Cauliflower is a vegetable I loathed as small child. I can still remember cauliflower that either lacked all taste or smelt rank from overcooking, that had no texture and likely no vitamins left in it at all. Somehow I managed to get past that and cauliflower cheese became a staple part of my diet in my late teens, which meant there was always something I felt I could eat. As I move towards a gluten-free, wheat free diet, cauliflower consumption is on an upwards trend. Quite apart from cauliflower cheese which remains a firm favourite in the comfort food stakes, I’m using it as a replacement for rice and as a pizza base too.
Cauliflower Croustade is another favourite. We’ve been making this dish since the now grown up children were quite small. I still love it, but where we first adapted it from Rose Elliot’s ‘Croustade of Mushrooms’ in her ‘Supreme Vegetarian Cookbook’, we first made it using cauliflower to replace the mushrooms, which the boys detested, together with a cheese sauce and now latterly I’ve a gluten-free, wheat version of this dish which I love even more.
I’m looking forward to next year now and growing our very own cauliflowers here in our English country garden.
Ingredients – base:
- 75g/3oz flaked almonds,
- 75g/3oz pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, (or if you are not avoiding wheat/gluten you could use the same weight of breadcrumbs or oats – I’ve used either and sometimes a mixture of both)
- 75g/3oz ground almonds or other finely ground nuts,
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely,
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed,
- 90g/3 1/2 oz softened butter,
- freshly ground salt and pepper,
Ingredients – cheese sauce:
- 1 shallot finely chopped,
- 1 small knob of butter,
- 500ml of double cream,
- 1 handful of grated Emmental,
- 1 handful of grated Gruyère,
- seasoning to taste
- 1 medium-sized cauliflower
Method – base and cauliflower:
If you are using a conventional oven, you will need to preheat it to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
First of all blitz the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a food processor. You are looking for fairly fine grain. Put the blitzed seeds in a large bowl Keep a few of the flaked almonds back but put the rest into the bow with the blitzed seeds together with the ground almonds.
Melt a knob of the butter in a small pan and fry off the onion and garlic until cooked through and golden. Add to the bowl. Melt the remaining butter and stir into the bowl mixing well.
Press the resulting mixture into the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, a flan dish would work well as would a shallow le cruset dish.
Bake the base for about 20 minutes. You are looking for a golden brown, crisp finish. If you have an AGA use the baking oven.
While the base is cooking you need to par boil the cauliflower and prepare the sauce. You don’t want to fully cook the cauliflower right through or it will be soggy and not very appetising so you want to get it to an al dente point and then drain it.
Method – cheese sauce:
You could of course just make an ordinary cheese sauce with a roux (using gluten-free flour if you need a gluten-free sauce). However, if you want a wheat free sauce then double cream is a delicious route to take as long as you can take dairy products.
Melt a knob of butter in a small frying pan. Gently fry the shallot in the butter until its translucent. Add your cream and heat gently. When its hot, add the Emmental and Gruyère cheese and stir until melted. Season to taste.
Method – Assemble and finish:
Once the base is cooked, lay the drained cauliflower florets over the base then cover with the cheese sauce. Pop back in the oven to finish cooking. You want it to brown lightly on the top, so it should take about 10-15 minutes. Ten minutes into this cooking time, you want to pull it out quickly, and sprinkle the remaining flaked almonds over the top before popping it back in the oven. This should mean the nuts can brown slightly but not burn.
I love this with a nice green salad and some fresh tomatoes. Sausage is a good addition too. We had this the other evening with a nice salad and venison sausages from our local butcher.