Cauliflower Steaks with Cider, Mustard and Cheddar Sauce
I grew up thinking of cauliflower as an aggressively bland vegetable - having encountered it largely as a part of school meals where it was served boiled and unseasoned. The only good use for it, I believed, was smothered in cheese sauce as a side for a roast (I maintain this is still one of the best things you can do with it).
In fact, cauliflower has a lovely nutty flavour and a texture that lends itself well to pan frying or roasting. The subtlety of cauliflower means it pairs well with fish, but can also be given a punch through caramelisation or pickling to stand up well against strong meats like duck or venison. One of my favourite combinations is cauliflower and blue cheese.
Never throw away the leaves. They are tasty and nutritious, and great for adding a contrast of colour and texture to your meal. Treat them as you would cabbage - just be sure to give them a good wash before you cook them.
Recipe: Cauliflower 'steak', Mustard, Cider and Cheddar Sauce
You can buy cauliflower steaks in M&S. Please don't though, it's a symptom of a world gone mad. Just buy a cauliflower and cut it up yourself.
I serve these on top of the cauliflower leaves, which I sauté with bacon lardons. It transforms a humble cauliflower, with just a few additional ingredients, into something quite wonderful and very indulgent.
You'll need 200ml of good cider to make the sauce. Pick something you'd drink yourself and get at least two 500ml bottles. Then you can drink 300ml of the open one while you're cooking, and still have one to drink with your meal.
Use whatever your favourite mustard is for this recipe. I love grain mustard, but english or dijon will work too. If you go for english mustard though, use a bit less so as not to overwhelm everything.
Also - use a good, strong, extra mature cheddar. This dish is all about a big punch of flavour. The mild varieties just aren't going to cut it.
Recipe (serves 2):
1 good sized cauliflower
1 tablespoon flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
1 sprig rosemary
50g strong cheddar
A splash of double cream (optional but a wonderful addition)
1 good teaspoon spoon mustard
salt and pepper
50g bacon lardons (or chopped up streaky bacon)
A handful of breadcrumbs
1. Peel the leaves from the cauliflower. Wash them, shred them finely with a sharp knife and set aside.
2. Cut the cauliflower in half, straight through the centre of the stalk. Then take each half, and slice down the outside (non cut) edge of the stalk, all the way through to produce a steak with the full shape of the cross section of the cauliflower, held together by the stem. You'll have a fair bit of 'trim' which you can save for another day.
3. Heat your oven to 180 degrees. Set a frying pan on the stove over a low to medium heat and add 20g of the butter, one of the garlic cloves and the sprig of rosemary. When the butter starts to foam, add the cauliflower steaks and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook the cauliflower steaks over a medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes each side. It's crucial the pan doesn't get too hot or the butter will burn. You're looking for a golden brown caramelisation on each side of the cauliflower. When they are ready, lift them out of the pan, pop them on a baking tray and into the oven for 10 - 12 minutes to finish cooking.
5. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan you just took the cauliflower out of and stir them gently over the heat as they toast and absorb all the remaining butter and the flavours from the garlic and the rosemary. This will only take a minute or two, and you need to keep them moving so they don't burn. As soon as they look toasted tip them out of the pan and set aside.
6. Give the frying pan a wipe, put it back on the heat and add 10g of butter, the remaining garlic clove and your bacon lardons. Let the bacon cook until it's starting to colour then add your shredded leaves and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and keep warm in the pan
7. For your sauce - in a new pan, over a low to medium heat, melt the last 20g of butter, add the flour and whisk to combine. Allow it to cook for a few minutes, keeping it moving with the whisk. When your flour has cooked out start to slowly add the cider, a little at a time, whisking constantly to get a smooth sauce.
8. Add your cheddar, mustard and cream (if using) to the sauce and whisk over the heat while the cheese melts and the sauce thickens.
9. Pop your sautéed greens into two bowls, put a cauliflower steak atop each pile, pour over your sauce and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.
You can leave out the bacon for a veggie version of this dish. Try replacing it with some chopped chestnuts.
You could also replace the breadcrumbs with chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts.