Recipe: Whole baked cauliflower

The humble cauliflower in cheese sauce receives a makeover.

A whole roasted cauliflower is an unexpected dinner party show-stopper, an edible centerpiece that your friends and family can hack away at, using the florets to scoop up extra cheese. To inspire this cauliflower renaissance, we solicited the expertise of Orphans Kitchen head chef Tom Hishon to give the classic dish an update, upping the ante by introducing an indulgent white truffle oil as well as a variety of herbs. This dish is deceptively easy to prepare, and will impress come serving time.

INGREDIENTS
1 whole cauliflower (stems on, rinsed well)
30ml virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Flour for dusting
Cayenne pepper
White truffle oil to finish

For the cheese sauce
60g butter
50g standard flour
Half a shallot
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
600ml blue top milk
3g sea salt
30ml white truffle oil
50g aged edam or other hard cheese (grated)
50g Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese (grated)
White pepper

METHOD
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius on fan bake. In a large oven tray, place the whole rinsed cauliflower, drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower and grind sea salt over it, evenly covering the floret. Cover the oven tray with tin foil and place in the preheated oven for 70 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the cauliflower. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and take off the tin foil, letting it rest for 5-10 minutes before covering in cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce
While the cauliflower bakes, put the bay leaf, shallot and cloves into a saucepan. Pour the milk over the top, being sure to set aside an extra 100ml of milk for later. Add salt, bring to a simmer and then take the saucepan away from heat. Melt butter in a separate saucepan on medium heat, and add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is smooth.

Add 1/4 of the warm milk to the pot and stir continuously until the mixture has returned to a smooth consistency, then slowly add one ladle of milk at a time until finished. Add in the grated cheese little by little to the sauce, still stirring continuously to ensure a thick, velvety texture. Once all the cheese is mixed in, add the truffle oil and stir. Thesauce should now look glossy. Finish with a few grinds of white pepper.

Set 1/4 of the sauce aside for later, dust the top of the baked cauliflower with flour, and while the sauce is still hot, pour it over, covering the whole head. Place in the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until golden. While it cooks, add the 100mls of milk back into the sauce you’ve set aside to serve on the side for dipping purposes. Place the whole cauliflower on a serving dish and sprinkle with a few pinches of cayenne pepper, before drizzling with more truffle oil.

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