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Cauliflower cheese, sometimes called cauliflower and cheese, is a traditional British dish. It can be eaten as a main course, for lunch or dinner, or as a side dish, commonly accompanying roast meats such as beef or pork.
Cauliflower cheese consists of pieces of cauliflower lightly boiled and covered with a milk-based cheese sauce, for which a strong hard cheese (such as cheddar) tends to be preferred. A more elaborate white sauce or cheddar cheese sauce flavoured with English mustard and nutmeg may also be used. The dish is topped with grated cheese (sometimes mixed with bread crumbs) and lightly grilled to finish it.
Pasta and extra ingredients, such as tuna, are sometimes added when it is served as a main meal.
As cauliflowers were introduced to the UK in around the 17th century, cauliflower cheese probably came to be made around that time, although the history of this dish is very vague. Cauliflower is thought to originate from Kythrea in Cyprus, which historically was a former British Colony. Béchamel sauce was used extensively in Cypriot cooking of the 19th Century and the early 20th Century. Anglocypriots claim to have introduced the dish to the UK. Cauliflower was said to have been introduced to the west during the French Lusignan rule of Cyprus. The Old French word for Cauliflower is chou de Chypre (Cyprus cabbage). The filling meal was probably eaten on its own by the poor when meat was not available, as was common in the 17th century. There is a recipe for cauliflower with Parmesan cheese in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, first published in 1861. In the 19th and 20th centuries the dish was often served as an accompaniment to the roast meat and potatoes that were eaten for the traditional Sunday lunch, normally in the winter months.