To the casual reader of this blog, it might appear as if all we eat are cakes and sweets, with the odd savoury dish made on an occasional whim. Any friends and family browsing our eating habits via Cheesy Biscuit must think that we’re growing in girth with every new post, straining at the seams and popping buttons all over the place. The phrase, ‘two fat ladies’ was quipped recently during a phone conversation (a joke I particularly enjoyed – visions of me on a motorbike with B chilling in a sidecar are not going to be quick to leave me.) We’re positively svelte in comparison to those ladies (B, in fact, is pretty svelte without any comparisons needed.) We both enjoy food without laughing in the face of calories – we don’t diet, but like to stay aware of what we put in to our bodies and mindful of portion sizes. It’s what works for us and allows us to enjoy all different food day to day, week to week, with the occasional gastronomic splurge, and none of the lurking guilt.
A month or so ago I was intrigued by a recipe I saw from Poppy for The World’s Healthiest Colcannon. Colcannon is a potato lovers dream. I happen to share my life with a potato lover, so was a little bit nervous about how this might turn out, but with the arrival of a big cauliflower in the veg box and not much in mind to do with it, I decided to try it out. I de-veganised Poppy’s recipe, adding a little cream cheese and some crispy pancetta, and substituted a leek, some peas, and some of the tender inner leaves of the cauliflower for the more traditional option of cabbage. Happily, it turned out really well, even the potatophile wants to eat it again soon. The only thing that I need to work on was a very slight bitterness, perhaps given by the cauliflower leaves? But it wasn’t enough to ruin our enjoyment of this excellent dish, which has all of the heartiness of traditional colcannon, just none of the potato.
800g cauliflower, outer leaves discarded
2 large parsnips (about 250g)
1 leek, tough green top discarded
100g peas (I used frozen)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp. thyme
60g cream cheese (I used light)
A splash of milk
1 tsp. wholegrain mustard
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
About 80g pancetta
Salt & Pepper
Remove the tender inner leaves of the cauliflower and set aside. Chop the cauliflower into even sized pieces, then peel and chop the parsnips. Boil in a large saucepan until cooked, then drain and allow to dry.
Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a dry pan until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving behind the fat to fry the green veg in. Slice the leek into semicircles and shred the cauliflower leaves. Fry, along with the bay leaf and thyme, until soft. Add the peas and garlic and cook for a further five minutes.
In a food processor, blitz the cauliflower and parsnip with a dash of milk until smooth. Return to the large saucepan that you used to cook them, then over a low heat, stir through the cream cheese, mustard, and plenty of seasoning. Mix in the green veg, discarding the bay leaf, then taste for seasoning. Serve sprinkled with pancetta.