Of fussy-eaters and two way respect

My 60 kg 16-year-old daughter is strictly a carnivore. She eats greens under sufferance, namely to neutralise the acidity of the meat she eats. She often blitzes these greens up into a smoothie, fibre and all, and chugs them down. I have her sports to thank for that. As a footballer playing in high level, demanding international tournaments, she has been taught how to pay close attention to her diet. She herself can see the consequences of not eating well.

Since commencing football training four days a week and following a professional programme, she has filled out nicely from a skinny 14-year-old into a powerfully built 16-year-old:

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Georgina has an informed and healthy attitude towards food (she does not drink, do drugs, smoke or stay out late because of the strict Academy rules) though she eats more meat than I would like.

I, on the other hand, love my greens. I could eat salads all day, fresh greens with just a light, homemade dressing. I would rather my family just eats greens, no meat. Indeed, in my militant vegetarian days in my misguided youth, I used to enforce a no-meat policy in the house. Looking back with hindsight, I realised it was the wrong decision in my household as a family who values kindness and Self very highly. I should not have tried to impose my ‘right beliefs’ on my loved ones, in the mistaken belief that I know what is best for them.

These days, I honour my family’s tastes and choices, but at the same time, I integrate my own wishes and likes into the food I make. I strongly believe that food is a two-way respect thing, not a warring turf. Unfortunately it has been that way in many families for decades – food has been used as an emotional blackmail tool and we often have unhealthy relationships with food stemming from our childhood battles with our parents and from our parents’ unhealthy attitude towards food.

Georgina has several friends who suffer eating disorders in varying degrees of severity, a couple of them requiring hospitalisation. The biggest tragedy is one who lost her life to anorexia. I do not think good eating habits alone can prevent this, but I do believe that good eating habits fostered at a young age goes a long way towards keeping children healthy. Here are my tried-and-tested tips:

(1) Never fight over food. That’s why it is important to exert your authority in this matter when your children are still young.

(2) Introduce children to a wide variety of food at a very young age. I don’t believe in cooking special food for 1-year-olds. They do not need special porridge or special bland food. They can eat what we do and they jolly well should. Just be careful about fish bones and small things like peas and sweetcorn that are choking hazards, and ensure that there is not too much salt in foods.

(3) Terrible Twos is the stage when food battles begin. This is the time to manage it right. Never allow a toddler to win the battle of wills. Be firm (but not unkind or dramatic). When I was in my early twenties, I had three children under 5 years old and was a full time student at University. There was no way I had the time or the patience to pander to food squabbles. My children simply had to eat what was on the plate. No force-feeding and no chasing toddlers with food either. Make the dining table a fun and happy place to be and everybody will eat well.

(4) If they choose not to eat then they can go to bed hungry. They won’t die or suffer malnutrition overnight.

(5) Foster good eating habits in the home.

(6) No snacking in between meals.

(7) Ensure that children understand the consequences of their food choice but no empty threats (for example, if you don’t eat carrots, you will die).

(8) With older children, have a dialogue with them. No drama. I respect your food choices, now you have to respect mine. It is give and take always, as is everything in life.

Here’s my burger, loaded with nuts, seeds and vegetables:

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Food from my childhood: British curry

A recent survey show that curry is Britain’s favourite dish.  Yet for folks like my Welsh mother, curry is something not from India.  Give her a taste of ‘real’ curry, and she will freak out.

So here’s the British version of the Indian staple:

For the spices:

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peel and crushed

3cm root ginger, peel and crushed

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

6 tbsp tikka curry powder (note, tikka, not madras which is more popular).

Dry roast all the spices until fragrant. Add 150g natural yoghurt, 6 tablespoon of tomato puree and juice of 1 lime. Blend the ingredients.

Marinade chicken chunks in the curry mix.  Put in a medium-heatt oven the next day until the chicken are thoroughly cooked.

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Food from my childhood: Fish

Freshly caught fish (as opposed to commercially farmed fish) has a lot of nutritional benefits, namely omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals.

The Stanleys have been selling freshly caught fish straight off their boat in Bembridge harbour, but a few years ago, they acquired a shop in the village:

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Here are two recipes from my childhood:

FISH AND LEEK PIE

(1) Melt a knob of butter in a heavy pan. Add in flaky fish fillet (about 2 good-sized fillet).  Coat the fillets with the butter. Pour in enough full cream milk to cover.  Add bay leaf, peppercorns and a roughly chopped carrot.  Simmer until the carrot is soft and the fish disintegrates.

(2) Boil potatoes, parsnip and a carrot until soft. Roughly mash it with butter, cream and grated cheese. Season to taste.

(3) Saute three sliced leeks in butter until soft.

(4) Layer a casserole dish with fish, leek and mash. Bake until golden on top. Serve immediately.

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BOUILLABASSE

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(1) Saute 1 head of garlic and 1 chopped onion in olive oil in a soup pot.

(2) Add fish bones to the garlic and olive. Add a few chopped tomatoes, a bay leaf, a chilli, peppercorns, one carrot (cut into chunks), a celery stalk and water.

(3) Boil for several hours.

(4) Remove fish bones. Add cubed potatoes and carrots. Cook until soft. Then add fish filets just before serving.

(5) Season to taste.

(6) Serve piping hot with crusty bread.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Modern life is all about convenience and unconscious living because the world is so fast-paced. If you have children, I bet you have a bottle of tomato ketchup in the house. I do.

But yesterday, we can out of ketchup. Rather than drive down the shops in the rush hour to pick a bottle up, I decided to whizz up some ketchup with the ingredients I have at home.

My teenager wasn’t that impressed, but when I showed her what goes into the bottle of famous-brand ketchup that we normally have in the house, she decided that mum’s homemade ketchup was not so bad after all……….

The famous-brand ketchup contains, apart from sugar, pesticides and the neurotoxins HFCS. You can read about what’s in the famous-brands here:

http://www.realfarmacy.com/worst-food-lies/

It’s all rather scary.

How to make tomato sauce:

Roast about 10 ripe red tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, half an onion and a red capsicum (these are what I had at home)  drizzled with olive oil. I roasted the ingredients to give it that lovely smokey smell.

Blitz in a blender (I like it chunky) together with a small bunch of chopped basil

Transfer to a saucepan. Add a bay leaf, a splash of burgundy wine, a tablespoon of vinegar, salt and a pinch of sugar.  Simmer to desired consistency.

Store in a sterilised jar or use immediately. It’s not too bad. It’s quite good, actually. But  I may try a simpler version to make it more synthetic tasting so that it resembles something that comes out of a plastic bottle!

Natural soup thickeners

There is nothing more tempting than a thick, chunky soup on cold days. With winter coming, here’s an idea for you to try.

Normal soup thickeners are cornflour and ordinary flour, which are zero value nutritionally.  Try using grated carrots and perhaps half a potato if you like your soup super-thick. If you add other vegetables and herbs, and boil until those disintegrate, you end up with a rich, delicious soup.  There’s some very beautiful alchemy going on. Just perfect for winter or the rainy season.

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Grown-up Nursery Food: Spaghetti Pomodoro

I have quite a reputation amongst my friends for serving nursery food – they would show up at my house for dinner parties, and surprise surprise, the menu is exactly the same as what I feed my children.  This is because I do not believe in cooking separate meals for kids – a large part of helping a toddler to transition into becoming a child is teaching him how to integrate into our world.

Without much ado, here’s my recipe for an achingly glamorous spaghetti pomodoro.  The kick in this version is that it uses three different kinds of tomatoes:

  1.  Cherry tomatoes preserved in Cointreau – recipe is here
  2. Tomato pesto (see below)
  3. Tomatoes, garlic and chilli roasted in balsamic vinegar and olive oil (as illustrated in the photo below)

roasted tomatoes

To make the tomato pesto, blitz together two ripe red organic tomatoes (for extra taste, roast these), a bunch of basil, half a cup of pine nuts (I used macadamia because I ran out of pine nuts), half a head of garlic and enough olive oil to turn the mix into the desired consistency. Season to taste.

Boil pasta according to packet instructions and assemble.  Serve piping hot, garnish with fresh basil leaves and parmesan cheese if desired.

Food From My Childhood – Apple Turnover Cake

Cake, cake, cake. More blooming cakes. I should rename this blog Cake A Day blog. But hey, it’s all tied up with my childhood programming – my mum loves cakes.

So here’s another one.  But aha, this one is 100% gluten free. I used banana flour. And it tastes better than I expected (after several tries).

Ingredients:

20g butter

6 large apples, peeled, cored and cut onto eighths

1 1/4 cup banana flour

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice

3/4 cups caster sugar

1 cup oil

1 cup full cream milk

2 large organic eggs

2 large egg yolks from organic eggs

zest from 1 orange

Preheat oven t0 180C. Grease the baking tin. Line the baking tin with the apple slices.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mixed the dry ingredients together – sieve into the butter-sugar mix. Slowly fold in the liquid ingredients.

Pour the mixture in.  Bake until it’s all nice and brown, and the fork comes out clean when poked into the cake.

Got Alcohol? Got Tomatoes? Let’s Party!

OK, you are probably not expecting this on a parenting blog.  But these unusual fermented tomatoes are so wonderfully delicious (the alcohol content is actually low) and they make amazingly delicious spaghetti pomodoro.   I will make my version of unbelievably tasty spaghetti pomodoro tomorrow, after this batch of tomatoes ferments.

How to make fermented tomatoes:

Sterilise a mason jar or any glass jar with a seal.

Pour in equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil and alcohol (sherry is best, but I use Cointreau because I like the orangey taste). Add cloves of crushed garlic and basil leaves. Add the washed tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Seal the jar and leave in the the refrigerator overnight. It can keep up to three days. The tomatoes should be slightly fizzy – shows that they are fermenting!

Stay tuned for my best-ever spaghetti pomodoro! Glamorous enough to be served at dinner parties 🙂

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Food From My Childhood: Lemon Drizzle Cake

I absolutely dislike cakes. I don’t eat cakes.

But I often find myself baking cakes.

All because I have a stay-at-home mum who baked cakes, bread, biscuits and pies in our sunny kitchen. I love the smell of baking, which is synonymous of a very happy time in my life. Childhood conditioning is indeed a strong force.

Here’s a slightly healthier version of the classic Lemon Drizzle Cake – I serve it with lemon yoghurt instead of the traditional drizzle made with icing sugar.

You will need:

175g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

250g unbleached flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of sea salt

3 medium eggs at room temperature, beaten

100ml full cream milk, at room temperature

Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease baking tin. Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sieve together the flour with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add in the dry ingredients with the wet ones alternately. Mixed until smooth. Transfer to the greased baking tin and bake until firm in the middle and light gold all round.

Serve with thick set yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice mixed into the yoghurt.