When the first pasta was introduced to the British public and promptly found its way to India and into the clubs and gymkhanas of the Raj. Like most Indians, I grew up eating over-boiled pasta. It was not until my European training back in 1980 that I realized we had been cooking it all wrong – but in those days if you cooked pasta al dente it was sent back to you. Mum’s macaroni was cooked until it split, but hey, the fun was in the sauce and her awesome magic with taste.
- Water 1 litre (1¾ pints)
- Cauliflower florets 300g (10½ oz), (reserve the stems and trimmings)
- Dried macaroni 300g (10½ oz)
- Butter 2 heaped tablespoons, plus extra for greasing
- Cumin seeds ½ teaspoon
- Plain flour 4 tablespoons, sifted
- Whole milk 400ml (14fl oz)
- Fresh green chillies 2–3 finger type, finely chopped
- Red chilli powder, a pinch
- Cheddar cheese 200–300g (7–10½ oz), grated
- Hot English mustard 3–4 teaspoons
- Chopped fresh coriander 1 heaped tablespoon
- Fresh breadcrumbs 3–4 tablespoons
- Salt and freshly ground black
Bring the water to the boil in a pan. Add a little salt and boil the florets for 4–5 minutes at most. Remove with a slotted spoon, refresh under cold water in a bowl and drain.
- To the same pan, add the macaroni and cook according to the packet instructions. Remove with a slotted spoon, refresh under cold water and drain. Mix with the cauliflower.
- Add the cauliflower trimmings and stems to the water and cook for 5 minutes until very soft. Blitz the cauliflower and some of the water to a purée. You need to have about 250–300ml (8½ –10fl oz).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Generously grease the inside of the baking dish with butter.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds. Heat for 30 seconds, then take off the heat. Add the flour and stir in well. Whisk in the milk and some of the puréed cauliflower until well blended.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and stir well but gently with the whisk. From time to time, scrape with a spatula to ensure it is not sticking to the bottom. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, adding more puréed cauliflower if needed, until it is the consistency of white sauce. Add the green chilli, chilli powder and some seasoning.
- Stir half the cheese into the sauce and mix until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Take off the heat and add the mustard, macaroni and cauliflower to the sauce and mix well but gently. Add the coriander and check everything is well coated in sauce – if needed, add some more purée.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Combine the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake for about 15–20 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp. Serve immediately.
You can also use green peas, potatoes, carrot or broccoli, but there is nothing quite like using just cauliflower for its unique taste and flavour.
By Cyrus Todiwala from Simple Spice Vegetarian: Easy Indian Vegetarian Recipes From Just 10 Spices (Mitchell Beazley / Octopus)