One of the aims of my cooking for Atticus is to pack as much nutrients and goodness into one dish while I still have some say over what he consumes (although truth be told it’s more like he doesn’t know what he’s being fed – that’s the great thing about one dish meals). There will come a day when I can’t be around to monitor what he’s eating, like when he starts pre-school *sob* and a classmate celebrates a birthday with party packs of forbidden treats, which of course my toddler will probably demand that someone opens for him.
Such a day looms on the horizon and I find myself trying to figure out what else I can pack into his little body to give it a head start. As I thought about it, it struck me that I’ve never used cauliflower. Maybe because it’s white and can’t compete with all the greens demanding my attention in the supermarket. Maybe it’s the shock my palate suffered a while ago when I had unwittingly ordered a side of mashed cauliflower to go with my roast chicken thinking it was potato (yes, what a face palm moment). Regardless, I had eschewed cauliflower for all 21 months of Atticus’s existence but no more. It was time for him to be introduced to this unassuming vegetable so rich in vitamins, minerals, and choline (which is good for brain development apparently).
I took an old favourite of his i.e. baked fish pie and topped it off with cauliflower puree and cheddar cheese. Thankfully it was a winner – grandma had no trouble feeding him dinner that day!
This recipe produces a meal that is quite mushy, which also makes it great for younger toddlers who haven’t quite got the hang of chewing. To be sure they can manage, you can dice the ingredients finely and boil the carrots and corn until soft before adding it to the mix.
The dish has three components: mashed potato, cauliflower puree, and the fish pie. If you don’t have time to do it all at once, you can always plan ahead and make the mashed potato and/or the cauliflower puree in advance to be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use the next day or so. Just remember to cover the puree/potato closely with cling wrap. Press the cling wrap so that it touches the surface of the mash or puree to prevent a layer of film forming.
Ingredients (approx. 8 toddler portions)
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dill
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 piece of cod fish
- 1/4 carrot, diced
- 1/4 onion, chopped
- 1 tbs white wine vinegar
- 1/4 red pepper, diced
- 4 medium asparagus, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups of milk
- 70g cheddar cheese (grated)
- 1 large egg
- 2 medium sized potatoes
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 large head of cauliflower (about 700g)
- 1/2 tub cream cheese
- 1 tbs olive oil
Season the cod fish with the dill, garlic powder and wholegrain mustard and let sit for awhile.
Steam (this retains more nutrients than boiling) the cauliflower over high heat for about 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat and in a blender or food processor puree the steamed cauliflower with 1 tbs of olive oil. Leave to cool in a large bowl. On a separate plate, use a fork to mash the cream cheese until soft. Then add 2 to 3 large spoonfuls of the pureed cauliflower and combine well with the cream cheese. Pour the cream cheese cauliflower mixture back into the remaining puree and stir well. Doing this allows the cream cheese to be easily and evenly mixed with the cauliflower. Set aside for use when ready.
Peel and boil the potatoes until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from water and in a large bowl, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of milk (or as needed) and combine well to get a creamy texture. Set aside.
In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbs live oil and add in the onions. Fry until slightly translucent then add in the white wine vinegar and stir for a minute or two until the onions have caramelised. Throw in the asparagus, carrots and red peppers to saute. Push the ingredients aside and place the cod fish in the centre. Saute each side for about a minute.
Pour in the milk along with the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add in the corn and return to a boil then lower to a simmer, with the pan covered, over a medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until the cod fish is just about cooked i.e. the flesh has turned nearly opaque white and can be easily flaked. Remove the fish and set aside on a plate. Once cooled, remove the skin and flake the fish into small pieces. I like to use my hands for this so that I can feel for bones to remove them. (You could throw away the fish skin but it makes a great addition to salads when fried crispy so I would keep it for later!)
Remove the bay leaves from the milk mixture and transfer to a small jug or bowl for easy addition to the cream sauce later.
To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Next add the flour and stir to form a roux. Add some of the milk mixture to the roux and combine well. Continue to add the milk mixture gradually and constantly stirring. Once all the mixture has been added in, the roux will have changed from a paste-like consistency to a creamy liquid. Over a medium heat keep stirring until the sauce thickens. It is ready when the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the ladle you are using. Add a handful of grated cheddar cheese in (or to desired taste) and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
At this point, pre-heat the oven at 190ºC /375F and grease your muffin tray/ramekins well.
In a large bowl, combine the sauce with the fish flakes and mix in the mashed potato together with the egg (beaten) as well. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray/ramekins.
Cover each portion generously with the cauliflower puree and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. I was feeling creative so I used a piping bag for the cauliflower puree but a spoon works just as well.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes – any sooner and the pie will likely collapse when taken out of the tray/ramekin.
Use a wide spatula to transfer each portion of the fish pie from the tray/ramekin to a container. Once the portions have cooled, place the containers with their covers on into the freezer overnight. Pop the frozen fish pie out of their containers and keep them in a freezer bag marked with the date on which they were made.
When ready to eat, to reheat I recommend steaming to retain moisture rather than microwaving it. To steam, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one portion of fish pie on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.
Remove and serve!