If you’re able to get a fire going in your garden or courtyard, you’ll have to think in a different way and learn the same basic science. You’ll make the emotional connections with nature and enjoy really delicious food. It’s clear we’re happier if we can be outside, but the planet seems happier if we’re not. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but one we can learn so much from.

By connecting with our immediate environment in a more conscious, sensitive, ancient way, we develop a deeper understanding of how fragile parts of it have become, and may discover new ways we can help to fix it.

Gill Meller cooking outside
© Andrew Montgomery

Here’s a fun twist on cauliflower cheese. You’ll need a large flowerpot, saucepan or fire cloche to cover the cauliflower as it gently roasts above the smoky fire. Alternatively, if
your barbecue has a lid, you can close that down as the cauliflower cooks.

It’s worth noting, while a whole cauliflower cooks surprisingly quickly when you boil it, that’s not the case over an open fire. It’s a rather leisurely process, so it’s important the fire’s not too hot, otherwise the cauliflower may blacken on the outside before it’s tender in the middle.

I like to add plenty of chopped dill to my cheese sauce. It’s such a great herb to use with cheese, but if dill isn’t your favourite, chives or parsley would be good instead.

This is an edited extract from the book Outside: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating by Gill Meller, with photographs by Andrew Montgomery, which is published by Quadrille, priced £30.


  • 1 Cauliflower small to medium
  • 1tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g Butter
  • 25g Plain flour
  • 300ml Whole milk
  • 125g mature cheddar grated
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard heaped
  • 1 handful of chopped dill plus extra to serve
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • STEP 1

    Trim the leaves away from the cauliflower and cut the thick stalk back as much as possible without any of the florets separating. Trickle the trimmed cauliflower with the extra-virgin olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper.

  • STEP 2

    Using half the butter, drop small pieces of it down around the stalk so it falls between the florets. Spoon in two to three tablespoons of water, too.

  • STEP 3

    Make sure you have a medium-hot fire going. Add a few small hardwood logs so it’s nice and smoky.

  • STEP 4

    Set the cauliflower down, stalk uppermost, on a grill over the fire, to one side of the direct heat. Place a large terracotta flowerpot, a saucepan or a fire cloche over the cauliflower. Cook the cauliflower for 25-30 minutes, then uncover it and turn it over. Cover again and leave to cook for about the same time again.

  • STEP 5

    Meanwhile, set a small pan down over the fire and add the remaining butter. When it’s bubbling away, add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring all the time. Add the cheese and mustard and season with some salt and plenty of black pepper. Simmer the sauce until the cheese has melted and it’s lovely and thick. Add the chopped dill and set to one side.

  • STEP 6

    Make sure the cauliflower is tender before you take it off the fire. You can check this by inserting the tip of a knife into the stem. There shouldn’t be much resistance. Scatter the cauliflower with a little extra dill and serve in thick wedges with lots of cheese sauce.