Thrifty, healthy, yummy, easy: mash with benefits!

I will not have the cheek to call this a recipe, but I do revel in its genius each time I make it, and sometimes we rack our brains for meal ideas when actually something simple works extremely well to everyone's satisfaction. With January frugality in mind - for our wallets as well as our waistlines - this is a winner.

When we were kids my dad was rarely tasked with making our dinner, but when he did cook for us he was always careful to include the main food groups in a way that was more practical than aesthetic, or attentive to flavour combinations, or so I thought, and this casual creation of his fills me with nostalgia for the sense of occasion my sister and I felt when we ate it, for the novelty and the comfort it provided. We used to eat it out of the saucepan, one each, and for some reason this made it rather exciting.

It's basically Colcannon with some fish added, but hear me out, it's delicious.

Take a food everyone loves - mashed potato - and then mix in some essential nutrients. Now you may not think you like tinned mackerel, and if this is the case I urge you to try it again, and to try it on your kids because it's cheap, delicious and good for them. It's tempting to pass on one's irrational dislikes to one's kids simply by eliminating certain foods without realising it, but children can surprise you with their tastes. For example Flora likes olives, broccoli, beetroot and dark chocolate, all of which as a child I disliked. Avocado she can take or leave, usually leave, and I loved this from age zero.

You could just use tuna instead, but mackerel is better. Sardines also good, but the texture isn't quite as well suited to being combined with mash, although they are very high in calcium when you eat the little bones, and the lowest in mercury, compared to tuna, which is important to limit.

Optionally, add cheese too. Slice the cabbage quite thinly, and it will only need five minutes maximum to be cooked just right. It will also not have the conspicuous large chunks which upset vegetable refusers. It becomes transluscent when cooked, so quite unobtrusive. Most kids like broccoli, to my surprise and relief, and you can whack some of that in too. If you think colourful will please your kids you could also mix in some mashed boiled carrots, a few peas, maybe some different root vegetables for variety - parsnips, swedes etc..

The components of this modest meal actually create a nutritional powerhouse. I'm not sure if my dad knew exactly how it managed this except with vague ideas about nutrition (or strong paternal intuition?!) but I have the internet and I do. Have a look at the benefits of these deceptively humble ingredients.

Makes four child servings

Main ingredients

  • 4-5 mediums potatoes - a good source of vitamin B6 and potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber and pantothenic acid.

  • one tin of mackerel in olive oil, water or brine - a good source of vitamin D, protein, some B vitamins and selenium. Also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and very beneficial for heart health.

  • quarter of a cabbage (white or savoy) herehigh in vitamin C (higher than an orange apparently), high in fibre, rich in sulphur (most of us are deficient) which helps fight infections, antioxidant, it's anti-inflammatory, it contains beta carotene and vitamin K, it's healing to the gut. The list goes on. Have a look .

Optionally, add:

  • a floret or 2 of broccoli

  • a small handful of grated cheddar makes it cheesy and appealing

  • a few snips of fresh parsley

  • a clove of crushed garlic

1. Boil the potatoes until soft and then drain, add a little milk and butter if you like, then mash. If organic don't peel them, no need.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, slice the cabbage thinly and boil or steam for about 5 mins, so it's not soggy. Ditto for the broccoli if using. Drain.

3. Open the tin of mackerel and drain away the liquid into the bin (oil down the drain not a good idea).

4. Mix the veg and fish into the mash, and serve with a little cheese if you like. Sneak in the garlic if you can. Salt and pepper if you like. Voilà!

Flora gobbles this up dish up, and it's so simple to prepare, and makes two nights' dinners. Fabulous. Cabbage keeps ages in the fridge too.

#mackerel #cabbage #healthydinner #childrensdinnerideas

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