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Grandma Todiwala’s Macaroni & Cauliflower Cheese

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

by Cyrus Todiwala from Simple Spice Vegetarian:

Easy Indian Vegetarian Recipes From Just 10 Spices (Mitchell Beazley / Octopus)

This was Mum’s all-time favourite dinner for us when we were kids. It goes back to

when the first pasta was introduced to the British public and promptly found its

way to India and into the clubs and gymkhanas of the Raj. Like most Indians, I grew

up eating over-boiled pasta. It was not until my European training back in 1980 that

I realized we had been cooking it all wrong – but in those days if you cooked pasta

al dente it was sent back to you. Mum’s macaroni was cooked until it split, but hey,

the fun was in the sauce and her awesome magic with taste.

Serves 4–5


Water 1 litre (1¾ pints)

Cauliflower florets 300g (10½ oz), (reserve the stems and trimmings)

Dried macaroni 300g (10½ oz)

Butter 2 heaped tablespoons, plus extra for greasing

Cumin seeds ½ teaspoon

Plain flour 4 tablespoons, sifted

Whole milk 400ml (14fl oz)

Fresh green chillies 2–3 finger type, finely chopped

Red chilli powder, a pinch

Cheddar cheese 200–300g (7–10½ oz), grated

Hot English mustard 3–4 teaspoons

Chopped fresh coriander 1 heaped tablespoon

Fresh breadcrumbs 3–4 tablespoons

Salt and freshly ground black



1 Bring the water to the boil in a pan. Add a little salt and boil the florets

for 4–5 minutes at most. Remove with a slotted spoon, refresh under

cold water in a bowl and drain.

2 To the same pan, add the macaroni and cook according to the packet

instructions. Remove with a slotted spoon, refresh under cold water

and drain. Mix with the cauliflower.

3 Add the cauliflower trimmings and stems to the water and cook for 5 minutes

until very soft. Blitz the cauliflower and some of the water

to a purée. You need to have about 250–300ml (8½ –10fl oz).

4 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Generously grease the

inside of the baking dish with butter.

5 Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the cumin seeds. Heat for

30 seconds, then take off the heat. Add the flour and stir in well. Whisk

in the milk and some of the puréed cauliflower until well blended.

6 Return the saucepan to the heat and stir well but gently with the whisk.

From time to time, scrape with a spatula to ensure it is not sticking to

the bottom. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, adding more

puréed cauliflower if needed, until it is the consistency of white sauce.

Add the green chilli, chilli powder and some seasoning.

7 Stir half the cheese into the sauce and mix until the cheese has melted

and the sauce is smooth. Take off the heat and add the mustard,

macaroni and cauliflower to the sauce and mix well but gently. Add the

coriander and check everything is well coated in sauce – if needed, add

some more purée.

8 Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Combine the remaining cheese

with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake for about 15–20

minutes until the topping is golden and crisp. Serve immediately.


You can also use green peas, potatoes, carrot or broccoli, but there is nothing quite like using just cauliflower for its unique taste and flavour.

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