Cheesy, garlicky and intensely savoury, these deep-golden little bites are a cross between mini muffins and soufflés. They are great eaten warm as canapés or just to graze on as a snack!
I bake these in oiled mini muffin trays, getting 48 in total. These also freeze well once baked, only needing to be warmed up for about 5 minutes at 180C(fan) once defrosted.
This is a significant variation on a recipe published by Cooking Light Magazine: I opted for roasting some of the cauliflower and garlic, varying the amount of egg, adding mustard and adding a small amount of finely chopped pickled gherkins: the sharpness of the pickles really cut through these bites, adding a gentle piquancy.
Roasted cauliflower & other goodies within
I adore roasted cauliflower: the roasting really develops its flavour, and just a little roasted cauliflower added to any cauliflower dish enhances it significantly.
The roasted cauliflower adds a lovely nuttyness to these bites, with the roasted garlic adding an intense flavour.
You can vary the type and the amount of cheese (Roquefort is particularly wonderful, as is smoked Cheddar) but don’t over-do it as you want to be able to taste the cauliflower.
I add a little finely chopped and drained pickled gherkin which gives bursts of sharpness cutting through the richness, but this is optional.
As twice-baked cauliflower cheese souffles
The idea of twice-baked souffles was hugely popular a few decades ago, and has gone somewhat out of fashion, but who cares: they can still be wonderful to eat as a starter or light lunch!
This mixture makes an excellent version of twice-baked soufflés: see below the main recipe.
Cauliflower cheese & roasted garlic bites: makes 48
- about 600g trimmed cauliflower
- 1 large bulb garlic, peeled, for roasting
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 80g soured cream
- 80g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled gherkins, optional
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- a generous grinding of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon pickled gherkins, finely chopped – optional
- about a tablespoon of snipped fresh chives, plus a little extra to scatter over
(1) Preheat the oven to 160C(fan). Place the garlic, the salt and half of the oil in a small oven-proof container and mix to coat the garlic. Toss half of the cauliflower in the rest of the oil and place on a roasting tray. Roast both in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and nicely browned around the edges, covering if it is going too dark. The garlic should be a deep golden brown and soft. Turn the oven up to 190C(fan).
(2) Steam the remaining half of the cauliflower until very tender and then transfer to a food processor. Add the roasted garlic and most of the roasted cauliflower to the food processor and blitz until fairly smooth.
(3) Finely chop the rest of the roasted cauliflower and transfer this and the blitzed cauliflower mixture into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the egg yolks, cheese, soured cream, mustard, chives and pepper. Add the chopped gherkins, if using.
(4) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the whites to the cauliflower mixture to loosen it. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the cauliflower mixture until just incorporated.
(5) Drop a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture into oiled mini muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden-brown and shrinking away from the sides of the muffin holes. Don’t under-cook as these need to be firmer than soufflés, and if under-cooked they might tear as you try to remove them from the tins. Turn down the oven to 170C(fan) after about 20 minutes if they are going too dark.
(6) Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin then remove, transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm, with some chopped chives scattered over before serving.
Variation: twice-baked souffles
Make up the mixture as above and bake the mixture in individual ramekins that have been brushed with melted butter and dusted with grated Parmesan, baking for about 20-25 minutes until well-risen.
Remove them carefully from the ramekins when they have slightly cooled and set aside, or freeze, until needed.
When ready to serve, pop a little caramelised onion chutney on top, followed by a little cream cheese and a grinding of black pepper. Bake at 180C(fan) for 10-15 minutes and eat with a green salad dressed in a sharp lemon vinaigrette.