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Red Leicester Cauliflower Cheese

by
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Introduction

I don't think that Cauliflower Cheese exists as a comfort food staple outside of the UK, but it surely should, and why I gladly post this recipe here. I must tell you that this brilliant way of preparing the cauliflower so that it both retains bite and stops the sauce becoming watery or grainy is pinched from Nick Jones (of Soho House fame), as is his smell-reducing use of bay leaves.

I most commonly make this with Red Leicester cheese, but Cheddar is more orthodox; feel free to use any combination of hard cheeses you favour.

Also, if you want a truly scorched top - as I have a weakness for - do blitz the dish under the grill (broiler in the US) for a few minutes at the end.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I don't think that Cauliflower Cheese exists as a comfort food staple outside of the UK, but it surely should, and why I gladly post this recipe here. I must tell you that this brilliant way of preparing the cauliflower so that it both retains bite and stops the sauce becoming watery or grainy is pinched from Nick Jones (of Soho House fame), as is his smell-reducing use of bay leaves.

I most commonly make this with Red Leicester cheese, but Cheddar is more orthodox; feel free to use any combination of hard cheeses you favour.

Also, if you want a truly scorched top - as I have a weakness for - do blitz the dish under the grill (broiler in the US) for a few minutes at the end.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6

Metric Cups
  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 100 grams butter
  • 2 teaspoons english mustard
  • 50 grams plain flour
  • 500 millilitres milk
  • 300 grams grated red leicester cheese
  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 teaspoons english mustard
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups grated red leicester cheese

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC/200ºC Fan/gas mark 7/425ºF.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, put into a saucepan with the bay leaves and cover with cold water. Add a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil, then drain and refresh with cold water. Let the cauliflower drain again in a colander, pluck out the bay leaves and discard.
  3. When the cauliflower is completely drained, put into an ovenproof dish in an even layer.
  4. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan, then whisk in the mustard and flour, and cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk off the heat, and then put it back on the heat and keep stirring until it becomes really thick and begins to bubble.
  5. Sprinkle in all but a handful of the grated cheese, and stir over the heat until it has melted into the sauce. Check the seasoning, then pour it over the cauliflower in the dish, and then scatter the remaining handful of grated cheese over the top.
  6. Cook for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is hot, the sauce is bubbling and the cheesy top is slightly browned.
  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC/200ºC Fan/gas mark 7/425ºF.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, put into a saucepan with the bay leaves and cover with cold water. Add a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil, then drain and refresh with cold water. Let the cauliflower drain again in a colander, pluck out the bay leaves and discard.
  3. When the cauliflower is completely drained, put into an ovenproof dish in an even layer.
  4. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan, then whisk in the mustard and flour, and cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk off the heat, and then put it back on the heat and keep stirring until it becomes really thick and begins to bubble.
  5. Sprinkle in all but a handful of the grated cheese, and stir over the heat until it has melted into the sauce. Check the seasoning, then pour it over the cauliflower in the dish, and then scatter the remaining handful of grated cheese over the top.
  6. Cook for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is hot, the sauce is bubbling and the cheesy top is slightly browned.

Tell us what you think

What 12 Others have said

  • I've made Cauliflower Cheese quite a number of times over the years. I often use powdered mustard sieved with the flour and I sprinkle cayenne powder on once it is assembled in the dish before putting in the oven. I'm really interested to try the bay leaves whilst boiling the cauli and will try roasting the cauli with oil and little black pepper and am going to try the Red Leicester cheese. Thanks :)

    Posted by delilahmerritt on 5th February 2020
  • I find that if you steam the cauliflower florets instead of boiling them......about 6 to 10 minutes.....you hardly need to drain them and they hold their shape well. You can put the bay leaves in the steamer with them, and add the salt later when the florets are in the baking dish.

    Posted by 55Cabbagese on 17th November 2019
  • I have made this for years but never had the mustard. Together with the Red Leicester it has gone from very good to excellent; well done Nigella. We love it in Australia too.

    Posted by topnosh144 on 14th November 2019
  • I haven't made this, but I did find Red Leicester cheese in my market (Shoprite, US) and made the Red Leicester Mashed Potatoes and they were delicious. If you can search out this cheese, it is worth the effort.

    Posted by bappel on 11th November 2019
  • My seriously Yankee husband quite likes cauliflower cheese. But I don't boil the cauliflower ... you just can't drain it enough. But if you roast it briefly in a little oil and salt ... yum.

    Posted by Meann on 1st March 2019
  • Just made this for my very Texan family and they loved every bite! Thank you, Nigella!

    Posted by JonasB on 24th February 2019
  • One of my favourites. Here in Tasmania, I use wasabi cheese and leave out the mustard. It's delicious.

    Posted by jeansdaughter on 18th March 2017
  • So lovely and warming. I add a bit of cayenne, and use classic American cheddar.

    Posted by Girasole on 28th September 2015
  • Hi Nigella, i live in Brasil and every time i cooked this it's a huge success but a massive surprise! So yes, thanks for introducing it to the world. Team CupCake Forever!

    Posted by Pena Selvagem on 1st April 2014
  • Cauliflower Cheese was a family favourite when I was growing up in Australia. Even my carnivore father would eat it without protest! I suspect it might be a little more widespread than Nigella suspects.

    Posted by Gippy on 26th June 2013
  • We had cauliflower cheese growing up in the 60's here in New Zealand (German parents). Seems pretty common here to me.

    Posted by Angeldrawers on 13th May 2013
  • I just wanted to say that I am from Germany and Cauliflower Cheese was something my mother constantly cooked for me as a child. Still love it with a generous amount of nutmeg in the sauce and boiled potatoes to go with, wonderful vegetarian comfort.

    Posted by HannaBerlin on 26th April 2013
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