Cauliflower and pea bake

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

This is an ex­cel­lent dish that gives a new di­men­sion to ev­ery­day cauliflower cheese.


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)

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