Whole roasted cauliflower with leeks and cheese sauce

Whole roasted cauliflower with leeks and cheese sauce
  • Serves icon Serves 6
  • Time icon Hands-on time 45 min, oven/simmering time 1 hour 30-40 min, plus chilling

Roasting a whole cauliflower makes an impressive vegetarian centrepiece, especially when it’s covered in a layer of cheesy breadcrumbs and served with a rich cheese sauce.

This recipe is by chef Simon Rogan of two-Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume.

Nutrition: For the cauli and leeks

Calories
523kcals
Fat
38.7g (23.8g saturated)
Protein
14.3g
Carbohydrates
26.8g (7.7g sugars)
Fibre
5.4g
Salt
1.1g
Calories
523kcals
Fat
38.7g (23.8g saturated)
Protein
14.3g
Carbohydrates
26.8g (7.7g sugars)
Fibre
5.4g
Salt
1.1g

For the cheese sauce…

Per 2 tbsp: 159kcals, 14.7g fat (9.3g saturated), 6.7g protein, 0.1g carbs (0.1g sugars), 0.5g salt, no fibre

Ingredients

For the roasted cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower (with leaves if possible)
  • 50g butter, softened
  • Fresh thyme leaves to garnish (optional)
  • For the cheese crumb coating
  • 140g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 85g vegetarian emmental cheese, roughly chopped
  • 25g vegetarian parmesan-style hard cheese, grated
  • 2g chopped fresh thyme (about 7 sprigs)
  • 115g butter, melted

For the cheese sauce

  • 250g vegetarian cheddar, grated
  • 85g butter
  • 60g vegetarian emmental cheese, grated

For the creamed leeks

  • 50g butter
  • 500g leeks, green parts removed, washed and thinly sliced
  • 100ml single cream
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • Finely grated zest 1 lemon

You’ll also need…

  • Food processor

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cauliflower, leaving any small, tender leaves intact. Trim the base so the cauliflower sits flat, then put upright in a roasting tin. Rub all over with the 50g butter, season generously with salt and pepper, then cover with foil. Roast for 20 minutes, remove the foil, baste with the buttery juices, then return to the oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes more until the cauliflower is soft and caramelised. Leave to cool.
  2. For the cheese crumb coating, whizz the breadcrumbs, both cheeses and thyme in a food processor, then mix in the melted butter to combine. Use your hands to work into a pliable coating, then press on top of the cooled cauliflower, covering it from the top as far down as it will go. Chill for 40 minutes to firm the crust (see Make Ahead).
  3. For the cheese sauce, put the 250g cheddar and 250ml water in a pan set over a low heat. Cook very gently for 1 hour so the cheese melts gradually. Strain through a sieve into a measuring jug – you should have about 250ml cheese water. Discard the solids in the sieve (they don’t taste of much once they’ve imparted most of their flavour to the water). Pour the cheese water from the jug back into the pan, add the 85g butter and the 60g grated emmental cheese, then gently heat for 30 minutes more, stirring every now and then, until the cheese melts fully and makes a richly flavoured sauce – you’re looking for a gravy-like consistency rather than a cheese sauce consistency. There’s no need to strain it this time – keep it warm until you’re ready to serve the cauliflower.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6, then bake the chilled cauliflower for 20-30 minutes until golden.
  5. For the creamed leeks, melt the 50g butter in a large pan, add the sliced leeks and cook gently over a low heat until softened. Add the cream, turn up the heat and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the mustard and lemon zest, then season to taste with salt. Transfer to a warmed serving dish.
  6. Carefully transfer the cauliflower to a warm platter, scatter with fresh thyme (if using) and serve with the creamed leeks on the side and the cheese sauce separately in a jug.

This recipe is from the December issue of delicious. magazine. Pick up a copy – on sale now – for plenty more Christmas recipe inspiration.

delicious. tips

  1. The method for making the cheese sauce may seem unusual but it makes sense if you think of it as similar to making a stock for a meaty gravy – only this one uses cheese instead of simmering bones and vegetables, as you would for a meat-based stock.

    Slow-cooking the cheese and water intensifies the flavour and brings wonderful depth to the finished dish – the sauce was given a big thumbs-up from the delicious. team. If you want, you can leave out this part of the recipe and serve the cauliflower with a different vegetarian gravy.

  2. Make to the end of step 2 up to a day ahead, then cover and chill.

  3. It has got to be a premium Alsace white here – best of all an appley, ripe Alsace pinot gris.

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