Recipe: cauliflower cheese with a cheesy breadcrumb crust

Something that I’ve been wanting to kick off for ages is a project to encourage using up left-overs. I really hate waste. I’m the sort of person that will eat everything on their plate – even if I know I’m full, just because I don’t want to put anything in the bin. In particular I want to talk about bread, because I think often, after the loaf has been enjoyed, the sad crusts have a tendency to end up in the bin, which is just silly when they could go on to be part of a really delicious dinner.

This makes a super quick mid-week meal. It’s a sort of cauliflower cheese/mac and cheese amalgamation, because you know, I’m a vegetarian, so if I spot an opportunity to cram some veggies in there – I will do it. Crowned it with a cheesy wholemeal breadcrumb crust, it’s easy to make, rewardingly tasty and comes together with a few bits that you’ve probably already got lurking about in the cupboard and fridge.

Cauliflower cheese with a cheesy breadcrumb crust (serves 2)

  • a small knob of butter
  • a tablespoon of (preferably stone-milled) plain flour
  • a pint of whole milk
  • sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 150g hard mature cheese, such as Twineham Grange or Parmesan, coarsely grated
  • 100g mature cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • a couple of slices of leftover stale bread, such as my wholemeal, rye and fennel bread
  • a head of cauliflower
  • 2 handfuls of pasta
  • 4 beef tomatoes
  • a dash of sunflower oil
  • seasoning to taste

Heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Slice the beef tomatoes across the middle, before oiling, seasoning and roasting them cut side up in the oven.

Either using a blender or a sharp knife, chop the stale bread until it resembles breadcrumbs. I used a blender, and pulsed the bread with the 1/3 of the cheese and a little salt and pepper.

On the hob melt the knob of butter and stir in the tablespoon of flour to make a thick paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking to stir out any lumps. Add the nutmeg and 2/3 of the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce thickens.

Simultaneously heat a pan of boiling water and drop in the 2 handfuls of pasta. Cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the cauliflower florets and retuning the pan to the boil. Cook for another 2-3 minutes before taking the pan off the heat and draining the pasta and veg.

Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta and cauliflower, and spoon the mixture into a large roasting dish. Cover generously with the breadcrumbs and then put the dish into the pre-heated oven, along side the tomatoes, for approximately 25-30 minutes.

Serve with the tomatoes.

The bowl used here is Sarjaton pattern by Iittala in pearl grey. 

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