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broccoli cheese

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Broccoli cheese

Which word when coupled with ‘cheese’ doesn’t make you salivate? Chalk - yeah, all right, that’s for asking stupid questions. But even ‘fish’ by making it sound similar to ‘fish and chips’ - creates a pleasing combination.

What bothers me is grammar: ‘cauliflower cheese’, ‘macaroni cheese’; is ‘cheese’ the main noun or the modifier? To put it in simpler terms: is it ‘cheesed cauliflower’ or the opposite - cheese flavoured with a bit of cauli?

I’ve tried to do some comparative research using Italian material: melanzane parmigiana, or alla parmigiana; but having no Italian consultants to hand to explain, my brain steamed up. Parmiciana is actually the roof tile pattern that the aubergine slices are made to resemble. Well - it isn’t like the cauliflower is made to resemble cheese.

The French have a similar puzzle-phrase: croque-monsieur. I’m confused: is it ‘man-bite’ (literal translation; uncannily like ‘man-flu’), or is it ‘bite, man!’? Admittedly, it makes slightly more sense than ‘cheese in the shape of cauliflower’ but by no means describes what it is that you are supposed to bite into, man.

Before I start adding investing more random combinations of cheese and foodstuffs, I’ll share this quite conservative product: broccoli cheese. And that’s what I’ll call my working thesis: a vegetable plus cheese = result. Notwithstanding a toasted cheese sandwich which might just be the ticket: simple, clearly named and possibly my desert island dish.

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • a small knob of butter
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets, drained
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 150g Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated
  • a handful of almond flakes, to sprinkle on top

METHOD
Wash the broccoli and cut it into florets; reserve the stem and slice it. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the stems for 5 minutes, and the florets for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Chopped broccoli
Place the anchovy fillets in a saucepan with a little butter, add the garlic and cook on gentle heat, stirring and mashing, until the anchovies almost dissolve. Add the cream and bring to the boil.  Season generously with salt and pepper, add the thyme and the cayenne pepper and bubble for a couple of minutes.

Add the milk and cook it down a little. Add two thirds of the cheese and bubble away until smooth and well mixed in. Take the sauce off the heat and let it cool down.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter lightly a gratin dish; arrange the stem slices at the bottom and the florets on top of them. Season them with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven, turn over the florets that might be getting too scorched and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the flaked almonds. If the sauce looks very thick, add a little water to the dish.

Return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes until crispy and bubbly. Let it rest for a bit, then serve.

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