06 June 2012

Macauliflower Cheese

A blog post in honour of my friend Emma who is fearlessly blogging her cooking adventures here, the first two of which have been care of Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals (please click this link to see Jamie's very very helpful tips and techniques videos and search recipes).

Recently in Oz we were treated to the TV series Jamie's 30 minute meals, which was conveniently aired on Channel Ten at early tea-time so I would have it on while I was cooking (by which you now know I mean "throwing random ingredients at cookware and hoping something turned into food") dinner.

I was inspired by his great idea to combine two old favourites, Macaroni Cheese and Cauliflower Cheese into one big cheesy easy love-in.

Now the first time I made this, I followed the recipe from the book fairly precisely (it just looked so delicious on the telly that I thought for once I'd give the recipe some obedience)
- which was awesome, except for the fact that Jamie obviously has a kitchen made for GIANTS and I ended up needing to use TWO baking dishes

and, like Emma, had leftover pasta for days on end. Not that that's a bad thing, but I was a tad overwhelmed! I don't have a food processor for "waz"ing up food, but I do have a blender which, with a bit of persistence and jiggling, works just fine for the breadcrumb mix.

The second time dosen't really count as I "made" this, I was actually a little bit unwell and staying at a lovely mate's house and she was very kindly babysitting me (watching rubbish daytime TV with me and feeding me - for which I later was able to return the favour, thank goodness). She also had a copy of Jamie's 30 Minute Meals, and an even unholier love of Mac and Cheese than me, so she cooked up a lovely batch of this dish for us to eat for dinner. Even though she reduced the amount, there was still HEAPS left!

Third time was the other night I decided to do a half-amount... turned out pretty well. Although this time I couldn't be bothered with the bread/crumbs and blender, so I just hand crumbled the prosciutto and grated some Gruyere on top... Big nom!

So, here's the sort-of recipe:

Macauliflower Cheese

4 rashers of pancetta or prosciutto
1/2 a large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
125g of grated cheese
(I used Gruyere leftover from the Eurovision wine & cheese viewing that just kept on giving; Jamie suggests mature Cheddar)
2 thick slices of country bread or a large handful of breadcrumbs
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary (or a sprinkle of dried is fine)
1-2 cloves of garlic
Most of a 200g tub of crème fraîche
Salt, pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)

Lay the pancetta/prosciutto in a baking paper lined roasting dish and put on top shelf of oven set to 220°

Tear off any dried out outer leaves from the cauliflower, trim off the tough end of the stalk. Then cut the half-head in half or thirds. Chuck it into a large saucepan core down, with the pasta, onto stove set to high heat. Cover these with boiling water from the kettle (you may need a 2nd boiled kettleful to cover). Season with a generous pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil, then stir and cook for the amount of time on the macaroni packet instructions (mine was 13 minutes - this makes for soggy cauli, if you want al dente cauli maybe withhold it until the pasta's really bubbling away then add it 2nd?) leave the saucepan lid on half-on-half-off or wedge open with a wooden spoon to prevent volcanic eruptions.

Remove the pancetta/prosciutto from the oven (leave the oven on), pop it into the food processor/blender with the bread, rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil and pepper and "waz" it up until it is a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

Strain the cauli/pasta mix over a bowl or jug to collect the cooking water.

Tip the strained cauli & pasta into the roasting tray that had the porky rashers in it. Add 200mL/a small mugful of the cooking water, crush in the garlic cloves, mix in the crème fraîche and the grated cheese, gently stirring and smooshing up the cauliflower with your tongs or spoon or implement. Season to taste. If the mix is not nice and loose when you give the dish a shake, add another splash of the cooking water until it is. Give it a shake/spread it evenly in the dish; then scatter over the breadcrumb mix.

Put the dish in the top shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Shave or grate parmesan over the top once cooked/upon removing from oven to serve. Omnomnomnom.


  1. I'm very tempted to try this on the kids to see if they notice the cauliflower or not!

  2. Ah, good idea! I actually love the cauliflower texture so I leave it in big chunks if I can, but if you mash it down after the draining I am pretty sure it will be ninja vegies for sure!

  3. This sounds great, maybe I would be able to get the boys to eat it, one wouldn't like the cauliflower, the other wouldn't like the meat.