Do you notice how unapologetic I sound about this? I am, because life would be very miserable indeed, in my opinion, if it weren't for butter, bacon and cream. Do cut the strips of fat off the bacon rashers, though, as the fat will make the sauce oily.
The decadent topping of butter-fried breadcrumbs was suggested to me by someone on Twitter, who told me that this is a traditional Polish topping. If this is just too rich for you, sprinkle the top of the dish with equal quantities of dried breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan.
Luxurious Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks
2 small cauliflowers, broken into florets
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
8 rashers back bacon, fat removed, diced
4 medium leeks, white parts only, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
a bay leaf
a large sprig of fresh thyme
½ cup (125 ml) white wine
100 ml flour
700 ml milk
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1½ cups (about 150 g) grated Cheddar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) grated Parmesan
½ cup (125 ml) cream
salt and white pepper
1 cup (250 ml) fresh breadcrumbs
100 g butter
a little paprika or cayenne pepper
Heat the oven to 180 ºC.
Cook the cauliflower in rapidly boiling salted water for about 7-8 minutes, or until just tender. Drain well and set aside.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the bacon bits. Fry for 2 minutes, then tip in the sliced leeks, garlic, bay leaf and thyme sprig. Turn down the heat and cook gently for about 7 minutes, or until the leeks are soft. Add the wine, turn up the heat, and bubble briskly until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Now sprinkle the flour over the leeks and stir well. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring continuously as the sauce thickens. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes to cook away any floury taste.
Stir in the mustard and lemon juice, and remove from the heat. Fish out the thyme and the bayleaf and discard. Now add the grated cheddar and Parmesan, and continue stirring until the cheese has completely melted. Finally, stir in the cream.
Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Pile the cooked cauliflower into a greased ovenproof dish and pour the sauce evenly over the top, nudging the florets so that the sauce seeps between them.
To make the topping, heat some butter in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs. Fry until golden. Pour the butter/breadcrumb mix all over the top of the cauliflower cheese.
Dust very lightly with paprika or cayenne pepper and bake at 180º C for 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbling
Serve with a crisp green salad.
Serves 6 - 8
If you like this, try my Cauliflower with Butter, Lemon, Parsley and Crispy Breadcrumbs