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Cauliflower, tomato and asparagus cheese recipe

 

Photo: The blurred hands in the photo are Danny's. Yes he was first for seconds!

Photo: The blurred hands in the photo are Danny's. Yes he was first for seconds!

Being a devoted alpha carnivore Danny’s face always drops when there is the prospect of a low meat meal. My Wednesday plans were kyboshed when he returned home with two fillet steaks for £2.50 from the Waitrose CFC.

“As they are rather brown I think that we have to cook them tonight.” So he did.

The next day I decided to pull all the stops out for a different sort of cauliflower cheese. We used to make cauliflower cheese over a layer of bacon/ham. Now we add fresh tomatoes to the ham layer. A wicked combination of flavours.

Last night I decided to take this dish a step further and add asparagus. I had bough a small pack of baby asparagus tips – very naughty as they are out of season – as a starter for Valentines Day. I don’t know what they had been treated with but they had been lurking in the fridge since then and still looked fine. The result was a triumph. Danny adored it and announced,
‘The asparagus wrapped in the ham was so sweet. A perfect foil for the tangy tomatoes. I can’t wait for the asparagus season to begin!’

For a totally veggie option leave out the ham and add 3 tablespoons of grated fried cheese to the layer of asparagus and tomatoes.

Cauliflower, tomato and asparagus cheese recipe for 2 hungry people
Ingredients:
1 small head of cauliflower
3 slices of ham
1 small handful of baby asparagus
8 baby plum tomatoes (halved)
100g of grated cheap cheddar cheese
50g of butter
80g of plain white flour
550ml -750ml of full cream milk (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be)
1 tsp of garlic granules (or a chunky clove of garlic crushed and chopped very fine- if you use chopped garlic cloves add at the roux stage)
I tsp of anchovy essence
1 large pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Method:
Start off with your béchamel sauce.
Heat the butter and, when it has melted, add the flour. Let this roux simmer for a minute or so to get a nuttiness. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly so that the roux absorbs all the milk before you add the next splosh. In this way you should avoid lumps. If you do have lumps use a stick blender to get you quickly out of trouble. When all the milk has been added let the sauce simmer for ten minutes to thicken. (My sauce was very thick at this stage).
Meanwhile wash the cauliflower divide into similar sized florets and add to a large saucepan of boiling water. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes (testing after five) until cooked but with a bite. Simmer the baby asparagus until tender with a slight bite (mine took 5 minutes). Drain the cauliflower and asparagus through a colander and set the colander on the original saucepan, in a warm place to drain as you continue to make your sauce.
Add two thirds of the grated cheese to the thick béchamel sauce and stir until it is absorbed. Add the cayenne pepper, garlic granules and anchovy essence. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Divide the asparagus into three and wrap each bunch in a slice of ham. Place these in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Add a little of the cheese sauce and then arrange the cooked cauliflower over this and pour over the rest of the sauce.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the surface of the dish and place under a medium grill ( I used Andrew to bake the garlic bread and brown the top) for about 5-7 minutes to brown.
We ate this with garlic bread and the combination was out of this world.


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6 Comments

  1. Ruthdigs

    This sounds really fab (minus the ham for me). When does the asparagus season start?…
    Cauliflower is one of those things where a little goes a long way hence I rarely buy it even though I love cauli cheese. Hoping I have better luck growing it this year compared to last years wash out. :-/

  2. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Fiona, Fiona! If your idea of naughty is out-of-season asparagus, you’ve GOT to get out more!

  3. Cookie Girl

    My husband’s ‘signature dish’ is somewhat similar to this – the first thing he ever cooked for me I think. It’s really simple and fresh tasting and lovely with garlic bread. So: take small bunches of asparagus and wrap them in ham. Lay these in an overproof dish, pour over this your tomato sauce, jar sauce or tinned toms or other prepared tomato sauce, layer mozarella over the top of this and bake until it’s all bubbling and the cheese is brown – approx 20-25 mins..serve with garlic bread.

  4. Hi Fiona – the cauliflower cheese sounds great and is a favourite with my veggie husband – I have to make it every week so will be making your recipe without the ham. What I do is finely slice a large onion in a little butter till soft and golden then layer that on top of the cooked cauliflower then add the Bechamel with a good sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg and parmesan.
    Delicious and fattening!

  5. kate (uk)

    Cauliflower cheese is just such a wonderful dish- cauli cheese and chutney is one of my all time favourites.

  6. Toffeeapple

    I’ve always put tomatoes in cauliflower cheese but have never thought to put ham in there too, a great idea Fiona, thank you.

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