Every now and then I am lucky enough to interview a mum who has some interesting insights into how she feeds her children. To date I’ve interviewed Great British Bake Off winner, Jo Wheatley, Health Editor of Red magazine, Brigid Moss and my friend – and baby-led weaning fan – Camilla. Last week I was delighted to get the chance to talk to local south-east London mum and entrepreneur, Meriel Kehoe (pictured, right).
Meriel, together with her business partner, Lucy Woodhouse (left), started Claudi & Fin, a children’s food brand, in 2012 after meeting at a playgroup. They started selling their delicious fruity Greek style yogurt ice lollies in May this year. Their lollies are absolutely delicious, beautifully packaged, and make the perfect dessert or treat suggestion for busy parents who want to give their children something refreshing that isn’t laden with sugar. (They’re also pretty good when the kids are in bed and you want a little treat as they are super-low in calories!)
Before launching Claudi & Fin, Meriel worked as a TV Producer and Director on programmes like Location, Location, Location, Gardener’s World, Gok’s Fashion Fix, Kirstie’s Homemade Home and Yottam Ottolenghi’s Meditteranean Island Feast. Meriel lives in south-east London with her husband and son, Fin, who is 3½.
Read on for some great insights into how she encourages her son to eat healthily and tips on how to launch a successful children’s food brand!
Q Meriel, you’re a busy mum who’s recently launched a business from home. How do you juggle work and family time?
Badly! I’d love to say that I move seamlessly from one role to the other but the reality is somewhat different. There are definite plusses to running your own business, and because both Lucy and I work from home, we are flexible and can be around for the children if and when we are needed. However, the flipside is because there are only two of us doing pretty much everything, work inevitably creeps into leisure or family time, try as we might to stop it!
Q What do you like to cook at home? Do you and your partner share the cooking?
I love cooking and am fortunate because my husband loves it as well. I don’t bake much, but I love cooking for other people and for the family – healthy, hearty food – anything from 80s classics like Coq au Vin, through to Stuffed Aubergines and Roasted Garlic Tart (trust me, the latter is amazing – thanks Yottam Ottolenghi).
Q What is your go-to quick meal for the family?
Omelette with tomato, onion and ham. Fin loves it!
Q What snacks and treats does Fin enjoy?
He loves yoghurt, (frozen or otherwise – he’s literally been weaned on the stuff) fruit and – given half the chance – any sort of chocolate. He’s not allowed it very often, so when he gets his hands on some, he goes wild.
Q How do you encourage Fin to eat healthily?
I try to lead by example. I firmly believe that as in all areas of life, children mimic what they see around them, so I try to make sure we eat healthily around him. I also talk to him about making healthy choices by telling him which foods will help him grow big and strong.
Q Do you worry about the amount of sugar in kids’ food?
Yes. You only need to switch on the TV or pick up a newspaper to realize that childhood obesity is a huge issue, with sugar being the biggest culprit. Because of this, we tried to make our lollies using no sugar but I’m afraid to say, they really didn’t taste good. Instead, we’ve kept sugar to an absolute minimum – less in fact than 79% of the best-selling chilled yoghurts and lollies on the market.
Q How did you come up with the idea for your frozen yogurt lollies?
Lucy came up with the idea when she was weaning her daughter, Claudia. It was the height of summer and she wanted to give her a healthy ice-lolly but quickly discovered there was nothing that fitted the bill. She started making yoghurt lollies at home and thought ‘if Claudia likes them, maybe other children will too…’ She told me about her idea and I loved it. From that point on, every spare moment we had was spent mixing and whizzing up ingredients, trying to come up with an amazing recipe. Our chief taste testers were our children, Claudi & Fin, who went crazy for the flavours we dreamt up, which is why we named our company after them.
Q Tell me about your products and future plans.
Our lollies are the UK’s first Greek-style frozen yoghurt pops for children. Packed with creamy yoghurt, full-fat milk and tons of fruit, our low-sugar, low-calorie lollies are a treat for tiny taste buds (and parents love them too!). We’ve enriched them with Vitamin D, because an astonishing one in four British children is now deficient and doctors are recommending supplementation for all under 5’s.
Claudi & Fin lollies are currently stocked in 320 Sainsburys stores nationwide and available in two flavours; strawberry and mango. We’re working on new flavours and looking into all sorts of new ideas. I can’t say anything too specific just yet, but watch this space!
Q Do you have any advice for any entrepreneurial mums (and dads) out there?
If you have a great idea, take the leap and give it a go, but make sure you do your research first! It’s not enough if your Aunty Betty thinks you’ve got a great product, you’ll need test it out on your potential consumers too. You can back this up by accessing market research data. We found out that reports from big research companies like Mintel are available for free at the Business Centre in the British Library in London, and these stats and insights proved invaluable when we were preparing for pitches to supermarket buyers.
Q What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
It might sound like a cliché but I want to give Fin the best life I possibly can and that keeps me motivated. I’m also excited by the challenges of running a business and the fact that I’m learning new skills every day in a fast-paced environment.
Q What’s your vision for the Claudi & Fin in the future?
Lucy and I want to build a brand that parents can trust. We don’t put anything in our lollies that we wouldn’t give to our own children. We take a lot of time and care thinking about what goes into our products, and we want parents to feel confident that they can trust we will deliver for them on taste, and on nutritional benefits.
Thanks very much, Meriel, for these great insights, which I am sure my readers will love, and best of luck with the business! Claudi & Fin lollies are stocked in Sainsburys, and you can check out their website here: www.claudiandfin.co.uk
Who doesn’t love eating outside in the summer? Ah, bliss. Of course, in my head an al fresco dinner will be like it is in the movies – the family (all smiling, happy and sitting properly on their chairs) are seated round a rustic wooden table laden with delicious fresh food, a faint scent of lavender in the air, and a gentle breeze to keep us cool while we tuck in. In reality, my patio is tiny, my patio table is even tinier, and the minute I step outside with food, wasps head my way…
Small patio aside, I did recently make and enjoy a rather fabulous Quiche Lorraine, inspired by some rather lovely Clarence Court Burford Brown eggs and Spoiltpig bacon, which I was sent to taste. I have written about Spoiltpig bacon before, and the reason I like it is because it’s made using outdoor reared pork approved by Freedom Food AND it’s completely delicious. Animal welfare is important to me and I would rather buy less meat than buy low-quality meat of questionable origin.
Burford Brown eggs have the most wonderful deep sunset yellow yolks and will give your quiche a super colour, and again are free range and produced with high welfare standards in mind.
Now trust me, this Quiche Lorraine is seriously good. I am afraid that this isn’t a recipe to be made one-handed, but what is brilliant is that you can make it in stages – you can get your pastry base ready and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it, you can cook the bacon in advance – it doesn’t matter if it goes cold once it’s cooked as it goes back in the oven anyway. Get the different elements ready and then whip up the filling and assemble the thing when you have time. You will be pleased you did, as it’s pretty impressive!
We all absolutely loved this and I have made it twice during the last two weeks, so this is a must-have summer recipe as far as I am concerned. Oh, and I used bought pastry. I’m a busy woman!!
A classic Quiche Lorraine does not have cheese in, I’m told. But I always add it. Coz I am crazy like that. This is delicious warm from the oven (allow it to cool a little before serving) or at room temperature the next day – remove from the fridge half an hour or so before serving. Great with a crunchy green salad with a vinaigrette dressing or, for the kids, slices of cucumber and mini tomatoes.
Serves 6-8 depending on hunger levels
You will need:
1 pack ready made shortcrust pastry
184g pack Spoiltpig dry cured streaky bacon, chopped (I use scissors)
1 tbsp oil
320ml double cream
4 Burford Brown whole eggs, and 2 extra yolks
75g strong cheese, grated (Parmesan, strong Cheddar or Comté work well)
Black pepper, freshly ground
For the base:
- Roll the pastry out as thinly as you can and use to line a 23 x 2.5cm loose-bottomed fluted flan tin. Ease the pastry into the base and use a ball of pastry to press the pastry into the grooves of the tin (top tip!)
- Trim the pastry edges so it sits slightly above the tin. Prick the base with a fork and chill for at least 10 minutes (the quiche, not you).
- When ready to cook, put a baking sheet in the oven and heat oven to 200°C/180°Fan/Gas 6.
- Line the pastry case with cling film and fill with dry or baking beans and bake on the hot sheet for 15–20 minutes. Remove cling fim and beans and bake for another 5 minutes until the pastry is golden.
For the filling:
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon for around 8–10 minutes, until cooked through but not crisp. Drain and spread half over the hot pastry base.
- Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl with a generous grinding of black pepper, and beat together slowly until combined. Add the grated cheese, and then give it a fast whisk for 30 seconds until frothy.
- Pour over the bacon, and then sprinkle the remaining bacon on top.
- Bake for 20 mins, then check. The quiche is ready when it has puffed up but still has a wobble in the centre. Allow to cool slightly before serving.