On the menu: mackerel fish cake

Mr Willow's mackerel fish cake to share, supplied by Valerie Grady, food scientist and founding director of Willow Cottage Nurseries in Oxfordshire

We would recommend using tins of good-quality fish for safety (from bones) and convenience, and any oily fish can be used, such as sardines, tuna, salmon or mackerel. If you do use fresh fish, check meticulously for bones. Use high-quality fats in the recipe, and we recommend serving home-grown, organic vegetables to the side.


Serves approximately 50 nursery children

  • 2 large onions, 2 peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 courgettes and 3 cloves of garlic, all finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 x 400g tins of mackerel, preferably in oil or tomato sauce
  • 1 large handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of finely chopped dill or parsley (or 1 tbsp of dried parsley or dill)
  • 1kg frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 handful of grated Parmesan/Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 5-6kg potatoes, mashed until smooth with sunflower margarine and milk
  • 500g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 quantity of white sauce bechamel (2.27 litres whole milk, 225g plain flour, 225g sunflower margarine)


  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cook the onion, garlic, peppers and herbs gently for a few minutes until softened.
  • Cook the fresh vegetables and sweetcorn in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Drain.
  • Prepare the bechamel sauce.
  • Remove any bones and skin from the fish and mix into the sauce. Now add all the vegetables and combine with the mashed potatoes. Mix thoroughly.
  • Place into a large ovenproof dish sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and a little Parmesan or grated Cheddar cheese (optional). Bake 1 hour at 160degC until the breadcrumbs are crunchy and golden.

Ms Grady says, 'Our children's diet includes unsaturated fats such as sunflower and olive oils and fish oils from fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon. Saturated fats are minimised by the use of sunflower products and we make every effort to select lean cuts of meat from our butcher using, for example, chicken and turkey breast and lean cuts of beef and lamb. Whole milk is not skimped upon and we use milky sauces and puddings in our three-week rolling menu.'

Visit www.willow-cottage.com and for Mr Willow's special children's recipes see: www.nurseryfood.com.

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