Cauliflower Cheese 02

Cauliflower Cheese, with home-made chicken stock and mace

Why is it that my lunch looked superb yesterday, with poached chicken delicately reheated in a little butter and sunflower oil until colours were that of golden hues and ochre. The cauliflower cheese was bubbling and nicely golden. And the mash beautifully fluffy and creamy. That was with the lights on. As it was a shame it wasn’t possible to focus never mind take photos without them. And that was me, as my camera focuses auto! No kidding, the natural light was that dull. Today wasn’t much better. Which is just as well as the chicken delicately reheated in a little butter and sunflower oil looked like it had been exposed to radiation – for days. At least the cauliflower cheese reheated nicely. And tasted superb, even though I was roasting leftovers. Hence the reason why it’s not seen anywhere near the chicken leg looking like it’s just received third-degree burns. Seriously, I’ve seen orange people look less tanned. And that rust coloured glow at the back of the lead-in photo is, yes, the chicken! Thankfully Depth of Field saved the day. Anyway, enough about wretched British wintertime daylight. As the flavour of the cauliflower cheese eased that pain away. Here, I’ve gone with using mace, for the first time. Apparently, mace would’ve been very popular here in the UK for flavouring potatoes, white sauces and this particular dish. Which is fairly synonymous with British cuisine. And that’s exactly why I’ve wanted to go with a non vegetarian version of this ever since I managed to find mace. Even though I don’t really know of other recipes to use it in. For those of you that aren’t familiar with mace it’s the aril or outer covering (known as a blade) of the nut-like seed that is nutmeg. It’s flavour is similar but more delicate. And for me it’s also slightly bitter, rather than pungent, with a definite smokiness to its aftertaste, which I happen to like. To the extent this is turning out to be the new dahling of my spice cupboard.

Cauliflower Cheese, with home-made chicken stock and mace

INGREDIENTS: (vegetarian version available here)

PREP: about 30 mins ~ COOK: about 1 hour for stock & up to 30 mins roasting time ~ READY IN: 2 hours +

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED: fine wire metal sieve, small oven suitable roaster or casserole dish for 2 portions


  • 2 x carrots, trimmed, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 x large onion, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • several small inner leaves of the cauliflower, rinsed
  • 4 x organic garlic cloves, peeled and kept whole
  • 2 x dried bay leaves, split
  • 10 x juniper berries
  • 2 x small sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed
  • 500ml (1.057 pint) x cold water
  • 500g (17.64 oz) x chicken leg quarters, with drumstick and thigh, skin and excess fat removed and discarded


  • 1 x medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets and soaked in cold water
  • 2 x tablespoons plain (AP) flour
  • 2 x tablespoons oil, I used both extra virgin olive oil and sunflower
  • 300 – 400ml (0.634 – 0.846 pint) x chicken stock, strained
  • 100g (3.527 oz) x mature Cheddar cheese, grated + extra grated for the top of the cauliflower cheese itself
  • single/light cream, amount used to personal taste
  • seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 x 2.5cm or 1 inch blade or piece dried mace OR if mace isn’t available use several gratings of whole nutmeg (add about 3 or 4 to begin with, allow sauce to infuse, taste and add more to personal taste)

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  1. Add all of the stock ingredients to a large saucepan with lid and put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for at least 30 minutes and preferably an hour. What I do is switch the heat off (after an hour) and leave it to cool down before separating the chicken from the stock, straining the stock and storing both in the fridge overnight. The stock needs to be strained through a fine wire metal sieve before storing. The next day any fat that has collected on top of the stock is scraped off and discarded.
  2. After soaking the cauliflower florets put a large saucepan on heat No 4 with plenty of lightly salted cold water and a lid. Bring to a boil, carefully add the drained florets and bring back to a boil. Give the florets about 2 minutes maximim after the water is back to a boil again. Drain into a metal colander and refresh the caulifower florets under cold running water until absolutely chilled. Drain well and set aside.
  3. When the sauce is needed add the flour and the oil/s to a heavy-based saucepan and put on heat No 1 or lowest heat setting. Allow about 5 minutes for the flour to cook out, stirring often. If any bubbling occurs take off heat and allow to cool slightly before putting back on heat again.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C or 392°F.
  5. Up the heat with the flour mixture to No 3, start adding the strained chicken stock (through a sieve if necessary) to the roux or flour mixture and stir continuously until the sauce starts to thicken. This is when more stock, and cream if using, needs to be added to gain the right consistency. When that’s achieved add the mace, cheese and season to personal taste. More stock and cream can be added to thin the sauce slightly. It should be the consistency of a normal white sauce.
  6. Add the florets to an oven suitable casserole, pour over the sauce and add more cheese to the top. Place in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is nicely golden.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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  1. I also happen to really like mace, I have to admit that I don’t use it as often as I would like, really so few recipes call for it and it’s out of sight out of mind, sort of. Your cauliflower and cheese sauce is divine!! I haven’t made this in a very long time and you reminded me how much I love it, and I will use mace in my sauce.

    • This is probably the first time to eat anything flavoured with mace. It seems to have fallen out of fashion over here. As I never see it in the stores, or used in recipes. Now, of course, I’m even more intrigued by it. As I’m really impressed. It’s a shame I can’t grind it, as that way it might be easier to use. As in pinches of until the right flavour is achieved. Still, I’ll be adding this to gratins and other sauces. Especially as I prefer nutmeg with mushrooms. If you know of any recipes using mace then please let me know! :)

  2. I’m dying to try mace now. I have seen it and never paid much attention because I have never once had a recipe calling for it. Never had cauliflower like this before either and it sounds wonderful, especially with mature cheddar.

    • It’s such a good flavour with both the cauliflower and cheese. It’s hardly surprising that it used to be popular over here. But, I’ve looked at hundreds of cookery books over the years and I don’t remember seeing this spice used. Which seems such a shame. I’ll have to do a little bit of research, if my patience lasts – I get so temperamental with surfing! If only I could find a reliable site for pre-war British recipes. Even the one book I have on regional British food doesn’t include it at all.

      Isn’t cauliflower cheese a States thing? Possibly not. It’s so good! Had a little bit tonight with my cheese and herb sausages – nice!

      • I think cauliflower cheese is a states thing! But, you can only imagine how the cheese is over loaded on it. I think it’s why I have never even tried the two together. But, I can see in your version it is very tasteful and proper.

        • If it’s anything like Mac’n’Cheese it’ll be overloaded with cream and cheese! This is a far lighter version, if there is such a thing…with the addition of a slurp of cream and just enough cheese to taste. Who am I kidding?! This is sheer indulgence that happens to be relatively healthy :)

  3. How did your chicken get so orange???
    It’s been an age since I had cauli. cheese, partly put off ‘cos my dad hates cauliflower so we barely ever get it – meh. But I’m so gonna do it now you’ve reminded me! The addition of mace sounds amazing – never used it but I love nutmeg, so I’m intrigued.

  4. Absolutely could sit down to a plate of your cauliflower cheese right now! I’ve never made a béchamel sauce with stock, but can only imagine that it gives a more complex flavour and a lighter feel perhaps? I have used mace once before, but can’t remember now which recipe had called for it… I’ll have to go searching and let you know. Great to bring back some of these little known/used spices – love finding out about the historical side of food and how things were used in the past!

    • It’s very different to a béchamel. In fact, I wouldn’t even compare. Yes, it’s more complex and lighter. Plus, it’s far healthier as the stock is fairly loaded with vegetables. Okay, only trace nutrients and vitamins. Better than none. I’ve always found béchamel too much hassle for very little taste.

      Might even pop into the library later on as I really could do with a book on old British recipes. Hmm, chances are they won’t have anything. Worth a try, though. Online I’m finding it difficult to find authentic recipes. And get bored with similar-on-a-theme hashed and rehashed recipes that are quite often from the 70′s using shortening of some sort. Not that I’m criticising :) Would I?

  5. I am not usually a big fan of cauliflower cheese but your rendition makes me want to go and make one straight away, mace or no mace. I heard about mace for the first time about twenty years ago, in a magazine article penned by A.A. Gill. I can’t remember much save for the fact that it made me smile. He had found many recipes using mace in the Elizabethen era, I think, and he was not, like you, prompted to want to use it in more modern recipes. It might have been that mace was less expensive than nutmeg (let’s not forget that spices were v. expensive) and that’s what rendered it popular?

    • There has to be a reason why mace has gone out of fashion. And I can’t imagine it’s purely as it is nutmegs poor cousin, which it is. It’s only the casing after all. Still, liked the flavour enough to try out some more recipes. However, I won’t be subbing it for freshly grated nutmeg anytime soon!

      Ah, good ol’ British cuisine from twenty years ago! Let’s not go back. As for A.A. Gill, the name is familiar but I don’t know anything about him. One of the BBC programmes I do vaguely remember had a female wine taster that became, increasingly, a parody of herself. Quite hysterical! Hah, the good ol’ days. Y’all can keep ‘em!

  6. Oooh I love the look of that – and I love cauliflower cheese but still haven’t made it myself. Need to put that on my autumn/winter food list and try asap…

    • I don’t think I’ve bothered to make this since last time. And that was solely on the hob. Roasted is much better. But, for some reason, I prefer cauliflower if it has been blanched (sounds like something out of a Bette Davis movie) before roasting. Sauce was really nice. And perfect with mash to, in my case, slurp up all that flavour :)

    • Hmm, you know something I don’t? What’s this about the Queen and mace?! Will have to do some Googling, I suppose. Can’t imagine it’s anything to do with swans. You’ve got me intrigued!

    • Thanks! It was surprisingly good. And, unusually for me, I didn’t even use a pinch of red pepper flakes nor any sort of chilli. Yes, they’re the same thing. You know what I mean. As it didn’t need any heat.

  7. Ahh what I coincidence I made cauliflower and cheese the other day… and draped Serrano ham all over it :) I didn’t make photos because it was late at night. Also, hey I’m having a hard time now making photos as I’m never home when theres natural lighting :(

    • Really nice with Serrano ham! My vegetarian version was eaten with German smoked – not exactly keeping it veggie :)

      Have I mentioned to you about getting a white light bulb, and using that within a normal reading lamp? If not do check them out, as with white light beamed directly on to your plate/food it’s enough ‘daylight’ to go with digital photos.

  8. That’s a great photo – the light this time of year is a total nightmare! Am going to try the trick you’ve mentioned to your other reader, using a white light bulb.

    • Thank you. Isn’t the light wretched?! I’ve never tried using white bulbs as I can’t get the correct fitting. They are available, just not where I live right now. One of the perils of moving out of Central London! The bulb should help, even if it’s only used as a light source to fill in – if that makes sense.

  9. I am a huge fan of cauliflower cheese! I could eat it daily, though upon reflection it’s actually been years since I last had some! Gorgeous photographs. I doubt that I’ve ever eaten cauliflower cheese with such complex stock involved. Great recipe!

    • Thanks. I’m not even sure how cauliflower cheese is made. I suppose it’s loaded with cheese, cream and butter. I just fancied having poached chicken to go with it, hence the sauce. It is nice, though!

  10. Hahaha, how did I miss this post? (I’ve been on and offline for the past couple of weeks) Cauliflower cheese looks delectable, and would have been perfect for our tropical thunderstorm kind of weather. I made a Moroccan chicken recipe recently which used heaps of turmeric, and it was intensely, intensely yellow. Forget third degree burns, this looked like it had gone through the Charlie Wonka factory. Was delicious with all that cinnamon and other spices though…

    • Moroccan chicken sounds delish, regardless of its colour! Had some amazing food there the only time I’ve visited. Hmm, would love a tagine! I mean, the thing you cook with. Yes, this is comfort food. Which I need lots of right now as it’s really cold and damp. Misery! Which helps to explain the lack of posting on my part. Just can’t get photos!

      • Bummer about the cold weather, I hope you get good photos still, as I love reading about your recipes. Tagine, or other kinds of clay pots, would be so good for cold weather!

  11. His did i miss this? Classic and creative. How can you go wrong with these texture combos and aged cheese? This is comfort food elevated to its best. You really are quite a talent. I’m have to look into mace as an ingredient.

    • The mace was an interesting ingredient to use. Do prefer nutmeg, though. And easier to use as it’s not possible to grind whole blades of mace. Instead, pieces of it need to be used. Not a problem as it’s the same with cinnamon. Definitely good to have in the spice cupboard for wintry weather!

  12. Was surprised by how intricate the recipe is. Epitome of sophisticated yet comfort food. I have to ditto Married in Marrickville and say: “drool time”! Truly a mouthwatering creation Johnny

    • Hah, don’t know about sophisticated but this is comfort food. To be honest, I went with poaching the chicken as I didn’t really know what else to do with it. Hence the sauce with those ingredients. Very easy to make. Once you have the stock ready.

  13. Okay – I have no idea why I never saw this in my reader. I love cauliflower and cheese but this does sound like a pretty exceptional version. And I have to be honest, I simply ignore mace when i see it in ingredient lists. But now, thanks to you, I’ll actually give it a go. You’ve sold me!

    • You’re not the only one mentioning probs with the reader, if that’s the case. I never use it as it loads way too slow on my system. Because of that I rely heavily on emails getting through. Anyway, I love cauliflower at this time of year. But, I have to blanch mine otherwise they tend to taste soppy, even when roasted. Wonder if that would be the case with organic? Yes, I would definitely use mace again. But only where nutmeg might be overpowering in flavour. And I’m still unsure what to use it in as so few recipes include it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe for it. I’ll keep an eye on your posts, just in case you do happen to use it :)

    • If you have read the summary then you’ll realise this is the first time for me to use mace. Hopefully not the last. Although, I never normally find recipes using it. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Thanks for reminding me about mace. I can’t remember the last time I used it LOL. The cauliflower and cheese sauce is so delightful. Thank you for making me drool..sigh!

    • That’s what some of my posts are all about, I guess. And, believe me, I’m quite often drooling when I pop into others posts. Isn’t that part of the beauty of what we do? Hoping so :)

  15. Johnny, your cauliflower has to be incredible with your homemade chicken used in the sauce. That is a high end, chef quality dish. :)

    • Thank you. I wouldn’t exactly go that far. Truth was I really didn’t know what to have the cauliflower cheese with. It’s not something I grew up on, and would never order this as a side. However, home-made with chicken stock and it is good! Will have to do some research and find out what it is served with. In the meantime, I’m going to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, just in case I don’t get the chance to before then.

      • Thank you for your sweet wish. I would eat your dish as you did with a simple chicken or on top of wide noodles. And yes, I will say it again…this is wonderful dish that I would expect to have been made by a famous chef. When you are good, you are good. :)

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