Cauliflower Mac 'N' Jack with Crispy Caper Bites

Looking for the ultimate vegan dish for your next potluck? This cozy, comforting dairy-free take on classic Mac and Cheese is always a crowd pleaser!
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Cauliflower Mac 'N' Jack with Crispy Caper Bites

Cauliflower Mac 'N' Jack with Crispy Caper Bites

The British staple of cauliflower cheese is often considered the ultimate way to serve cauliflower. But what do you do if you can’t decide whether to have cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese? My friend Jo said they just have both together, problem solved.

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Excerpted from Vegan Holiday Feasts: Inspired Meat-Free Recipes for the Festive Season by Jackie Kearney. Sounds Ryland Peters & Small, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

  • 4-5Servings

Ingredients

Cauliflower Mac 'N' Jack

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 200 g/7 oz. macaroni or penne pasta
  • 1 liter/quart almond milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons pomace or vegetable oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
  • 4-5 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3 teaspoons English/hot mustard (or 2 teaspoons mustard powder)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons rock salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 100 g/generous 3/4 cup cashews, soaked in cold water for 2 hours, drained and blended to a fine paste
  • 60-120 ml/1/4-1/2 cup Jack Daniels (or other whiskey, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon grated vegan Italian style hard cheese (optional)

Crispy Caper Bites

  • 1-2 tablespoons capers or pitted green olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1-2 teaspoons rock salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • large baking sheet, lightly oiled

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 220˚C (425˚F) Gas 7.

Place the cauliflower florets on the oiled baking sheet and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes until starting to turn golden and brown.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but minus 4 minutes, as the pasta will finish cooking when it is baked at the end. This way, it won’t be overcooked and mushy. Keep some of the cooking water for later.

In a small pan, heat the milk gently with the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat and leave the herbs to poach.

In a deep frying pan/skillet, heat the pomace oil over a medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to make a roux, cooking gently for 2–3 minutes. Strain the infused milk into a jug/pitcher, then pour slowly into the roux, a little at a time, whisking constantly over a low heat until all the milk is combined and you have a thick and creamy sauce. Keep over low heat and add the nutritional yeast, mustard, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Add the blended cashews and Jack Daniels (if using), then stir well. Remove from the heat.

Mix the cooked pasta and the sauce together, then carefully add the baked cauliflower florets and mix well. There should be plenty of sauce, so add some of the pasta liquid if needed. Tip into a large baking dish and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes.

To make the crispy caper bites, drain the capers or olives, then lay on paper towels to dry slightly. Mix together the cornflour/cornstarch and salt, and toss the capers in the seasoned flour. In a small pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium-high heat. Check the oil is hot enough by dropping in one piece – it should sizzle immediately without burning. Gently add the capers to the pan and fry until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Remove the baking dish from the oven and sprinkle the crispy caper bites over the top of the cauliflower pasta. Season with salt and black pepper and add a sprinkling of vegan cheese, if using.