Jamie’s Greens Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
1 large leek
3 cloves of garlic
400g purple sprouting or tenderstem broccoli
40g unsalted butter
1⁄2 a bunch of fresh thyme (15g)
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 litre semi-skimmed milk
450g dried macaroni
30g Parmesan cheese
150g mature Cheddar cheese
100g baby spinach
50g flaked almonds
Veg Portions / Serving: 1
From Veg by Jamie Oliver | © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2019 Veg)| Photography: David Loftus.
A Friday-night favourite, this is a twist on a comfort classic that uses broccoli in two ways – the blitzed-up stalks add colour and punch to the sauce, while you enjoy the delicate florets with your pasta. Join the green team!
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Trim, halve and wash the leek and peel the garlic, then finely slice with the broccoli stalks, reserving the florets for later. Place the sliced veg in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with the butter, then strip in the thyme leaves and cook for 15 minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly. Stir in the flour, followed slowly by the milk, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain.
Grate the Parmesan and most of the Cheddar into the sauce, and mix well. Tip into a blender, add the spinach and whiz until smooth – you may need to work in batches. Season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper, then stir through the pasta and broccoli florets, loosening with a splash of milk, if needed. Transfer to a 25cm x 35cm baking dish, grate over the remaining Cheddar and scatter over the almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, or until beautifully golden and bubbling.
TIP: Swap spinach out for any kind of exciting fresh or frozen greens, discarding any tough stalks. I also sometimes add breadcrumbs to the top for bonus crunch. Tasty!
Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.
Kids in the kitchen
Get the kids to blitz up the sauce and stir it through the pasta before sprinkling over the cheese.
While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.
Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.
The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.
Kate and Kelly
Dr Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison