The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese

The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese

There is this restaurant in Auckland that I love called Depot. It is amazing. When I am feeling balla, I often go there. Clearly last week I felt like I was just rolling in it, and I managed to end up there twice. I am completely hooked on their wood-fired cauliflower cheese. Not only is it fired in a massive pizza oven, but also they use delicious smoked cheese to enrich the flavour. I closely observed the chefs prepare this, and I actually seriously considered buying a kettle barbecue this week for the sole purpose of making this dish extra smoky. I made do with my terrible flat oven. The end product was gobbled up so quickly I barely had time to figure out whether it neared Depot standards. 

They make theirs with a smoked cheddar. I had a smoked Havarti in the fridge, which also worked a treat. Any smoked cheese will do — you don’t need much, just enough to lend that wonderful flavour. If you are feeling a little too povo for flash cheese, just use a good extra handful of tasty instead.


Serves 4 (slash just me if I am being greedy)

  • 1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, chopped into quarters
  • 50g butter
  • ¼ cup flour 
  • 2½ cups of milk (the fattier the better)
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 cup grated tasty cheese
  • 1 cup grated smoked cheese salt and pepper
  • 50g pancetta or prosciutto


  1. Blanch the large chunks of cauliflower in boiling water until tender. This should take about ten minutes. Drain and leave to dry on some paper towels. Heat up a frying pan with a splash of oil and brown the sides of each chunk. Let some of the edges go a little black — it gives extra flavour. Leave to one side.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees on bake.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add in the flour and stir to form a paste. Let the paste food and bubble away gently for two minutes. Add a half cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Keep stirring the sauce until it becomes super thick, then add another half cup of milk. Continue until all the milk has been added, and stir until the sauce is almost as thick as Greek yoghurt. Stir through the mustard, half the tasty cheese and half the smoked cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  4. Arrange the cauliflower in a small- to medium-sized baking dish, breaking the quarters up into large pieces. Pour over the béchamel sauce and spread it around so it covers all of the florets. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese. In a reasonably hot frying pan, cook the pancetta or prosciutto until it becomes crisp and crunchy. Transfer to a chopping board and finely slice so it resembles a large crumb. Sprinkle this over the cauliflower cheese.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top has turned a dark golden colour. 
  6. Enjoy immediately.
This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2015.
Posted 1:26pm Sunday 12th July 2015 by Sophie Edmonds.