Back in the 1970’s, due to a lack of money and much to my husband’s irritation, cauliflower cheese, along with jacket potato and tuna bean salad used to be the mainstay of our diet. It was the repetitive appearance of cauliflower cheese that offended him the most. We’re not together now but I do wonder if he’s carried his grudge against cauliflower with him for the past thirty-five years!
If so, it would be a pity because today’s recipe for Souffléd Cauliflower with Gruyere Cheese Sauce is a far cry from the boiled cauliflower with the flour-based béchamel cheese sauce of our yesteryears, which I confess (too late as far as my ex is concerned!) was a truly monotonous thing to eat no matter how liberally I attempted to mask it in cheesiness.
This no-grain, low-carb version is really an elegant deconstruction of boring old cauliflower cheese that I think is simply brilliant as an imaginative vegetarian main course or as an accompaniment to fish, chicken or meat. It’s amazing what a little bit of height and lightness can do for cauliflower jaded appetites and with the silky-smooth Gruyere cheese sauce poured over, it’s totally transformed into something enticingly delish.
Do not be intimidated by the thought of making a soufflé - they’re really not as difficult or as temperamental as you might think. You’ll need a 6-inch diameter top (No.2 size) soufflé dish for this recipe.
Souffléd Cauliflower with Gruyère Cheese Sauce (V) (Serves 4)
Ingredients - for souffléd cauliflower
I medium size cauliflower
1 fresh bay leaf - optional
10g-15g (½oz) ground almonds and softened butter (for souffle dish)
Grain-free béchamel sauce (made with 30g/1oz of butter, 20g/¾oz ground almonds, 1 tsp arrowroot powder, ¼ tsp dry English mustard powder, 142ml/¼ pint milk)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1 tbsp ready-grated Parmesan (for dusting)
Ingredients - for Gruyère cheese sauce
250ml (8fl oz) créme fraîche
125g (4½oz) Gruyère cheese, finely grated (I used the Co-op’s Truly Irresistible Premier Cru Gruyère cheese - it is the best Gruyère I’ve ever tasted!)
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pre-heat the oven to 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5. Boil a kettle of water.
Butter the soufflé dish and dust with the ground almonds. To allow the soufflé to rise above the dish, tie a deep band of non-stick baking parchment or greaseproof paper around the outside of the dish to come 2-3 inches higher than the top of the dish.
Cut the florets off the head of cauliflower - you don’t need much stalk so just use the florets. Put the florets in a single layer in the top of a steamer, sprinkle over with salt and tuck the bay leaf in-between. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom half of the steamer and steam the florets until they’re tender (about 7 minutes).
Refresh the cauliflower in cold running water, remove the bay leaf (if used) then drain well and tip the cauliflower on to a clean tea towel to dry. Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor into a puree (alternatively, push the cauliflower through a strainer). Put the cauliflower puree into a bowl.
Prepare the béchamel sauce. In a medium pan set over a low to moderate heat melt the butter, when the butter is melted add the ground almonds, the mustard and arrowroot powders and stir everything together really well.
Keep stirring continuously whilst you gradually add the milk to the pan a little at a time. Make sure after each addition of milk that it is evenly and smoothly incorporated into the butter and flour mix before adding more milk. When all the milk has been added to the pan, bring the sauce up to the boil to allow it to thicken - continuously stirring until it does.
Take the pan off the heat and mix the béchamel sauce in with the cauliflower. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Separate the egg yolks and whites. Thoroughly beat the yolks and add them to the cauliflower mixture. With a clean whisk whip the egg whites to a firm snow.
Using a large metal spoon, quickly fold a third of the egg whites into the cauliflower mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites being very careful not to knock the air out of the mixture.
Turn into the prepared soufflé dish, dust with the Parmesan cheese and stand it on the centre shelf of the oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until it is well risen and brown. The soufflé should be a little soft in the centre.
Whilst the soufflé is baking, prepare the Gruyère cheese sauce. Heat the creme fraiche in a saucepan without letting it boil. Add the cheese and Dijon mustard and whisk continuously until the cheese melts.
Remove the pan from the heat and set the sauce to one side until you need it.
Just before the soufflé is ready, gently re-heat the sauce and tip into a warm sauceboat.
When the soufflé is cooked, serve it immediately with the Gruyère cheese sauce handed separately.
Carbohydrate 12g Protein 12g - per serving of souffléd cauliflower
Carbohydrate 1g Protein 10g - per serving of Gruyere cheese sauce