cauliflower macaroni cheese with pancetta and mushrooms
Is there anything better than cauliflower cheese, especially as we head towards the cooler weather? Yes, when you add macaroni plus a few other bits! Panko breadcrumbs are a must, as is a good green salad on the side. I use Old Hall Farm raw A2 Jersey milk for my sauce, along with the strongest cheddar I can find. I make the bechamel in the ‘all in’ method I learned at Caldesi. The mustard must be English, ideally Monty’s, and you can easily prep this ahead of time and put in the oven once you are ready. The only ‘must’ – let the dish stand for five minutes when it comes out of the oven, if you can wait for that long, that is! This recipe has enough bechamel left to make croque monsieur for lunch the next day; I use the BBC Mary Berry recipe.
Break the cauliflower into florets and bring to a boil in a pan of water. Simmer for 4 minutes until just done. Drain and leave in sieve to steam dry. Do the same with the macaroni, cooking it until just al dente. Leave both to cool while you prepare the sauce.
Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.
To make the sauce, put the milk, onion, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper into a medium saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. In a separate pan, make the roux by melting the butter over a medium heat and then stir in the flour, stirring continuously.
Remove the bay and onion from the milk, then add the roux to the milk, whisking furiously until it thickens. Add the cheese and mustard (which will also help thicken the sauce) and adjust seasoning. If not using immediately, cover the surface with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.
In a small frying pan, brown the pancetta and remove. Add the mushrooms and lightly brown; you still want them to be fairly hard, so they hold their shape in the main dish.
When you are ready, assemble the dish: put the cauliflower in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and mix the macaroni through, breaking it up as needed. Scatter over the pancetta and mushrooms, then carefully pour the sauce over. Give
the dish a shake to make sure that all the sauce goes into the dish and top up accordingly. Finally, grate some more nutmeg over the dish, then top with Panko breadcrumbs and, finally, fresh parmesan.
Put into the oven for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove and let it rest for five minutes, then serve with a green salad on the side.