Last Wednesday I left the mother city to come home to Plett, I haven’t been home to see the family since the first week of January so its a trip long over due!
After a good six hours in the car I was definitely ready for my Gaga's hearty meal of mashed potatoes, gammon and cauliflower cheese; the meal he used to make for me as a child over and over again.
The thing that made this meal so special was his cauliflower cheese, bubbling, with a golden cheesy crust and perfectly cooked cauliflower.
I know everyone probably thinks they have the best recipe for cauliflower cheese, but I am willing to bet that my Gaga's is the best in the world. His secret is using homemade bread crumbs for the crust, mixed with lots of cheese.
To make your own, steam cauliflower florets then place in a greased baking dish, dot with butter, splash with a little milk and scatter with nutmeg, bread crumbs and Gruyere (or your favourite) cheese. Bake until golden at 200°C for about 20 minutes.
If you'd like to kick things up a notch, make this gourmet cauliflower cheese with crispy Parma ham wafers. Just add a good layer of your own, homemade seasoned bread crumbs and extra grated cheese on top before baking.
Another favourite bake of mine is baby leeks with bacon and cannellini beans, loads of garlic and a touch of chilli baked, in a hot oven. It's easy and super comforting on a cold day served with thick slices of toasted French loaf.
What I really love most about this bake is that the flavour-packed cream thickens in the heat of the oven and sneaks its way into the many tight layers of the baby leeks. This results in delicious flavour with every bite.
I use cannellini beans because they add a beautiful creamy texture while bulking out the dish. And who doesn't love bacon! It's salty and completely moreish with its best friends, leeks and cheese.
If you have a butternut on hand, slice it into thin wedges and add to the dish with the leeks before cooking. By all means, leave the bacon out for a vegetarian bake.
A fish bake, such as Phillippa's braised fish and potato bake (pictured at the top), is one of the most delicious way to use fish. Her secret is using ta touch of orange juice in the bake.
TASTE readers often ask me how to prevent fresh fish from overcooking and becoming rubbery, spoiling its delicate taste. My secret is to bake it wrapped up tightly in parchment which helps to keep in all of the natural juices, keeping the flesh succulent.
Baking it with fresh, tasty goodies such as cherry tomatoes, olives and garlic makes it one of the best fuss- and mess-free way to cook any white fish, plus the fish soaks up all of the flavours of whatever you've added to the parcel.
Hake is my favourite white-fleshed fish and it’s on the green list so I'm doubly happy to cook with it. To bulk up the parcels, I also like to add ribbons of baby marrows or asparagus spears with feta before cooking - or whatever greens I have any in the fridge.
To make sImply place your fish, flavourings and other ingredients with a splash of olive oil in the parchement paper (or use foil), seal and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Pour all of the juices and steamed goodies over al dente linguine and enjoy.
If you think you have a recipe for cauliflower cheese that can challenge my Gaga’s, send it through - I would love to see what I have been missing!
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