Originally known in sixteenth-century England as a Cyprus colewart, then coleflower, the cauliflower has survived even the British habit of baking it with a cheese sauce. I know people who make this good, old-fashioned favourite for their dinner. I mean, for their entire dinner. I guess that’s what boarding school does for you. Consider steaming it whole, and serving completely bathed in sauce.
Cut cauliflower into large florets like the branches of a tree, or leave whole. Rinse well in cold water and shake dry. Cook in a big pot of simmering salted water for around 10 minutes for florets, 20 to 30 minutes for whole cauliflower, then drain. Heat oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter a baking dish, and pack the cauliflower florets in it, quite tightly, or place the whole cauliflower in the dish.
Melt butter until foaming in a small saucepan. Sprinkle with flour while stirring madly with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Add milk gradually, stirring, until you have a nice thick sauce. Thin out the sauce with a little extra milk to a pouring-cream consistency. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese, and cook gently for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with paprika. Serve at the table, from the dish.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.