Cheesy Herb & Cauliflower Bake
Cauliflower can be tasty! What a revelation! As a child, cauliflower was in my top 5 horrible veggie category and as an adult I had convinced myself that with all the veggies I already eat, not eating cauliflower wouldn't really do me any harm but somewhere in the back of my mind, I have always wanted to be able to enjoy cauliflower because I know it is so healthy and nutritious as well as a great source of fiber - but man, it's cauliflower.
But the universe always finds a way and while browsing my Facebook feed I saw a video for Cauliflower Biscuits by Cooking Light and thought, they don't look so bad but there was a consistency issue with the recipe and so I was still inspired to create my own cauliflower creation!
This bake is creamy, like a potato mash but the crumbled bacon and lightly toasted panko crumbs on top add crunch and texture and this recipe gave me the perfect excuse to use the lovely, aromatic fresh basil and chives growing out of control in the garden!
With the smoky bacon it is really important to ensure you render the fat out and cook it until crisp, it will look dark but it should not look or taste burnt. If the strips looked cooked and are mostly dark and crisp but a few parts are still slightly soft, that is perfectly fine, otherwise you run the risk of burning the bacon if you continue cooking. Cooking it this way allows you to use less bacon but you get a lot of flavor and it is also a nice textural element. You could also go completely meatless and just leave the bacon out and it would still be really tasty and flavorsome as you have the cheeses and herbs in there already.. I would maybe substitute a small amount of feta or something salty to balance the flavor out (or just add a bit of extra salt to taste).
I know some people don't like cooking in a microwave so if you are one of those people, please steam your veggies in your preferred manner and proceed with the recipe as stated - the result will be exactly the same. I would suggest though that you don't boil them as I think the veggies would absorb too much moisture and this could quite possibly affect the consistency.
The result is a bake that will convert any cauliflower hater guaranteed! We had it for lunch with crusty freshly baked bread and butter, freshly chopped avocado, seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper and some light sour cream - and it was a-ma-zing! Mum and Dad liked it so much they want to serve this at their next dinner party! You can also serve this as a side dish to your choice of meat or chicken and/or a fresh crisp salad.
Please remember when cooking in a microwave to ALWAYS cook in glass and never plastic as the plastic can leach chemicals into your food - this is the same reason why I mention in the recipe not to let the plastic wrap touch your vegetables while they are cooking in the microwave.
YOU WILL NEED
2-3 slices of hickory smoked bacon (rind removed, full slice including the fat)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 head of cauliflower leaves removed and broken into rough florets
1 large potato about 250g/9 ounces chopped into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic, grated, or finely chopped
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/4 cup basil leaves roughly chopped
3-4 chives roughly chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
A little rice bran oil if needed for the frying of the bacon and panko crumbs
1 small red chilli
3-4 basil leaves finely chopped for garnishing
Light sour cream
Preheat your oven to 180°C/375°F.
Take a large glass bowl, add the cauliflower florets and chopped potato, cover with plastic wrap (ensuring it does not touch your veggies) and cook on high for 12 minutes or until tender.
Take a medium sized non-stick pan and heat over a medium heat and then add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered out and the bacon becomes darker and crispy. If you feel there is not enough fat in the bacon to fry the bacon until crispy, add a little oil to the pan and continue to cook until done. It should look dark but not burnt and all the fat should be rendered out. Allow to cool a little and then break/chop/crumble into fine pieces. Set aside.
Add a little oil to the same pan and return to a medium heat and toast your panko bread crumbs until golden brown, season with a touch of salt, empty into a bowl and set aside (do not leave in the pan as it might continue cooking and burn).
Once your cauliflower and potato is cooked and tender, add into your food processor OR with a stick blender, directly in the bowl, puree the cauliflower and potato until smooth.
Add the garlic, yogurt, butter, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil leaves, chives, the two egg yolks and chilli flakes and puree again until all the ingredients are well blended.
Add the bacon bits and mix in with a spatula or spoon.
Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper).
In a clean medium sized bowl beat the egg whites until stiff and once done, gently fold into the cauliflower mixture.
Lightly grease a 22cm/9" baking dish and pour the mixture into the dish.
Smooth the surface out with a spatula and top with the toasted panko bread crumbs and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with a finely chopped small red chilli, chilli flakes and some extra basil/chives before serving. You can also top with some sour cream, avacado or sauce of your choice.
SERVE 6 AS A SIDE 3-4 AS A MEAL