Healthy comfort food - our alternative cauliflower cheese recipe

img_3650 February is the month when it officially starts to feel like winter will never end. It's also the point when we all start to wobble on our new year's resolutions, as we're faced with yet another cold month without a nice, warming mac n cheese in sight.

Now that we've put our Just One Change campaign on hiatus for a while, we wanted to make sure we could still help you make some good choices while enjoying what you eat. To do that, I asked our Director of Food Matt Byne to come up with a healthier version of one of his favourite comfort dishes to make us all feel warm and fuzzy.

He really delivered in spades, with his healthy cauliflower cheese filled with creative ideas for creating a more balanced dish than the usual cheese and cream festival. Here's what he had to say about it:

"What was healthy? Well, I made the roux for the cheese sauce with unsalted butter and half with olive oil, I also used skimmed milk for the sauce. I used a really strong cheddar, so didn't need as much to flavour the sauce. I added in chopped kale and haricot beans to give it some depth and a bit of a healthier veggie kick. I also steamed the cauliflower whole so as not to lose too may nutrients. Finally I used feta cheese to gratinate it as it has a lower fat content. I also made a super quick soda bread to dunk in, courtesy of Tom Kerridge!"

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We love these ideas. The unsalted butter keeps the salt content down, while the olive oil provides an extra healthy dimension (it's great for your heart). Using skimmed milk, strong cheddar and feta brings down the fat content but still keeps it filling and full of flavour. The haricot beans inject some extra protein, and since cauliflower isn't the most nutritious vegetable the kale brings in some much needed vitamins and minerals. Brilliant!

Here are the full recipes.

Healthy cauliflower cheese with Tom Kerridge's soda bread

The cauliflower cheese

We've adapted this recipe from Felicity Cloake's fantastic original - we recommend you check that one out too. I also cheekily changed the breadcrumbs to brown in this recipe to give you a dose of whole grains, but left in a little double cream to add thickness. I won't tell Matt if you don't.

Ingredients For the cauliflower cheese: 1 litre skimmed milk ½ an onion 1 clove 1 bay leaf 40g unsalted butter 40ml olive oil 50g plain flour Salt and pepper 1 medium cauliflower 200g tinned haricot beans, drained 100g curly kale, chopped 4 slices brown bread, in breadcrumbs 60g strong, mature cheddar, grated 50ml double cream Nutmeg, grated 25g feta cheese, crumbled

1. Put the milk in a small pan and poke the clove into the onion. Add this, a pinch of salt and the bay leaf to the milk and heat gently to a simmer. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes, then remove the onion and bay leaf.

2. Melt 25g butter with 25ml olive oil in a medium pan over a medium-low heat, and stir in the flour. Cook for about two minutes then add the milk gradually until the mixture is smooth. Turn the heat low and leave to simmer for 15–20 minutes until thick.

3. Meanwhile, fill a deep saucepan with just 2cm of water and put the whole cauliflower in a steamer basket above it. Cover and bring to the boil, then steam the cauliflower for 5-8 minutes. Bring it off the heat and allow to cool a little before cutting it into florets.

4. Melt most of the remaining butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the cauliflower until slightly browned and caramelised. Season and spoon into a baking dish, along with the haricot beans and kale.

4. Now put the last of the butter and oil into the pan, add the breadcrumbs and fry until crunchy and golden. Season. Preheat the grill to medium-high.

6. Stir the cheddar into the sauce until it melts, and then add the cream, a grating of nutmeg and season to taste. Pour over the cauliflower. Crumble over the feta, followed by the breadcrumbs, and grill until golden and bubbling.

Tom Kerridge's soda bread

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Because this contains plenty of wholemeal flour this is a great source of whole grains.

Ingredients 340g/11¾oz wholemeal flour 340g/11¾oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1½ tsp salt 1 tsp cracked black pepper 85g/3oz butter, softened, plus extra to serve 625ml/21fl oz buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Put both flours, the butter, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Rub it all together between your thumb and fingers until it looks like crumbs (or put in a food processor, which will do it for you).

Stir in the buttermilk and use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until a soft dough forms. Put the dough on a greased baking sheet, pat into a loaf shape and dust with a little extra flour. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake the bread for 45–50 minutes until it's lovely and golden. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Will you be giving these a try on the next frosty weekend? Have other suggestions for healthy versions of your favourite comfort dishes? Let us know @JustHospitality.