On the table in 40 minutes tops
Hello world. Let’s start off this blog with a bang: this is the dish that made me know that I could do without dairy. There are plenty of vegan mac’n’cheeses out there, but what I think makes this one special is the vegan béchamel (white sauce). If you never made real béchamel before, you basically need to start with a ‘roux’- a thick paste of fat (traditionally butter) and flour, and whisk in milk. It may look clumpy and split to start with, but keep on whisking and the silky white slick shall be yours. Then you add in cauliflower for body, and cashews if you like. As a thrifty gal, I try to keep pricier things like nuts to a minimum. You could even leave them out. I love the crisp, tender, and fresh addition of roasted broccoli in this, and of course it injects a bit of lovely green into an otherwise albino dish. This right here is some gorgeous comfort food.
FOR THE GOOEY CREAMY BAKED GOODNESS
- Small head of broccoli
- 300-400g of macaroni, spirali, or other nice bendy tubes (I normally always do 100g per person of pasta but this stuff is v filling)
- Half a big cauliflower
- Heaped tbsp. soaked cashews (optional)
- Big heaped tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 heaped tbsp. plain flour
- 400 ml oat milk or alternative (I literally put 2 heaped tbsp. of oats in a jug with 400 ml and water and bashed them around a bit. Leave to rest for around 10 minutes and pour through a sieve when it’s time to use them)
- ¼ tsp of nutmeg
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- Tbsp. nutritional yeast
FOR THE CRISPY CRUMB TOPPING
- An old slice of bread or bread roll
- Tsp. capers (optional)
- Tsp. rosemary or other dried herbs you have around
- Set the oven to gas mark 5. Get a large pan of boiling salted water on the heat.
- If you’re going to make your own oat milk for this, start now- 2 tbsp. oats in a jug with 400ml of water. Swirl the oats around a little and leave to soak.
- Cut your broccoli into florets. You can chunk the stalk up into cubes too, if you like it. Put them into the baking dish you want to use for the mac’n’cheese and bang in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The stalks should tenderise a little and the tops will get some brown flecks.
- Cut your cauliflower into chunks and add to the boiling water. Boil it up for 5 minutes or so until tender.
- In the meantime, get started on your magical creamy sauce! Melt the coconut oil in a pan, finely shop the garlic, and add that in. Let it fry for a minute or so until it smells delicious but is still pretty colourless. Then add in your flour and whisk- it wil cook into a thick paste within a minute or so. Finally, gradually whisk in your milk until the sauce is thick and delicious. You may want to add more milk or water if it’s looking a little thick. Add your sauce to a blender.
- Fish out your cauliflower with a slotted soon and add to the blender, then add your pasta to the boiling cauli water.
- Add the cashews, nutmeg, paprika, nutritional yeast, and plenty of salt and pepper to the white sauce and cauliflower in the blender. Whizz until it’s silky and amazing. Make the sauce a little thinner than you ultimately want it because some of the liquid will cook away in the oven. Give it a taste to make sure it’s delicious, and add any extra flavourings (some people like chilli- but not me!). You could have this sauce directly on pasta, but I love to pimp it up in the oven as follows.
- Blitz the bread, herbs, and capers in a food processor until you have crumbs.
- By now, the broccoli should be roasted and the pasta should be cooked. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Pour over the white sauce and stir. Now pour this over the broccoli that is sitting in your backing dish. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and bake at gas mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until the top is a little crispy.