Some days you want to cook a Michelin star-worthy feast and other days you want a truly comforting meal that soothes your soul and makes you feel warm inside. This recipe for Jack Monroe's cauliflower cheese and white bean bake definitely fall into the latter category. Taken from Jack's recipe book Good Food For Bad Days, which recognises that eating properly is one of the biggest hurdles when you're feeling down; the book is filled with recipes (dubbed 'depressipes' by Jack) that give you everything you need in a dish; they are inexpensive, simple and filling so that cooking and eating a nutritious meal doesn't seem like an impossible task on dark days.
"This is the ultimate in comfort food – cauliflower cheese reinvented as a legitimate meal," says Jack. "It’s just as comforting as the original but with a touch more protein and a crisp breadcrumb topping. For a more substantial meal I sometimes add cooked brown rice – just boil it in a separate pan while the first one is cooking, then stir it through before baking. You’ll need a bigger dish to accommodate it, though!
Serves four, generously.
1 large onion, or 120g frozen diced onions
1 tbsp cooking oil, plus extra for greasing
1 x 400g tin of butter beans
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans
500ml chicken stock, or water and 1 stock cube
1/2 tsp mustard, any
A pinch of grated nutmeg
1 large head of cauliflower, or 450g frozen cauli florets
120g mature Cheddar, or similar
2 slices of bread, blitzed or grated to crumbs, or 4 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1. First peel and finely slice your onion and add to a large nonstick pan, or shake in the frozen onions if using those instead. Add a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt and cook gently over low heat for five minutes to start to soften.
2. Drain and thoroughly rinse your beans and tip them into the pan. Cover with the stock (or water and a stock cube), then add the mustard and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Turn your oven on to 180°C/160°C fan/gas four and make sure there is a shelf in the middle. (I often forget to check this and then have to try to manoeuvre it when it’s hotter than Hades, so just a gentle reminder here, and I hope that it isn’t instruction overkill.) Lightly grease a decent-sized ovenproof dish – mine is 20cm x 20cm, so anything around this size, or a medium cake tin or pie dish, will do.
4. Remove the outer leaves of your cauliflower. Cut the heavy stalk from the bottom and chop the cauli into small florets – as a rough guide, the top should be no bigger than a 50 pence piece so they cook evenly. It makes it easier to eat as well! Add the cauli to the pan and stir through. Cover to retain as much of the remaining liquid as possible, then cook for 15 minutes, or until the cauli is soft and a fork gently prodded into it goes through with little to no resistance.
5. Tip the contents of the pan into your prepared dish. Grate cheese over the veg and top with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the crumbs and melt the cheese, then serve immediately with extra black pepper on top.
This will keep in the fridge for up to three days, covered or stored in an airtight container. Reheat to piping hot to serve. Not recommended for freezing due to the high dairy content – you can, but it doesn’t show it at its best.
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