Cauliflower Gratin / Gratin de chou-fleur. A creamy, cheesy, with a hint of spice white béchamel sauce, covers florets of in-season boiled cauliflower. Topped with more cheese and baked until golden.
As many of the dishes I’ve cooked recently, this cauliflower gratin was introduced to me by my Algerian mother-in-law.
As we all know, the French ruled Algeria for many years. Leaving not only the language but also their culinary stamp on the country.
This is only one among many dishes that have been adopted or adapted to the Algerian palate.
Mother-in-law never follows a strict recipe when making gratin. Often she will boil lots of cauliflower, fry some (recipe coming soon) and what’s leftover will get stored away in the fridge.
The next day she uses it, often with some mashed-up boiled potatoes in a gratin similar to this.
I’ve never seen her make a béchamel. She simply whips eggs, milk, cheese together and pours this mixture over the vegetables, topping with more cheese and sometimes breadcrumbs for a thicker crust.
Note: Good quality ingredients = a tastier gratin!
In other words, use real butter and a good mature cheddar/hard cheese of your choice.
Here I’m kinda stuck, for now (still grateful!), until my husband returns from England, with margarine and fromage ta pizza. One can barely call it cheese because of the high amount of vegetable oil.
Gratin is still one of my favourite foods from M-I-L, regardless of the ingredients origins.
My recipe is adapted from a popular Algerian food blog lejoyauxdesherazade.
I’ve reduced the quantities to fit my mother-in-law’s Pyrex dish. I add a touch of cinnamon and cumin to the béchamel instead of Sherazade’s recommended nutmeg. Read why I don’t use nutmeg in my cooking here.
Cauliflower Gratin is a warm and comforting side dish for 3-4 or serves 2 as a main dish. All you need to go with it, is a crusty baguette.
Recipe can easily be doubled to fit a bigger dish and feed more people. You can also cover and store leftovers in the fridge, to re-heat the next day.
Creamy and cheesy with a hint of spice cauliflower gratin.
- 300g small cauliflower florets
- 15g + 20g butter (or margarine)
- 15g plain flour
- 200ml milk *
- 1 egg yolk
- Salt, to taste
- Pinch Black pepper, to taste
- Pinch cinnamon, to taste
- Pinch cumin, to taste
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 50g grated hard cheese, divided
- Wash the cauliflower florets well and drain in a colander. Cook in boiling slightly salted water for 15 to 20 minutes. Check they are cooked by pricking the cauliflower with the tip of a knife.Drain and set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6
- In a saucepan melt 15g butter/margarine.
- Add flour and stir continusiously over medium-low heat until the flour mixture has lightly browned. Turn off the heat.
- In a seperate saucepan warm up the milk until hot.
- Slowly add the hot milk into your flour mixture whilst continually stirring - best to do this with a whisk at this point, until you have a fairly thick sauce without lumps. Turn off the heat and stir in spices (go lightly on the salt), garlic, half the cheese and egg yolk.
- Grease a 750ml capacity small oval Pyrex dish with some but not all of the remaining butter.
- Arrange your cauliflower inside the dish, you can crush the florets lightly with a fork as you add them. Pour the bechamel over the cauliflower, top with remaining grated cheese and small knobs of butter. Bake in middle of oven for 15-20mins until golden brown. Serve warm from the oven with a crusty baguette.
If your bechamel seems too thick stir in a little more milk before pouring over cauliflower. You can mix a small handful of breadcrumbs with the remaining butter and scatter on top for a crustier gratin if you prefer. In an Algerian gas oven I cooked the gratin on the second to top shelf for 15 minutes then grilled/broiled the top for about 5-10 minutes until golden brown.