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.


  1. Loved this post! I also tried adding a bunch of chopped-up cauliflower to lentil soup, which was a very palatable way to eat the vegetable as well. Just stick it in at the beginning with the onions and carrot. Then you'll be eating all kinds of ridiculous health food you thought you hated.

    Other good clothes for big boobs: lacy bras with off-the-shoulder tops, dresses that belt at the natural waist, and strapless things like dresses and tops. All of these actually look sort of stupid on flat-chested people, which is very gratifying.

  2. Fabulous post! I'm loving these carb conscious dishes. I was on full Atkins for a while a few years back... Lost loads of weight and kept it off. Also developed a lot of these type of recipes. Me thinks that very soon you're going to be so preoccupied with baby you won't care too much about anything and the weight will drop off very fast... Either that or Millets do a fine line in Cath Kidston tents xxx

  3. urgh do i look like i'd ever wear anything from fucking cath kidston?? jesus. although i take your point.

  4. Are you already doing low carb? Now that is pregnancy willpower like no other. All I want are carbs, namely the deep fried or cheese smothered kind.

  5. Either her or camouflage! And whilst I think you'd look smashing in brown and khaki I feel some colourful polka dots would set those teeth and lips off delightfully!

  6. Made this tonight and it was fabulous. Only one small question though.... once you put the cream, butter and the double helping of cheese in it - ain't it about 1 billion calories? Or does it not matter coz you're not eating carbs?

  7. Just you wait...you'll soon have smaller boobs! I used to be Angelina in proporations. After 2 kids (bfing them) I am now able to wear high necks. Most of my 'Mum' friends mourn the loss of their breasts, but I'm just pleased to get away from bleeding v-neck tops. x

  8. aha yes, there are 1bn calories in this - only really to be scoffed as part of a low-carb diet. if you are semi-faithfully doing a low-carb thing the calories don't matter. don't ask me how it works, it just does

  9. Dear Esther, for no reason at all I've decided to take a closer look at your home page photo- the one of you holding saucepan (rather menacingly). Questions: is that a mirror splashback above stove? Isn't it crazy to keep clean? Why would one have mirror at that height and there? Is it a Cath Kidston reflected, near the Roberts radio? In addition to being expensively teethed and large bosomed, are you also very tall? Your island work-height appears low in relation to your hips, so presumably, you are either 1. very tall, 2. average in height but long-torsoed, 4.island is very low, or 3.you cook in Louboutins ala Nigella? I have a tiny kitchen and am envious of your light & spacious kitchen, that you did not have to stick units above worktop; I'm long in body so find most workheights too low for me (like to stack chopping boards) and also envious of big boobs :) I would like sone Invisalignbay some point in the future. I am feeling very nosy today I don't know why! Love LS xx

  10. I've never commented on you blog, though I love it. By the way the way you have NEVER looked crumpled and/or baggy. Maybe you're going that way now. Yuck. Never wanna see you again. Big kiss. XX Julia

  11. And I just read the rest of the post. Cauliflower? Really? Where are the hot dogs?

  12. Visible AFTER APPROVAL? Who do you think you are fucking with??

    That's a joke darling. I'm just back from the pub and drunk and full of love and anger. Big kiss. XX

  13. you are so wise: breadcrumbs should NEVER count as carbs! ...but i must disagree with you (only a little small tiny thing), and say that my grandmother's recipe for 'gratin de courgettes' is amazing. Ok, so I admit, it actually contains rice, thereby defying the golden carb-free-ish rule. But still, that is a wet veg that loves to be gratin-ay-ed(?). you just need boiled and smashed up courgettes, rice, b├ęchamelle sauce, and lots of salt pepper and nutmeg. and an oven. loving your low card recipes btw. I went to an italian restaurant tonight, thought of you, ordered everything on the menu except that which contained bread, rice and pasta (there were, to my surprise, at least 3 dishes which offered none of those ingredients) and I feel amazing. No matter if all those dishes substituted 100grs of pasta with 100grs of cheese! although now I'm scared to go to sleep.

  14. Another fantastic post!! Just wondering- did you eat this on its own? Looks delicious but feel like I would crave bread to go with it and sop it all up; not sure I'm disciplined enough to resist... hmmmm

  15. Regarding big boobs, I hear you Sista! It really is true, no matter how fucking thin you actually ARE, if you have two huge beach-balls stuck to the front of you, you look fat. I find the only option is to wear tight fitting tops which then clearly mark where breasts end and the waist begins, but then one is in danger of looking like a hooker. It is not easy my flat chested friends! Also, pencil skirts and any 'structured' dresses like those by Mr herve leger work quite well. And belts, as Jennie said. Oh, and I know this is supposed to be a food blog and not breast blog *but*, I do hope you know of Rigby and Peller. And Selfridges' lingerie dept.
    Right, will try this - made the feta salad yesterday and it was delicious.

  16. Veronica - I didn't eat this on its own, it was with some (rose) veal escalopes but I completely fucked them up, so I thought I'd pretend they weren't there.

  17. i'm rapidly thinking i'll have to crack on with the low carb diet your recipes (and boob chat)have inspired me! sadly I reckon i could lose two stone and the buggers wouldn't shift..