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Winter Vegetable Gratin

Oh, how I do love Gratins . . .  who wouldn't with their creamy well flavoured base . . .  spread out in shallow dishes to maximize all of the golden deliciousness of a crisp topping.  I have never met a Gratin I didn't fall in love with, but they can all too often be quite high in unhealthy fat and not needed calories!!  It doesn't have to be so however, and I am going to prove this to you today with a fabulous vegetable gratin, that is not only low in fat, but also healthy, Diabetic friendly, contains several of your five-a-day, as well as being deliciously filled with plenty of flavour to boot!

I found myself at the end of last week with some vegetables that needed using up before I went for my next grocery shop, and I wanted to do something that I could use them all up in . . .  half a bag of Brussels sprouts, half a savoy cabbage and a couple of lone leeks.  Typical vegetables that are abundant at this time of year.  Lovely and green and filled with fibre and lots of vitamins.  It is common knowledge that vegetables from the Brassica (Cruciferous) family (Sprouts and cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) are filled with anti-oxidents, and plenty of Vitamin C and Folic Acid.

Leeks on the other hand, a member of the allium family, with their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, belong in your diet on a regular basis. There is strong research evidence for including at least one serving of an allium vegetable in your meal plan every day.  Not a problem as I love all of the members of the onion family . . . leeks, onions, shallots, garlic . . .

I think it is safe to say that this lovely gratin is a powerhouse of all things that are good for you!  Rather than using fatty cream and whole milk for a sauce . . .  I have mixed 2% (semi skimmed) milk and water, along with a stock cube and some flour. Mixing the milk, water, stock cube and flour in a blender, made for a smooth lump free mixture that only needed heating, whilst stirring to thicken up nicely.  A smidgen of cheese  is added to help create a lovely creamy sauce that is filled with plenty of flavour.

I have used only 6 TBS of cheese for the whole dish, including the topping. I used three different kinds, strong (sharp) cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss . . . all cheeses that are packed with flavour.  The more flavour a cheese has, the less of it you will have to use.  Fact.  I also made good use of some grainy Dijon mustard to impart even more flavour to the sauce along with  some black pepper.   I found that the sauce was so tasty, that I didn't need to add salt at all, bonus!

Four tablespoons of the cheese go into the sauce, and the remaining two are combined with some whole wheat bread crumbs for the topping.  Whole wheat bread crumbs give a lovely nutty crunch.  All in all this is a really fabulous dish.  I could eat a plate of this and nothing else!  I was more than pleased with the results! 

*Winter Vegetable Gratin*
Serves 6
This is a fabulous side dish, filled with lovely vegetables and a low fat, diabetic friendly, delicious cream sauce.

250g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (1/4 pound)
1/2 of a Savoy cabbage, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 - 3 fresh leeks, trimmed, well washed and cut into thick slices
3 TBS flour (use white whole wheat if you can get it)
240ml semi skimmed Milk (1 cup)
(You can use skimmed and decrease the fat even further)
240ml water (1 cup)
1 vegetable stock pot or cube
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS whole grain mustard
2 TBS each grated Parmesan Cheese, Strong cheddar cheese and Emmenthaler cheese (swiss cheese), divided
4 TBS soft whole wheat bread crumbs

Prepare your vegetables and then bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Add the vegetables and then blanche for 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain well and then refresh in cold water.  Drain well again.  Set aside to finish draining.

Put the flour, milk, water, stock pot, nutmeg, and pepper into a food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Pour into the saucepan you used to cook the vegetables in.  Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat  until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken.  Cook, stirring, for several minutes.  Mix together the cheeses. Remove 2 TBS and mix into the bread crumbs. Set aside.  Stir the remainining cheese into the sauce, whisking until it melts.  Whisk in the mustard.  Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Spray a gratin dish lightly with low fat cooking spray.  Layer in half of the drained vegetables, half the sauce (making sure you drizzle it evenly over all) the remaining vegetables and then finally the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb cheese mixture evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven fore 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve hot.

I am enjoying this challenge of healthier eating.  It doesn't have to be boring if you use a bit of ingenuity.  We had this with some steamed salmon, and Todd had some baby potatoes with his. It all went down a real treat!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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  1. Yum, definitely making this! And this will be today!
    I normally make vegetable casserole, with tinned tomatoes or passata and vegetarian dumplings, but this will make a lovely change.

    Julie xxxxx

    1. I think you will really love this Julie! Let me know how you get on! xo

  2. Replies
    1. It was really good Monique! I am going to use this method for lots of things now! xo

  3. It's nice to see a lower calorie gratin -- that doesn't happen often. And such good winter food.

  4. Thanks Jeanie! I really enjoy trying to lower the calories and fat and yet keep things as tasty as I can! Xo


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