Roasted cauliflower cheese tart

If you like cauliflower cheese you really must make this tart!

I have been making this particular tart for several decades and I never tire of it, whether made as one large tart to serve at the table or made into small individual tarts. Savoury comfort food at its best, this tart is perfect served hot with a salad, and whenever I serve it, it always goes down well.

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Now I absolutely adore cauliflower cheese; not only is it a staple dish in my house, for me it is a must as an accompanument for a roast dinner – I often make much more than I need when preparing a roast just so I can use the left-over cauliflower cheese in a baked pastry case!

This tart has a slightly wholemeal mustard pastry case that gets baked blind and is then filled with cauliflower in a mustardy-cheese sauce and sautéed leeks.

I have used Lancashire cheese here rather than an in-your-face Cheddar, but often when I make it I use a comnination of whatever cheese is in the fridge: even the end bits of cheese will work well!

Cauliflower three ways!

For as long as I can remember I have made this tart, or just cauliflower cheese as a dish in its own right, using a combination of roasted cauliflower, steamed cauliflower and just a little pickled cauliflower. That said, just a standard cauliflower cheese filling cooked in a tart this way elevates this classic dish.

The pickled cauliflower is a tip I picked up from my gran about 30 years ago and I cannot think of making cauliflower cheese without it: the sharp bursts of the pickled cauliflower cut through the richness of the cheese.

When cauliflower is roasted with a little oil, it takes on the most delicious nuttry flavour and elevates a cauliflower cheese (surely one of life’s foodie comforts?) to a whole new level.

The pickled cauliflower needs to be chopped very small compared to the chunkier steamed and roasted cauliflower, and I use just a couple of the smaller florets from a head of cauliflower for the pickle.

The pastry

The pastry is a wholemeal shortcrust with a generous amount of English mustard powder. Wholemeal pastry is a good partner to cheese; it has a lovely nutty flavour and melts easily in the mouth.

If you are not confident with pastry or if you want to save time, buy the pre-baked savoury pastry cases.

Recipe: roasted cauliflower cheese tart (makes one large one or 6 small ones)

Pastry:
  • 130g plain flour
  • 70g wholemeal flour
  • 3 heaped teaspoons 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
Cauliflower:
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 80 ml cider vinegar
  • 50ml water
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns (pink or black), crushed
  • a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil for roasting
Cheese sauce:
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 200ml whole milk
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 80g Lancashire cheese, grated
  • 30g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard (or English mustard)
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
Leeks:
  • 1 large leek or 2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a knob of butter
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
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, allowing a bit of an overhang and gently pressing the pastry in place. 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. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is very crisp. Snap off the pastry overhang, leaving a neat pastry rim. Set aside until needed.

Prepare the cauliflower:

(4) Take 2-3 of the cauliflower florets and chop fairly small. 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 liquor 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 barely tender – don’t over-cook it, as it will carry on cooking in the oven later.

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 cream cheese and most of the Lancashire cheese. 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. Remove the pickled cauliflower from its liquour and stir into the mixture.  Taste, adjusting seasoning or adding more cheese if you feel it needs it.

NB: I sometimes add a splash of the pickling liquor to the cheese sauce if the sauce tastes too rich.

Prepare the leeks:

(8) Heat the butter in a pan and add the garlic, leeks and seasoning. Cook over a gentle heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the leeks are soft.

Assemble:

(9) Spoon the leeks over the pastry base and spoon cauliflower mixture on top, flattening off gently. Sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese.

(10) Bake for 20-25 minutes at 160C(fan) until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

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