Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cauliflower gratin

I always look a fright. No matter how carefully I get dressed, I always end up looking crumpled and baggy and I don't know how I manage it.

I've turned my mind to this because I've been thinking recently about the future and daring to consider all the clothes I packed away last June. And I can't help but remember with a slow, blinking awareness that despite my blurry remembrance of my thin self being terribly glamorous - that I always looked a fright.

I generally blame it on my mouth. My mouth is enormous and my teeth are big and square, like a set you might find champing on a bit just before the 3.40 at Newmarket, and there's one sticking-out snaggle one that I'm spending months and a small fortune trying to correct.

And I always forget about my ginormous mouth and when I laugh I don't got "titter titter" like I think girls are suppose to laugh - I go "Waha ha ha hack hack hack hack" and look like I'm about to swallow the room like the bit in The Little Mermaid when Ursula creates a swirly vortext in the water that sucks in all the ships. Then I have a coughing fit.

I think it's also because I've got quite big boobs. I mean, we're not talking Lola Ferrari, but neither are we talking a discreet handful. And when you've got big boobs, no matter how thin the rest of you is, you're always going to look a bit fat and sloppy if you're not careful. I often wish I was a different shape so that I could wear things for flat-chested people - chic little dresses and t-shirts with high necks or floaty baggy things. But I end up looking like an overstuffed sofa. With wonky teeth.

Angelina Jolie has the same problem as me - one of the few things we have in common, I'll wager -: but we both certainly have giant gobs and indiscreet bosoms. It's why she's lost all that weight, to get some ballast off her front and off her mouth. But it won't work!!! They'll still be there getting in the way no matter how much weight you lose, dear. Not that I think Angelina Jolie looks a fright, or anything.

Anyway, it's why I always wear the same thing - jeans and a top with some kind of v-neck thing to it. And I really ought to just get over it and realise that's what I look best in and stop buying flapper dresses and high-neck t-shirts. The truth is that jeans and a v-necky top are my secret weapons in my war not to look a fright.

A secret weapon in the war against actual fatness rather than perceived boob-created fatness is the gratin.

You can turn almost any scary vegetable that you'd really rather not eat (but you have to replace carbs with something, damnit) into something totally palatable by covering it in cream and giving it a crispy top.

The wetter the vegetable, the less likely it is to want to be gratinated. So, aubergine, tomato, courgette, spinach etc, aren't that wild about it, although it does work. But broccoli, fennel, leek, cauliflower, squash love it. Although - having said spinach, you can of course steam it and then add it to another veg and gratinate the whole lot together.

Generally, I would do a gratin with a white sauce. But no matter how good you are at making a white sauce (and I am probably one of the best in the country. No, seriously) it's a bit of a faff. So instead of making the white sauce, you can just cover the whole thing in a lot of cream, butter, salt and cheese and scatter breadcrumbs over the top. It's totally low-carb - let's not split hairs about the breadcrumbs shall we? - and totally cheerful.

Cauliflower gratin, for 4

1 cauliflower
about 170ml cream (double or single, up to you) and you could use more if you felt like it
3 large handfuls of cheese
- mix and match the cheese as it is available to you. You can absolutely use cheddar for the whole thing, it's just that it will taste a lot of cheddar. You could also use blue cheese and cheddar, or gruyere and parmesan or anything you like, as long as there's plenty of it.
2 slices of bread
1 clove garlic or some garlic oil
some parsley if you have it
about 50g butter
some olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180C and butter whatever dish you want to have your gratin in. You might have some butter left over from doing this - that's fine.

1 Break up the cauliflower and steam or boil until it is soft. Steaming takes about 12 minutes, boiling less long. If you were doing the cauli in a white sauce, you don't have to cook it for as long, because when you finish it off in the oven, it will continue to cook. But without a white sauce, the cauli won't do any more cooking, so you need to get it as soft as you want it in the first instance.

2 In a food processor, whizz up the bread, parsley, a big pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper, and your garlic clove or slug of garlic oil. If you wanted to add some chilli, you could.

3 Once the cauli is cooked and soft put it in a large pan and bash it about a bit so that there aren't any massive great tree trunks. Then pour over your cream and chuck in any leftover butter from buttering the gratin dish. Now add about 2/3 of whatever cheese you're using and give it all a stir until it's melty. It strikes me now that a tiny splash of truffle oil might be nice here. What do you think? Throw it in if it seems a good idea. Season all this with salt and pepper. This is an occasion to use white pepper, if you have bought some for something else and are now wondering how the hell to use it up.

4 Turn all this out into your gratin dish and sprinkle over your breadcrumbs and press down. Then cover this with the remaining cheese. Add more cheese if you feel like it. Dot with butter and stick in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top looks yummy.

Eat with a clear conscience and plan your spring wardrobe.

I have already purchased a beige trench coat in a size S from Uniqlo and I'm very pleased with it.

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