Cauliflower Cheese White Bean Bake

I feel that cauliflower is an unsung hero of the vegetable world: it’s nutritious, delicious and so versatile. It adds crunch when roasted or raw, or can be pureed for a silky, creamy texture. It’s also available virtually all year in Australia, particularly in the cooler months of autumn, winter and early spring, so what are you waiting for? Whip us this tasty vegetarian dinner for meatless Monday.

This tasty bake is basically cauliflower cheese with a makeover. It’s just as comforting as the original, but with a touch more protein and a crisp breadcrumb topping. For a more substantial meal, stir through some cooked brown rice before baking.

Serves: 4 (generously)

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 x 400g tin of butter beans
  • 1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans
  • 500ml chicken stock, or water and 1 stock cube
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (any sort)
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, or 450g frozen cauli florets
  • 120g cheddar cheese, or similar
  • 2 slices of bread, blitzed or grated to crumbs, or 4 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Peel and finely slice your onion and add to a large non-stick pan. Add a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt and cook gently over low heat for five minutes to start to soften.

Drain and thoroughly rinse your beans and tip them into the pan. Cover with the stock, then add the mustard and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn your oven on to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 and make sure there is a shelf in the middle (I often forget to check this and then have to try to manoeuvre it when it’s hotter than Hades). Lightly grease a decent-sized ovenproof dish (around 20cm x 20cm).

Remove the outer leaves of your cauliflower. Cut the heavy stalk from the bottom and chop the cauli into small florets – as a rough guide, the top should be no bigger than a 50-cent piece, so they cook evenly. It makes it easier to eat as well! Add the cauli to the pan and stir through. Cover to retain as much of the remaining liquid as possible, then cook for 15 minutes, or until the cauli is soft and a fork gently prodded into it goes through with little to no resistance.

Tip the contents of the pan into your prepared dish. Grate cheese over the veg and top with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the crumbs and melt the cheese, then serve immediately with extra black pepper on top.

It will keep in the fridge for up to three days, covered or stored in an airtight container. To serve, reheat to piping hot.

Note: not recommended for freezing due to the high dairy content. You can, but it doesn’t show it at its best.

Are you a fan of the cauli? What is your preferred way to cook it?

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