Not quite a detox... super-luxe cauliflower cheese with bacon and leeks


So Christmas and New Year has paseed, and be honest, it’s probably time to calm down a little and look after yourself after all the indulging of the last month. This is a simple supper dish that will comfort and warm you from the inside as you head out to face those glum, chilly January days.   We like to make this with bacon but it’s equally good with ham. The main thing is that the result is rich, creamy and can be eaten with a spoon. Cradle a bowlful in your hands and settle in for a cosy night on the sofa, and remember it won’t be that long before spring turns up.

1 large cauliflower, stalk trimmed and cut into small florets and pieces

2 leeks halved and finely sliced

200g chopped ham, streaky bacon or pancetta

60g butter plus an extra tablespoon for the leeks

60g plain flour

1litre whole milk

2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper


140g grated cheddar

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 200/160/gas 4 and liberally grease a large casserole dish or roasting tin.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and par-boil the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drain and tip into the greased dish.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the leeks for 8-10 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn up the heat and add the chopped ham or bacon. Fry quickly until golden. Add the bacon to the leeks, then stir it all into the cauliflower.

To make the cheese sauce place 60g or butter and flour into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon,  until you have a golden paste. Gradually add the milk, a little at a time, stirring between each addition of milk so it is completely incorporated.

Keep stirring the sauce until it thickens. Add mustard, paprika and lots of salt and pepper and stir well, then scatter in most of the grated cheese, saving a big handful for the top.

When the cheese has melted into the sauce, taste and add more salt if needed. Pour oven the cauliflower and leek mixture, stirring well to ensure it is equally coated. Scatter with the remaining grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbling. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

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