If you love cauliflower cheese you really must make this tart! I have been making this particular tart for well over a decade, inspired initially by a savoury crumble I ate at a restaurant.
Essentially this tart is a wholemeal pastry case filled with cauliflower cheese and topped with a savoury crumble. Perhaps the topping makes this a pie rather than a tart, but by the time the arguing as to which it is has got going, it most certainly will have been eaten!
Textures and flavours of cauliflower!
Cauliflower, when roasted with a little oil, takes on the most delicious nutty flavour and elevates a cauliflower cheese (surely one of life’s foodie comforts?) to a whole new level.
The filling also uses a little pickled cauliflower with cheese sauce, a later addition to my original tart that was inspired by Heston Blumenthal: small bursts of the pickled cauliflower work so well with the richness of the cheese sauce.
The pickled cauliflower needs to be very small compared to the chunkier steamed and roasted cauliflower. I cannot recommend highly enough pickled cauliflower: the small bursts of it work so well with the richness of the cheese sauce.
The top and the bottom!
The pastry is a wholemeal shortcrust with a hint of mustard powder. Wholemeal pastry is a good partner to cheese; it has a lovely nutty flavour and melts easily in the mouth.
The tart is topped with a bread crumble topping which has a lovely crunch and a hearty flavour. I used left-over sourdough here which has, I think, the best flavour. Some lightly sautéed onion mixed into the breadcrumbs adds a gentle sweetness.
Recipe: roasted cauliflower cheese tart (makes one large one)
- 125g plain flour
- 75g wholemeal flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- 50g lard
- cold water to mix
- a little egg beaten with mustard powder, optional
- 1 large cauliflower
- 100ml white wine vinegar
- 80ml water
- 30g sugar
- 1 teaspoon pink (or black) peppercorns, crushed
- oil for roasting
- 30g unsalted butter
- 40g plain flour
- 200ml whole milk
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- 50-80g mature Cheddar, grated
- 1 heaped teaspoon grain mustard
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- a few drops truffle oil, optional
- a couple of handfuls breadcrumbs, ideally sourdough
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- a little olive oil
- fresh chopped chives
- a little grated Parmesan
Make the pastry:
(1) Mix the flours, salt and mustard powder. Rub in the butter and lard until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, a little at a time, until you get a soft dough. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes: the chilling makes the dough easier to roll out.
(2) Roll out the pastry thinly and line a 1″ deep flan case with it, gently pressing it in place. Trim the top and prick all over with a fork. Ideally chill for about 20 minutes: chilling at this stage relaxes the dough and ensures it will not shrink when it blind-bakes.
Blind-bake the pastry case:
(3) Line the pastry with greaseproof and scatter over some baking beans. Bake at 170C(fan) for 15 minutes. reduce the temperature to 160C. Remove the greaseproof and baking beans and brush with a little egg mixed with mustard powder. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is very crisp. Set aside until needed.
Prepare the cauliflower:
(4) Take about 1/4 of the cauliflower and separate into very small florets. Put in a small bowl. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar and peppercorns together until just boiling. Pour over the small pieces of cauliflower and leave for at least 30 minutes, although it will happily sit in its pickling liquour for a week or so in the fridge.
(5) Split the remaining cauliflower into medium sized florets. Roast about half of these in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil at 160C for 30-40 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Meanwhile steam the rest of the cauliflower until only just tender – don’t over-cook it.
Make the cheese sauce:
(6) Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour and seasoning. Let the mixture cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time. Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, whisking well as each bit is added. Return to a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it has melted. You should have a thick sauce. NB: the cheese sauce needs to be thick here so that the filling doesn’t slide off the pastry when you cut it.
(7) Mix the mustard, cheese sauce, the roasted and the steamed cauliflowers together. Drain the pickled cauliflower and stir into the mixture. Stir in the truffle oil, if using. Taste, adjusting seasoning or adding more cheese as necessary.
Make the crumble topping:
(8) Gently fry a few tablespoons of olive oil, the onion and the garlic and cook gently for about 10 minutes to soften. Stir in the breadcrumbs and fry gently for a few minutes until only just turning golden. Stir in some chopped fresh chives and a little grated Parmesan.
(9) Spoon the cauliflower mixture into the pastry case and flatten. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs
(10) Bake for 20-25 minutes at 160C(fan) until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.