Baked cauliflower with halloumi bechamel
Baked cauliflower with halloumi bechamel recipe
Baked cauliflower with halloumi béchamel, is my version of the popular British dish cauliflower cheese. Simply it is cauliflower baked with a cheesy sauce made from roux. I grew up with my mum making this in Cyprus for us and I always enjoyed it. Then when we moved to Australia my aunty would make it, she is the person who taught me how to first make it. And essentially that’s when I learnt to make my own béchamel sauce!
CAULIFLOWER THE MAIN HERO
Often a vegetable considered a low carb substitute, cauliflower is also high in fibre and packed with nutrients. It may be enjoyed in many ways: raw, boiled, steamed, mashed, pulsed as rice, blitzed into soup, baked or even battered and fried. It is really that versatile!
STEPS TO MAKE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
Béchamel essentially is a creamy sauce made by making a roux first and then adding milk. A roux is a combination of melted butter and flour (usually in equal parts), which essentially is what will help thicken your sauce. That will form a doughy paste to begin with.
The next step is the addition of milk. I was taught to warm up the milk to begin with but my brother in law, who is in hospitality, said it works better and is hassle free if you use cold milk. You allow the milk to come to a temperature hence giving the sauce time to develop without getting too lumpy. Don’t add all the milk at once, do so in parts making sure the milk is incorporated each time and starts to thicken before adding more.
Finally, you add the cheese! For this cauliflower cheese recipe in the bechamel, I added halloumi. Arguably the mostly used cheese in my kitchen. And why not? It is easily grated and has the perfect saltiness to add flavour to your dishes. If you wanted to add other cheeses here is a list of easily accessible substitutes, just ensure you season your sauce to taste:
– Tasty cheese
BÉCHAMEL VS MORNAY SAUCE
Some would argue that my halloumi béchamel is more appropriately called Mornay sauce because it has cheese in it. Mornay sauce is a classic French sauce slightly thinner and used for many dishes such as macaroni and cheese or spooned over vegetables, fish and chicken. It is made the same way as the béchamel sauce above but typically uses Gruyère cheese.
My béchamel sauce is what I use for dishes like lasagna and makaronia tou fournou (Cypriot pasta bake), with slight variations each time but the method is the same.
HOW TO PERFECT THE HALLOUMI BÉCHAMEL
I’ve made béchamel countless times over the years and I want to share some tips in general and some specifically for this cauliflower cheese dish.
– When making the roux keep whisking and allow it to cook off for 1min or so to remove that raw flour taste.
– Add cold milk to reduce the chances of lumps, as you allow the sauce to simmer and the roux thickens slowly.
– Pour the milk slowly and in parts, to help you incorporate it without forming lumps.
– Keep whisking!! Be patient and… keep whisking! Once again it’s all about avoiding those lumps and it also gives it an airy feel.
– Add the cheese in the end after your sauce has thickened.
– When I add halloumi to my béchamel I avoid adding any extra seasoning as the halloumi is typically salty enough. However, every halloumi brand varies… So taste and season to your liking.
ASSEMBLY AND COOKING
When my aunty showed me how to make cauliflower cheese, she’d keep the whole cauliflower whole. To begin with she would parboil the whole cauliflower and then place the béchamel on top before baking. I’ve adapted her method and recipe to how I make it now.
Essentially I cut the cauliflower in florets rather than leaving it whole for two reasons. Firstly by cutting the cauliflower I don’t need to parboil it hence I have one less pot to clean. I add the halloumi béchamel sauce on top of the raw cauliflower and it cooks through perfectly. Secondly, when you pour the béchamel sauce on top of the cauliflower pieces, rather than on the whole, you allow the creamy sauce to penetrate and cover most of the vegetable’s surface area. Hence you get more flavour.
Baked cauliflower with halloumi béchamel
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
• Half a large cauliflower, cut in florets
• 1 medium garlic clove, 5g, minced
• 70 g salted butter
• 70 g flour
• 650 mL cold milk
• 100 g halloumi, grated (reserve part of it)
• ¼ tsp thyme or rosemary, dried
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan forced. Place the cut cauliflower in a deep dish not very spread out. My round baking dish had a diameter of 21cm.
2. Start making the béchamel by melting the butter in a pot over a medium heat. Add the minced garlic to cook for 1min but avoid burning it. Add the flour and whisk the roux well. Allow that to cook for 1min while constantly stirring.
3. Then slowly add the milk in two parts. Keep whisking after each time, allow it to come to temperature and thicken. Don’t stop whisking otherwise it will get lumpy. Lastly add the herbs and the grated halloumi, but reserve some to place on top later. Stir everything well. You will notice the béchamel sauce will be a bit thick but that is fine as the cauliflower will release some water during baking.
4. Pour the béchamel on top of the raw cauliflower and add the reserved grated halloumi on top. Bake for 40min or until golden brown. Serve it warm simply with a salad as a main dish or include it as part of a bigger spread for your guests.