the margarine has melted stir in the flour. Cook the margarine and flour together for up to five minutes, or until they form a smooth, golden brown roux. Ensure you stir them, gently but constantly, while they cook.
  5. Turn the heat down and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of the milk. Continue whisking the roux and milk together until the milk has been fully absorbed and a thick paste has formed. Continue adding the remainder of the milk, a couple of tablespoons at a time, whisking in each bit of milk until it’s been fully absorbed into the paste.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and allow it to simmer gently, whisking regularly, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it’s become smooth and thick. Stir in a little salt and pepper.
  7. Mix the cheddar and parmesan together. Stir half of the cheese mixture into the sauce.
  8. Pour the Béchamel sauce evenly over the cauliflower, then stir the breadcrumbs and the remaining cheese mixture together and scatter them over the dish.
  9. Pop the Cauliflower Cheese in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until it’s golden brown, bubbling and fragrant. Serve immediately, while it’s hot.
  10. Bon Appetit!

Tips

  • If the Béchamel sauce ends up being a little lumpy, whisk it with an electric whisk or pop it in a blender- either should disperse any clumps of flour and leave you with a smooth sauce.
  • If desired, you can add a little mustard and/or nutmeg to the sauce to flavour it.

Background

Home: Cyprus, England
Pronunciation:
ˌ/kɒliflaʊə ˈtʃiːz/ (Koll-ih-flahw-err-cheeyz)

Relatives: Conopida Saseasca (Romania), Welsh Rarebit (Wales), Macaroni Cheese (International)

History

The history of Cauliflower Cheese isn’t too well documented. It’s believed that cauliflowers originated in Kythrea, Cyprus: the vegetable’s Cypriot heritage was reflected in its Old French and early modern English names, respectively Thou de Chypre and Cyprus Coleworts, which both mean ‘Cyprus Cabbage’. It’s believed that cauliflowers were introduced to western Europe in the Middle Ages by Latin Christians returning from the Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus. The vegetable may also have been introduced to Britain directly in the 1800s, when Cyprus was a British colony.

Béchamel sauce became very popular in 19th century Cyprus and Greece, so it’s likely that Cauliflower Cheese originated in its complete form on the vegetable’s home island. The dish had emerged in British cuisine by the mid 19th century, with an early recipe of it appearing in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1861. By the 20th century it had become a popular side dish, often served as an accompaniment to Sunday roasts.

Kythrea, Cyprus
From Esme Scott Stevenson’s Our home in Cyprus. With illustrations and a map, 1880

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