The best way to smuggle… cauliflower

I was always a good eater as a kid, but cauliflower was one of the few vegies that made my tastebuds recoil. My recollection is that we ate the drab thing a lot – but perhaps that’s just me unfairly forgetting the 6 nights a week that we ate stuff that I really loved (my mum is a great cook).

Funny how the food aversions stick around. I talk to parents all the time who worry about their kid’s eating habits, only to confess mid-conversation that they are themselves modelling the fussy-food behaviour. And I realise that cauliflower is the vegetable that I don’t buy as often as I should (since it’s full of fibre, vitamins and anti-cancer compounds). I use all sorts of excuses in the supermarket – it’s expensive and the kid’s don’t like it… but hang on a minute – that’s not actually true… I never expect the kids to like it but actually my kids DO like it (particularly smothered gratin-style in a cheese sauce and baked).

Recently I bought a chunk of it and served little florets along with broccoli simply microwaved and drizzled with lemon juice – the kids were excited and ate it all up (I think I even heard ‘yay! cauliflower!). Just goes to show what a bit of variety can achieve.

So my lessons learned were..
1. Don’t pass my food aversions onto my children.
2. Don’t assume anything about what they will and won’t like.
3. Keep the vegies served on a regular rotation (absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder).

And if you are nervous about introducing cauliflower to the family, try out this fish pie, which artfully smuggles both cauliflower and parsnip into the top layer. It’s a great recipe for autumn when cauliflower is just coming into season and the unaffordable excuse disappears too.

This is not the vegie of my childhood nightmares!

Family fish pie

Butter, for greasing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 zucchini, grated (peel first if necessary)
400g white fish, cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp plain flour
1 cup milk, warmed (soy is fine)
¾ cup grated cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped chives and/or parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp white wine
Salt & black pepper
Canola oil cooking spray

4 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped
1 parsnip, peeled, chopped
1 cup cauliflower florets
25g butter
½ cup milk (soy is fine)
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a lasagne or casserole dish.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (but not brown). Add the garlic for 1 minute then add the carrot and zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the fish and carefully mix through for 3-4 minutes.

Add the flour and milk and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, chives, lemon and wine. Mix through and season well.

Meanwhile, for the topping, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes, parsnip and cauliflower. Boil for 10-15 minutes. Test one of the largest pieces with a fork. If it skewers easily, drain the vegies into a colander, then return to the pan. Add butter and milk. Mash well. Taste and add more milk or butter if the mixture needs it.

Spread the fish mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish. Carefully put the potato layer over the top. Spray with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes until golden.


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14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rosie W said,

    We always make a combo of cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese these days. As in, both of them in the cheese sauce together! It’s not exactly smuggling but it goes down well with the kids!

  2. 3

    Rachael A said,

    Sounds delicious – I’ll definitely be trying this one. Do you think it would be freezer friendly?

    • 4

      wendyblume said,

      Because of the fish, I think this one is best fresh. Although you could easily make the mash layer ahead and either freeze or refridgerate until you want to make up the whole thing.

  3. 5

    Bunny Eats Design said,

    Cauliflower is very cheap here. It’s about $1US for a huge head that will see about 4 dinners as a side dish. I enjoy getting creative with it too. I’l eat it raw and crunchy, roasted, steamed, boiled or pureed.

  4. 6

    Cauliflower is just lovely tossed in a little olive oil and roasted too. Who’d have thought?! My children devour it by the bucket load in a cauliflower, pea and pumpkin curry. Yummo!

  5. 7

    Antonia said,

    Cauliflower done gratin style, in a cheesy sauce topped with grated cheese and breadcrumbs, is a really nice accompaniment to a warm winter roast. Cauliflower also adds a lovely creaminess to soups, as it is less ‘powdery’ in texture than some potatoes when blended. I have also heard of people chopping it very finely before zapping it in the microwave to use as an alternative to rice, but I haven’t tried that myself yet!

  6. 8

    Irene said,

    Can you recommend which fish fillets are the best for this pie?

  7. 10

    Justin Impey said,

    We make cauliflower rice place cauliflower in food processor for a couple of buzzs then take out and fry in a little olive spray awesome

  8. 11

    monkey&blossom said,

    Loved the topping on this!

  9. 12

    Nicky Haywood said,

    are you serious? I have just made the fish pie filling and have the potatoes and cauli on cooking – it is taking all my strength not to eat the pie filling and order Red Rooster (roast dinner of course) for the rest of the family. It is soooooooooo delicious! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  10. 14

    […] hearty Fish Pie recipe from Vegie Smugglers uses cauliflower and parsnip in the the potato topping, and zucchini and carrot in the filling: […]

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