Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli

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Oh Jamie Oliver, you rarely let me down. Today is no exception. This recipe takes your standard cauliflower with cheese sauce to the next (actually, the highest) level with very little effort. Plus it involves SO MUCH VEGETABLE. A great source of good food in these final days of winter. I like to buy the flash-frozen vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the winter, because I know that they were at their freshest when they were frozen and haven’t spent days or weeks rattling around in a truck to get to me before they rot.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grab 1kg cauliflower florets (A WHOLE KILOGRAM) and dump that in a large baking dish. I used half frozen florets on the bottom …

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… and half fresh ones on top.

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Scoop up a decently medium-sized pot and dump in about 4 tablespoons butter and the equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (you can peel and slice it, but I used it from a jar here and I’m not sorry). Heat that on medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling.

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Sprinkle in about 4-5 tablespoons flour and stir that until it forms a gummy paste, like in the picture.

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Now, drizzle in, a little bit at a time, 2 cups milk. Whisk it all the while as you add so you don’t get lumps.

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Tip in 500g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen). Let those simmer away until they’re pretty much mushy.

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When they’re nice and mushy, you should mash ’em. I found the potato masher didn’t quite cut it so I used my immersion blender.

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Glorious.

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Now add in like 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or any cheese of your preference). Turn down the heat a bit and let that melt.

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Now pour your green creamy mixture on top of the cauliflower.

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Dig the cauliflower up a little bit to make sure the sauce gets into the middle.

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In a food processor, whaz together about 2 slices stale bread, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and about 2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bread crumb topping!

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Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake the whole thing for an hour, until the crumbs are golden and everything is bubbly. I found that it was best to cover the crumb topping with foil so it didn’t burn.

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Sooooo good!

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Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

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Yup.  ANOTHER cupcake recipe.  If you think that’s ridiculous, you’re gonna laugh at what I have planned for Friday.  This recipe has been stored in my Evernote for forever, but I keep seeing the photos pop up on Facebook. I think it’s a not-so-subtle hint that I should probably make them.

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Start with 1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (I used flaked) and mix them with 2 cups dessicated unsweetened coconut in a bowl.  Set that aside for now.

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Toast a wee pinch of the coconut and almonds (I popped mine in the toaster oven) and set that aside as well.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tin with cups.  I like how cheery these are.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup cocoa, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In yet ANOTHER bowl, ideally the one in your electric mixer, cream together 3/4 room temperature butter, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar for about 3 minutes until pale and cohesive.

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Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time.  Ideally they are also room temperature.  Pour in 3 teaspoons vanilla while you’re at it.

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Now you can start adding your flour mixture in, alternating with 1 1/2 cup buttermilk until it’s all smooth and combined.

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Then you can fold in all your almonds and coconut.

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Scoop the batter into your cupcake cups until they’re’ about 3/4 full.  Now, the recipe didn’t tell me how many this made and so I assumed that it was only 12.

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I WAS WRONG.  AND I WAS OUT OF CUPCAKE LINERS.  So I used the last four I had, then put the rest of the batter in a disposable loaf pan.  I figured it’d make a nice cake to freeze.

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Anyway, bake your enormous number of cupcakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean, then you can let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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The Nanaimo-bar-y-ness of the icing comes from using custard powder.  The custard is what makes a Nanaimo bar a Nanaimo bar. Nah-NYE-mo bar.  I love the word Nanaimo.  I may have a problem.

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Right.  Icing.  That’s what we were doing.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together 1 cup room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 cups icing sugar, and 4 tablespoons custard powder.

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When that’s all combined, pour in as well about 3/4 cup whipping cream for smoothness.

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There, that’s lovely.

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Pipe it onto your cupcakes, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coconut.  That’s it.

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Then you eat it and then it’s gone.  So satisfying.

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