JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another cauliflower gratin

I've been trying to have at least one completely vegetarian day a week here. This is easier when Horatio is away at uni, and very hard when he's at home - a 19-year-old late-growing carnivore is apt to make a fuss if there's no meat. For a whole day.

I managed yesterday.

The eat-less-meat idea has several sources: there seems to be some real proof that less meat more veg and fruit is a healthier diet; it's cheaper; it's more environmentally-friendly (meat production is notoriously heavy on agricultural resources); there are lots of good vegetarian dishes to cook and eat.

Eating less meat and dairy produce has implicit in the changes to our diet since my husband had a heart attack two and a half years ago. If you are eating more vegetables, more beans, more fruit, then clearly there's going to be less meat, less cheese, less eggs. There are some basic ideas in a post I wrote two years ago when we began to get serious about our post-heart-attack diet. (Although it's fair to say we don't stick rigidly to it ... see my 80:20 post.)

All the same, it's only this year that I've started made a conscious effort to cut out meat altogether, if only for one day a week - and you may well think that is pretty feeble. I'd happily cut meat out altogether, but I have to tread gently in a house full of carnivores ... and, so far, they aren't complaining.

This cauliflower gratin is not for vegetarians, however, because of the anchovies. They are there to give that savoury something that we used to get from cheese. But anchovies are better in a heart-healthy diet than a cheese sauce on cauliflower that constitutes the what-on-earth-shall-I-give-them-for-dinner type of cooking that is the daily grind for most family cooks. That's if you can persuade your young to eat cauliflower at all.

We ate this with baked potatoes and roasted onions, but I sometimes make it as a side dish, in which case you can cook it ahead (let it come to room temperature before putting it in the oven, otherwise you'll crack your dish).

Cauliflower gratin

One head of cauliflower
White sauce

a tin of anchovies
lemon zest

Break the cauliflower into pieces and cook covered in a minimum of water. Drain. Meanwhile make white sauce - I use olive oil and skimmed milk, which makes a wonderfully sweet scented sauce, infinitely more delicious than one made with butter. Put the cauliflower into an ovenproof dish - you want it to be a tight squeeze. Pour the sauce all over it.

Blitz a couple of slices of stale bread (this doesn't work well with supermarket slimy sliced). Add anchovies - just try a couple if you think you don't like them, I'm such an addict that I use a whole tin - and the parsley. Blitz again. Finely grate the zest of half a lemon into the mixture, which will be sticky with oil (and if it isn't, add some). Sprinkle over the dish, and bake in a hot oven, 200C for 20 minutes.

Related links

Cauliflower gratin
One veggie day a week will save the earth

Great big veg challenge on cauliflower
The Guardian "Meat-free March" links


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I really never miss meat at a meal but men especially have a problem. I most enjoy meat as an accent, a little flavoring, rather like the anchovies here.

Joanna said...

Yes, that's exactly what I think, too, although I don't always achieve it


Ed Bruske said...

love the idea of anchovies with cauliflower, but you are so good with the more robust fish. We also like our cauliflower tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, coarse salt and curry powder, then roasted in a very hot over.