Cauliflower and pea bake
This is an excellent dish that gives a new dimension to everyday cauliflower cheese.
SERVES FOUR INGREDIENTS
1 medium cauliflower, about 750g, coarse outer leaves and central stalk removed
200g shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed and drained
Small knob of butter for greasing the dish and for the top
2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
Heat a saucepan of water and when the water comes to the boil add a tablespoon of salt and the stalks of the cauliflower.
Boil for two minutes and then add the florets. Cook for five minutes. If you are using fresh peas, add them to the saucepan about two minutes after the florets. If you are using frozen peas, add them to the vegetables at the end of the cooking time. Drain all the veg together and set aside.
Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.
The béchamel should be quite a thin sauce. This is how I make it so that it doesn’t get lumpy:
Heat the milk in a deep saucepan until just beginning to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan on a low heat, add the flour, beating it into the butter for about one minute. Then add the hot milk, gradually, while continuing to stir. Stir hard between each addition so it becomes absorbed.
When all the milk has been added, let the sauce simmer gently (on a heat diffuser if you have one) for 10 minutes, while stirring from time to time.
Set aside one tablespoon of the cheese and add the rest to the sauce, together with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper. Mix well, taste and adjust the salt.
Lightly butter an ovenproof dish and add the cauliflower and peas.
Spoon the béchamel all over the vegetables.
Mix together the remaining grated parmesan with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Dot with the butter and place the dish in the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the top has a golden crust. Turn up the temperature a bit if necessary until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for two to three minutes before serving.
Recipe from Vegetables all’Italiana by Anna Del Conte (Pavilion, £20)