When I was growing up, my mother used to beg me not to play with my food. Luckily for all of us, I turned what was annoying at the dinner table, into something even better. Recipe creation! Pretty much a license to play with my food and come up with delicious and occasionally cute recipes like this one: Vegan Cauliflower Cheese 'Christmas Trees'.
To make this super simple side dish, instead of using a regular old cauliflower, I used a Romanesco cauliflower. It tastes so similar to the regular kind, that it can be easily swapped into any recipe with cauliflower in it, but looks so much more festive and pretty, with its green Fibonacci whirls and swirls!
And what could be cuter and more festive as a fun Christmas (or any time) side than a pretty red ovenproof dish, filled with little green Christmas Trees that are then smothered in a comforting blanket of cheese sauce. Easy to make, delicious to eat!. Hey- you might even get the kids to eat some up because it looks so fun!
Now, don't panic. Just because this is a vegan cauliflower cheese dish, doesn't mean that it has loads of expensive ingredients in it. In fact, it's based on a simple roux, just with those two vegan staples added to it for the cheesy taste: Miso and Nutritional Yeast. These two wonder ingredients (without which my kitchen would be very much bereft) together somehow form the perfect 'cheesy' taste. Add a little mustard and no one will know that the cauliflower cheese you have just served up is vegan!!
I have one more bossy note to add to making this easy vegan side dish! Make sure your wok fry your cauliflower first, don't boil it! Boiled cauliflower a) is horrid and b) makes for a wet and soggy cauli-cheese.
All you need to do is get out your wok (or heavy fry pan) and heat it up. Add your florets of cauliflower (or romanesco cauliflower) and dry fry for a few minutes until they start to 'catch' a little. Put on a big lid over them and let the natural water in the cauli create steam and help to soften the cauliflower for a few minutes.. Voila! Perfect cooked cauli with not a single soggy floret. Yay!
Step by step how-to: 1) Cut the romanesco cauliflower florets up and stir fry in a wok:
Step by Step instructions 2: How to make the vegan cheese sauce (also known as a roux)
Step by step instructions 3) How to assemble the vegan cauliflower cheese (Christmas Tree style!) ready to put in the oven.
Serve this yummy dish up with loads of other festive dishes like these:
And if you need some more inspiration or a lovely gift for a friend, vegan or otherwise who loves to cook, why not get our lovely Cookbook: Festive Feasts! Head to this link to buy!!
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Vegan Cauliflower Cheese Christmas Trees
Prepare the romanesco cauliflower
- Cut the cauliflower into large florets. Trim the stalk and chop too
- Heat a large wok or frying pan, add the cauliflower florets and cook until they just catch
- Put a large lid on over the florets and let their natural water content steam them for 3-5 minutes until softened
Make the cheese sauce
- In a pan, gently heat the oil and add the flour
- Stir the flour until it starts to colour a soft brown. This prevents the sauce tasting 'floury'
- Add the plant milk bit by bit, whisking all the time to prevent lumps forming
- Once a smooth sauce is achieved, whisk in the miso, nutritional yeast and mustard
- Taste and add more of the flavourings if you want a stronger taste
To assemble the cauliflower cheese 'Christmas Trees'
- In an oven proof dish, arrange the cauliflower florets and stems. Use the stems to lift up some florets so they point up further than others for a cute 'mountain' effect
- Gently pour over the cheese sauce
- sprinkle over vegan cheese if using.
- Bake in a moderate (180°C/Gas Mark 4/350°F) oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and golden. Be careful not to burn the trees!
- Serve immediately