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Hot Smoked Cauliflower

Here’s a fun twist on cauliflower cheese. You’ll need a large flowerpot, saucepan or fire cloche (like our Roasting Oven/Smoker Box) to cover the cauliflower as it gently roasts above the smoky fire … It’s worth nothing, while a whole cauliflower cooks surprisingly quickly when you boil it, that’s not the case over an open fire. It’s a rather leisurely process, so it’s important the fire’s not too hot, otherwise the cauli may blacken on the outside before it’s tender in the middle. Gill Meller likes to add plenty of chopped dill to the cheese sauce. It’s such a great herb to use with cheese, but if dill isn’t your favourite, chives or parsley would be good instead.

from Gill Meller’s new book OUTSIDE: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating, a thoughtful celebration of the joys of cooking and eating outdoors. We shouldn’t be shutting doors any more – we should be opening them …

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 medium-small cauliflower
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
50g (1¾oz) butter
25g (1oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
300ml (10½fl oz) whole milk
125g (4½oz) mature cheddar, grated
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
a small handful of dill, chopped, plus extra to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Trim the leaves away from the cauliflower and cut the thick stalk back as much as possible without any of the florets separating. Trickle the trimmed cauli with the extra-virgin olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper.

2. Using half the butter, drop small pieces of it down around the stalk so it falls between the florets. Spoon in 3-4 tbsp of water, too.

3. Make sure you have a medium-hot fire going. Add a few small hardwood logs so it’s nice and smoky.

4. Set the cauliflower down, stalk uppermost, on a grill over the fire, to one side of the direct heat. Place a large terracotta flowerpot, a saucepan or a fire cloche/roasting oven over the cauli. Cook for 25-30 minutes, then uncover the cauli and turn it over. Cover again and leave to cook for about the same time again.

5. Meanwhile, set a small pan down over the fire and add the remaining butter. When it’s bubbling away, add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring all the time. Add the cheese and mustard and season with some salt and plenty of black pepper. Simmer the sauce until the cheese has melted and it’s lovely and thick. Add the chopped dill and set to one side.

6. Make sure the cauliflower is tender before you take it off the fire. You can check this by inserting the tip of a knife into the stem. There shouldn’t be much resistance.

7. Scatter the cauliflower with a little extra dill and serve in thick wedges with lots of cheese sauce.

OUTSIDE: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £30) Photography: Andrew Montgomery

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