Recipe: Indulgent Cauliflower Cheese Risotto

Interestingly, when I first posted this on Instagram describing it as a Cauliflower Risotto I got lots of comments assuming I’d replaced the rice with cauliflower. Whilst that did give me the idea for my Low-Carb Mushroom Risotto, this  recipe is far from as virtuous.

 photo Cauliflower Cheese Risotto_zpsuubwk5mw.jpgInstead, this dish combines the creamy, luxurious texture of a perfectly cooked risotto, with the decadent flavours of the gooiest cauliflower cheese. It’s not low-carb, it’s far from low-fat, and it’s also my least authentic risotto recipe. But this dish is bloody delicious. The perfect comfort food on a cold night, the risotto flavour that almost replaced mushroom as my all-time favourite.

It starts off as a pretty standard risotto, albeit there is finely chopped cauliflower stalks sautéed in with the onion and celery. Cauliflower florets (alongside any smaller leaves) are roasted, then tossed in butter. Some are stirred into the risotto, others are left as a garnish. To add to the cauliflower cheese elements of this risotto, cheddar is added alongside parmesan – Italians would be horrified, but I do feel it works well here.

Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. I dreamt it up on a rainy commute home from work, but it’s become a favourite.

 photo Cauliflower Risotto 5_zpsbs1kse1p.jpgRecipe (serves 2 generously)

  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or a pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 small cauliflower, or half a larger one – stalk finely chopped, florets broken into small-medium pieces and the smaller leaves retained
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1 handful each of parmesan and cheddar, finely grated, plus extra parmesan to serve

Melt half of the butter in a large saucepan, then fry the onion, celery and chopped cauliflower stalk along with the thyme and bay leaf over a low heat for around 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes, then increase the heat and add the risotto rice. Toast, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then add around 100ml of the stock. Stir continually until absorbed, add more stock – then continue adding stock gradually and stirring until the rice is cooked – around 20 minutes. You may not need all of the stock, or you may need to use a little additional hot water.

Meanwhile, toss the cauliflower florets in a little oil and lots of salt and black pepper. Spread out on a baking tray and roast at 180C for 10 minutes. Add the smaller leaves, stir and continue to roast for another 10 minutes, or until tender and golden (if some of the smaller florets and browner and crispier this is fine). Once done, toss the cauliflower with the remaining butter. Add most of the cauliflower to the cooked risotto, retaining the leaves and a few florets for garnish.

Once cooked, remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheddar and parmesan. Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes, then serve with extra parmesan.

 photo Cauliflower Risotto 7_zpsvljtjfzs.jpgThat’s it, Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. It combines two of my favourite foods in the most spectacular way, resulting in an indulgent, creamy, cheesy dish. My idea of heaven.

Are you a risotto or cauliflower cheese fan?

Recipe: Pork & Fennel Lasagne (Tomato-Free Lasagne Recipe_

Lasagne is quite possibly my ultimate Saturday night food. Cheese, because cheese. Carbs, of course. A super-flavoursome sauce, simmered away until the meat melts in the mouth, doubled with another creamy sauce that delivers ever more cheese. Served with a green salad on the side (balance), it’s quite possibly one of my all-time favourite dinners.

It’s also the time it takes that makes it perfect Saturday night food. One of my favourite ways to spend an evening is stirring something delicious on my stove, glass of wine in hand, talking to my fiancé. Lasagne is a labour of love, that can’t be denied, and it creates a scary amount of washing up – but if you’ve cooked it for someone it’s only fair they wash up!

This version of lasagne is even more special, as I find the pork mince, bacon and fennel combination give an ultra-indulgent flavour. It’s something a little bit different too,  and it just feels like so much more of a treat. The best thing? It’s no more difficult or time-intensive to make than your bog standard beef lasagne.

Now, I do like a lasagne with a cheesy sauce, however if you prefer a classic bechamel simply leave out the cheese (you may want to reduce the milk to 275ml as it won’t be quite as thick).

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • A couple of ladlefuls of Nomato Sauce (of course you can use a normal tomato-based sauce if you need to!)
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped into small chunks
  • Small handful of button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 very small glass of port, or a small glass of red wine
  • Dried lasagne sheets (we used 5)
  • 30g butter
  • 30g flour
  • Around 300ml milk
  • A good handful of cheese – we usually do a combination of cheddar and parmesan – plus extra for the top. For an extra special lasagne, topping with mozzarella makes it amazing!

Heat a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, with no oil, and add the pork mince and fennel seeds. Fry whilst breaking the meat up with a spoon, until it is golden brown – then tip into a bowl. Add the bacon to the pan and fry in the pork fat until just starting to crisp. Add to the pork mince, then lower the heat under the pan. Gently fry the onions, celery, carrot and mushrooms until softened, adding a little olive oil if necessary.

Put the pork and bacon mix back into the pan, increase the heat and add the garlic – and fry all together for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the wine or port, and allow to bubble until it is almost fully reduced. Tip in the nomato sauce (or a tomato-y alternative!), turn the heat to low and simmer for as long as possible or at least 30 minutes.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan until it’s just starting to bubble, then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, then turn the heat to low and gradually add the milk (I start to use a whisk here). Once all the milk has been added you can increase the heat slightly, continuing to stir, until the sauce has thickened. Season, including plenty of black pepper and a grating of nutmeg, then stir in the cheese. You can infuse the milk with bay leaves, onion and garlic but I find it to be wasted in a lasagne that’s already so full of flavour.

You can then build your lasagne! I go for a layer of meat sauce, then pasta, then cheese sauce, then meat etc… Finish with a good layer of cheese sauce, making sure all the pasta is covered, then sprinkle over some extra cheese. Bake at 180C for 40-50 minutes or until bubbling and golden – cover with foil if it’s browning too quickly. If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, you can get away with just grilling but I find it’s not quite as comforting.

RecipeServe with a green salad, plenty of wine and enjoy! Any leftovers are good reheated gently the next day, though I have to confess I have a taste for cold lasagne too…

Are you a lasagne fan? How do you make yours?