Cauliflower covered in bubbling, boozy rarebit cheese sauce is hard to resist, especially when the cauliflower is given a boost through a simple brining. Enjoy as a side dish, light lunch or supper. Easy cheesy goodness guaranteed!
Cauliflower is at its very best right now. This nutritious vegetable, its milky-hued curds cradled in a cap of pale sweet leaves, is so achingly on-trend I almost feel silly posting such an old-fashioned recipe. Dear old cheesy rarebit sauce, normally a simple bubbling topping for toast, is however made for cauliflower.
Although delicious as a plain mash or roasted, cauliflower adores strong flavours of aged good cheese, nose-stinging English mustard and deep amber ale. I was inspired to pair cauliflower with rarebit following the recent event I attended at Waitrose Cook School, where we had some excellent, simple vegetable dishes alongside the traditional lamb and salmon. Their brown butter cauliflower rarebit was so good I could have happily just eaten this very humble dish. Indeed, rarebit is, according to Felicity Cloake, “a very Sunday-evening, empty fridge type of dish”. As my kitchen is as likely to have a cauliflower as bread these days, this statement is very true for me.
When I got home I set about doing my own version, with a rarebit I whizzed up in my blender, rather than making on the hob as is traditional. Normally I make mine with dark ale, but I also played with using a sharp-sweet English cider – both are good, adding a depth of flavour that can be missing in a standard cheese sauce. You’ll see that I’ve used cute little mini caulis from Waitrose, but this recipe will cover a whole cauliflower, no problem. One mini cauli is great for an individual, cutesy side veg, while two is perfect for a light supper with salad, and garlicky pitta chips to scoop the overflowing sauce.
One thing I don’t like so much about normal cauliflower cheese is that in comparison to the tasty sauce the vegetable itself can get a bit lost in its well-seasoned covering, especially if it is just boiled. It seems to be all about the cheese. To balance things up a bit, for this recipe, I made a simple brine for the cauliflower and left it for a few hours to absorb the flavours as well as soften up. This softening leads to a slightly decreased steaming time, too. Skip the brining if you like, but it really does add extra flavour to the cauliflower. We all remarked on it. Another direction would be to cut and roast the cauliflower as steaks or chunky florets, getting it lightly golden, then smothering in the sauce before popping under a hot grill to get puffed and bubbling.
Cauliflower is ridiculously nutritious, the unique taste signalling the nutritional powers within. It is low in calories and high in fibre, folate, vitamins C and K, and disease-preventing phytochemicals such as glucosinolates, quercetin and kaempferol. A serving of cauli is 80 grams, but a bit more is better. Steaming or roasting keeps most of the nutrients intact. We have cauliflower in one way or another about five times a week. Yep, a bit of a fan.
While not exactly an antidote to yesterday’s chocolate Easter eggs, this easy, cheesy dish certainly delivers on taste. Be sure to put it on your menu this week. 🙂
Golden Cauliflower Rarebit
Cauliflower covered in bubbling, boozy rarebit cheese sauce is hard to resist, especially when the cauliflower is given a boost through a simple brining. Enjoy as a side dish, light lunch or supper. Easy cheesy goodness guaranteed! xx
1 medium-large cauliflower cut into steaks or large florets OR 4 mini cauliflowers, trimmed but keeping attached, whole leaves
1 litre of warm water
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp dry English mustard
3 bay leaves, crushed lightly
1 garlic clove, crushed
The Rarebit Sauce
200g proper strong organic Cheddar cheese, grated or mix of Cheddar and other strong cheese, like Lancashire or Lincolnshire – the best you can get
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dry English mustard
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp white pepper or black pepper
75ml dark beer/ale/stout OR medium-dry apple cider (alcoholic or not)
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce (it isn’t usually vegetarian as it contains anchovies, but vegetarian versions are available, and delicious)
1 egg yolk – optional but helps with the texture and cohesiveness
Parsley for garnish
Garlicky pitta shards for serving, optional*
1. To make the brine, stir the spices and salt into the water until the salt dissolves. Add the cauliflower to a plastic food bag and pour in the brine. Seal well and leave in a cool place for 2-8 hours.
2. For the sauce, add all of the ingredients to a blender and whiz until smooth.
3. Take the brined cauliflowers from the bag and rinse. Pop them into a steamer basket and steam for five minutes.
4. Heat the oven to 220C.
5. Line a baking tray with individual squares of parchment paper or length of parchment and add the cauliflowers. Spread over the sauce, coating on all facing sides as thickly as you can. Pop the tray into the heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until very golden brown in patches and the rarebit cheese sauce is bubbling. Serve with a sharp green salad, pitta chip shards and parsley. Dark beer or alcoholic cider too!
*For the garlic pitta shards, take one wholemeal pitta bread and, using scissors or a sharp knife, cut the pitta around the seam. Take a halved garlic clove and rub on the bread’s surface. Cut each pitta half into small, dipping-sized pieces (see the images) and bake on a tray for 10-12 minutes in a 180C oven. Allow to cool and crisp up before using or storing.
For a vegan option: this cheese sauce recipe from cearaskitchen looks interesting. I would replace most of the water with beer!
If you have leftover sauce – or if you make double – try it as it is meant.
**PS: I use my Optimum 9400 Froothie power blender daily for work and home. If you want to make your own flours, nut butters, power balls, smoothies, cocktails, super smooth sauces, purees and soups (and loads more), please use my ambassador link. Includes a 30-day money back guarantee.**
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61 thoughts on “Golden Cauliflower Rarebit”
This looks truly exceptional! Can’t wait to give it a try…
Thanks so much, Christina. I hope that you do!
Brining the cauli first … what s great idea! Of course, since we leave animal exploitation off our plates, the rarebit cheese would be subbed with a pungent vegan parm sprinkle instead. Not a fan of the nut cheese goo. Happy spring, Kelly!
I’ve added a link to a good-looking vegan cheese sauce that has seeds rather than nuts. It doesn’t look too gooey 😉 But vegan parm sounds great too.
Thank you for that link! It does look amazing, texture-wise. I’ll test it on my kids…
I am drooling over this Kellie. I really have to try it. I love cauliflower but don’t eat it enough. This is a very grown up way to eat it.
I’ve made you drool: my work here is done! 🙂
I absolutely love the look of this and will give the brining a go, as I always feel the cauliflower goes a bit soggy when boiled.
Ooh the brining was a revelation to me, so I hope you try it. Flavour and texture boosted, I think. And steaming is the way I tend to cook it when not roasting it. Thanks for stopping by, Janice 🙂
Looks yummy – Thanks for sharing
Wow, what a combination of flavours! And I’m amazed that Waitrose has a cook school… now that would be amazing.
They have three! The one I have been to has an amazing, serene and well-equipped space above one of their bigger stores. It’s massive, with a separate, open-plan space for dining and cocktailing 🙂
I’m all in with this dish. Yum
Thanks so much, Tracey. And thanks for stopping by 🙂
I’ve brined vegetables for flavor before, but not for softening.I must try this recipe, between the brining and that savory cheese sauce, I’m intrigued!
The softening was a pleasant side effect I wasn’t expecting in the short time, but did make the cooking time shorter and more even. I’m sold on it as long as the completed dish isn’t too salty. 🙂
what a great idea – like a marriage of rarebit and cauliflower cheese – I think I need to try it – and might even have some beer to use up soon
Thank you, Johanna. I as really pleased with how it turned out. But really cheese, beer and cauliflower – I shouldn’t be surprised 🙂
This looks amazing! I love the cheesey umami flavour of rarebit, and pairing it with cauliflower is genius. And brining the cauliflower? Oh my! I can’t wait to try this one out!
Ooh, I’m so glad you like it, Katie! Let me know if it makes it into your kitchen 🙂
Very nice!! Like you, I’ve always got cauliflower to hand 🙂
It’s the new pasta! 😉
Ha ha! Very true 😉
What a wonderful dish! I love the though of brining the cauliflower first. Sooo making this.
I was weirdly excited at how well the brining worked out!
The photos are amazing, makes me so hungry!
Aw, thank you. I’m glad it had that effect on you 🙂
Very lovely and the little dinky caulis are gorgeous. This is a great idea, thank you, we like cauliflower too although we are way off your 5 times a week stats…but that may change with your nice recipe ideas.
Because it has been relatively cheap our intake may be artificially inflated at the mo… 😉 But we are pretty crazy for cauli.
I absolutely love the look and sound of this! My next Cauliflower Cheese is most definitely getting pimped in this way. Not sure about the brining tbh but yes to the rarebit sauce.
Thank you, Claire. I won’t twist your arm about the brining. But it is good!
I’ve just discovered your site via Google. Needless to state, I like the recipes you have actually posted here. Especially helpful for me since I am trying to vacation on a tight budget this springtime. Many thanks for your hard work!
Errrrrrrrr YUM! This is perhaps the poshest cauliflower cheese ever and I love it! Looks fab 🙂
Ha ha. I’ll take that! 🙂
Oh wow – I absolutely LOVE the look of this – YUM!!!
Why thank you, Mandy. It’s so easy too. Especially using a blender rather thank making a cheese sauce on the hob. 🙂
Reblogged this on Booknvolume and commented:
Sounds (and looks!) too Delicious not to share 🙂
Hmmmm. Cauliflower, check. Cheese, check. Other ingredients, check. There’s no excuse for me not to make this fantastic recipe!
Thank you, Michelle. 🙂
This sounds fantastic, just gotta give it a whirl 🙂 Thank You!
I hope you do! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment 🙂
Preach It!! The pics and descriptions are amazing. So real in fact I believe I am full from just looking at them.
Ha ha! Make sure you get some calories in you. Digital diets are not as nourishing 😉 And thank you
Yummm! Such amazing photos.
I like your article, very inspiring and thank yu for your post
This is a real stunner Kellie and a recipe I’m very tempted to make. It’s wonderful to see cauliflower shine these days 🙂
Wow! this looks delicious… Cauliflower cheese is my ultimate childhood favourite. Id love to try out this recipe and spice things up a bit!
It looks amazing!
I’ve been thinking about this all week and decided I needed to feature it in this week’s Meat Free Mondays, hope that is ok 🙂
this sounds and looks amazing, like super delicious! I must give this a try x
Love those mini caulis! I’ve not seen these yet in the states, I will have to keep a look out for them! -Kat
This looks truely exceptional!! Mouthwatering. Good job Kellie
I love cheese, congratulations 🎊
Mi piace tantissimo!
Omg I can’t wait to make this!