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
This fruit salad came together by accident – I had a lime that needed eating up and having had lunch at Mexican eatery Wahaca earlier in the week I felt inspired to give my fruit salad a bit of a Mexican twist, and we all loved it. We had it for breakfast outside last week – super-healthy and so delicious. The colours are simply amazing – look!
Warm weather seems to make it easier to eat more simply than usual and I’ve been whizzing up smoothies, throwing together delicious salads and keeping family food simple, just using delicious ingredients such as these fresh strawberries and ripe mangoes.
We’ve also been enjoying some lovely al fresco food on local picnics here in our little corner of south-east London, as well as barbecues on our recent camping trip to the New Forest, when we also toasted marshmallows and ate ice-creams every day. We were very taken with the wild ponies – what a beautiful part of the world!
Much-needed holiday to Spain soon – life’s been so busy lately, and we need a break. Catch up when I’m back 🙂
Quick 3-Fruit Salad
Enjoy making this – it’s so quick and easy and an absolute winner!
1 ripe mango, diced
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and diced
1 punnet blueberries
Juice of ½ lime
1 tablespoon maple syrup
What to do:
This one couldn’t be easier: simply toss together the fruit, squeeze over the lime juice and stir in the maple syrup. Let it sit for 20 mins before eating, so the flavours combine really well. Stir again before serving.
As mentioned in a previous post, I absolutely love summer berries and fruit – from strawberries and raspberries to blueberries and cherries – there’s just so much to enjoy! So when I was given the chance to try OXO’s new Strawberry Huller and Berry Bowl Set as well as some delicious Sweet Eve Strawberries I was delighted to test them. And what’s more, OXO have given me a set to give away to one lucky reader! Scroll down for info on how to enter and for my Summer Berry Cream Pots recipe.
The colander in the Berry Bowl Set is just the right size for a punnet of fruit – so rather than having to get out the large colander just to wash a few berries, this a great compact version. What’s more, once you’ve washed them, there’s no more dripping water everywhere, you simply sit the red colander in the white bowl – complete with rubber-grip base – and because it all looks so nice, you can take it straight to the table. If you don’t eat all the berries, you can tip them into the bowl, and store in the fridge with the lid on. I think this is a brilliant bit of kit. Perfect for Wimbledon fans 🙂
The Strawberry Huller is designed to easily remove the stalk from your strawberry. It is completely amazing – you just stick it into the top of the berry and twist, then pull out the whole stalk. If your strawberries are firm, it works a treat. Would be particularly useful if you were making jam or similar, and needed a lot of berries.
Berry Cream Pots
I used my berry kit to make Berry Cream Pots, very easy and very delicious! Littlest and I ate them outside in the sunshine. Summer heaven.
The lovely folks at OXO UK have given me a Berry Bowl Set and a Strawberry Huller kit to give away on the blog. If you’d like to win one, please comment on this post. To be in with a chance of winning a berry kit, you have to leave a comment below telling me your favourite way of serving strawberries – include pics!
OXO have other bloggers giving away berry kits, too, and once they have ALL the winners in, those winners will go forward to get the chance to win a year’s supply of strawberries! (This part of the competition will be administrated by OXO.)
THE GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED NOW AND I WILL BE SELECTING A WINNER SHORTLY.
Good luck and happy berry eating!
With thanks to Oxo UK for the prizes. All opinions on the blog are my own.
The small print:
1. Entry in to the prize draw will be deemed as acceptance of these rules.
2. The prize draw is open to any UK resident, aged 18 or over, who leaves a comment below telling me their favourite way of serving strawberries.
3. The competition ends at midnight on 15 July 2014.
4. One winner will be selected from all valid entries. The winner’s name will be given to OXO who will supply the prize and put the winner’s name forward to win a year’s supply of strawberries.
5. One entry per person.
6. The prize is one OXO Berry Bowl Set and one OXO Strawberry Huller.
7. The prize is non-negotiable, non-transferable, and there is no cash alternative.
8. The prize will be posted to the winner’s home address within 30 days.
9. If a response is not received by the winner within 30 days they will forfeit their right to the prize.
10. No purchase necessary.
So the sun’s come out! Which is nice. I am actually feeling pretty summery all of a sudden, what with all the seasonal fruit – raspberries, strawberries, peaches – and of course lovely cold ice-cream. In a cone, in a bowl, straight from the tub (I didn’t say that)… it’s the perfect thing on a hot day, and of course the children love the stuff.
I like making sumptuous sauces to drizzle on top of ice-cream, so when Le Creuset asked me if I’d like to try out their new saucepan range, I jumped at the chance. Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of their cast ironware, but I’d never tried their stainless steel pans before. So I used the Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan to make two ice-cream toppings, which I hope you will like – Butterscotch and Summer Berry. Mmm.
I have to say, the Le Creuset 3-ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan is brilliant, and has swiftly become my new favourite saucepan – it’s just the right size (not too big, not too small), it conducts heat really well and gives good heat distribution – noticeably better than my standard pans. It’s great for making sauces, making porridge, heating soup etc as you can be sure you won’t get ‘hot spots’ where the middle is hotter than the rest. I really love it as it makes cooking hassle-free! (Big tick.) What’s more – attention, busy mums and dads – you can pour from it one-handed if needs be, as it has an all-round pouring rim. Useful.
I also tested the little Le Creuset sieve, which is just really cute and perfect for the second recipe, below, and the Le Creuset balloon whisk with its smart red handle.
And now for the delicious and oh-so-easy sauces:
Beautiful Butterscotch Sauce
When I made this, my husband said ‘This is completely amazing’ – enough said, really. Admittedly, it’s not the healthiest of things, but a drizzle here and there is such a treat… This is good with vanilla ice-cream (my fave is Yeo Valley) and if you’re organized, with ready weighed-out ingredients, can be made one-handed so you can tend to baby while making a delicious sauce. Oh yes. Just stir and go.
You will need:
25g light brown or muscovado sugar
90g golden syrup
1tsp lemon juice
75ml double cream
- Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a smallish pan
- Heat gently, stirring from time to time, until the butter has melted, and keep stirring until it’s beautifully mixed together
- Stir in the lemon juice and the cream and heat gently until simmering
- Serve warm over ice-cream, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
Summer Berry Sauce
You can use one type or a mixture of berries for this sauce. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries – anything goes. Three ingredients and you’re done. You can also drizzle this sauce on pancakes (crêpes). This sauce smells amazing, and tastes equally delicious – like summer in a bowl.
You will need
250g summer berries
2tsp lemon juice
2-3tbsp icing sugar (or you can use caster if that’s all you have)
- Blend the fruit, the lemon juice and the icing sugar in the blender (you may need to add a dash of water to stop it clogging together) until smooth
- Sieve the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
- Serve as is, or gently heat in a saucepan.
I hope you enjoy these sauces. Happy cooking, peeps.
You can find the pan here: http://www.lecreuset.co.uk
Disclaimer: I was sent the Le Creuset 3-Ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan for free to review on the blog. All opinions are my own.
Having read all the recent articles about how sugar is the devil and we must all give it up immediately, I started thinking about the amount of sugar I consume, and how much the children eat. Not only is it bad for their health (as sugar-laden foods tend to be low in nutrients in general), it’s so bad for their teeth.
I am aware that when checking your diet for ‘hidden sugar’ breakfast cereal is often the culprit, and I will admit that my kids do often eat Cheerios (or the own-brand equivalent), Special K (ditto) and granola, which I know are high in sugar. I am no saint! However, I do put my foot down when it comes to chocolatey cereals and Frosties. I console myself with the fact that every morning they also eat fresh fruit, wholemeal toast or ricecakes with homemade jam or peanut butter (the no-sugar variety) and in my book, this cancels out the evil cereal. And often, in fact, they will forego the cereal for porridge or scrambled eggs, which they adore. Whatever they eat, they brush their teeth pretty well afterwards.
I never buy fruit juice because it’s high in fructose, or fruit sugar (read Zoe Harcombe’s website if you’re interested in the effect of fructose on the body) and so they drink milk or water.
I also never buy fruit yogurts because they are invariably laden with extra sugar. When it comes to yogurt, from a very young age I only really gave the littles plain (natural) full-fat yogurt with a variety of toppings – yes, fruit, but also (tiny) swirls of honey, nuts and homemade compotes. I like knowing what they are eating. Without coming over all righteous mum I would simply never buy a children’s-character-branded yogurt or fromage frais. The second ingredient in the Peppa Pig fromage frais is sugar. Each tiny 45g pot contains approx. 1½ teaspoons of the stuff. Not an insignificant amount.
So if you are interested weaning your child off sweetened yogurts, or indeed weaning your baby onto plain yogurt, I thought it would be nice to suggest a few yogurt toppings. The best plain, natural yogurt is Yeo Valley, in my opinion, and I have tried them all. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose do a good own-brand Greek yogurt. Personally, I find Rachel’s and Total a bit chalky.
I asked food writer and author Bee Wilson, who recently wrote a piece about Greek yogurt in Stella magazine, about how she likes to eat yogurt, and she told me she once visited a primary school where they had yogurt toppings on offer – dried fruit, fresh fruit, compote and so on, rather like an ice-cream bar, so you could jazz up your yogurt, which is such a lovely, healthy image. Her favourite yogurt is whole milk yogurt, topped with blackcurrant jam, a dash of double cream and a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds utterly divine!
With the ice-cream bar image in my mind, rather than simply plonking some cut-up banana on top of the kids’ pudding at tea-time tonight, I presented them with bowls of yogurt and a colourful ‘yogurt bar’, with pomegranate seeds, blueberries, toasted flaked almonds (I didn’t toast ‘em, Waitrose did) and cut-up dried mango. They absolutely LOVED it, and merrily sprinkled and chatted and devoured their pudding. Make healthy food fun for kids and everyone enjoys the experience!
Ideas for yogurt toppings:
– homemade fruit compote (apple, apple and blackberry, rhubarb)
– homemade or high fruit content shop-bought jam
– berries, cut-up apple, banana slices, chunk of orange
– cut-up dried fruit, or raisins/sultanas (go easy though, dried fruit high in sugar!)
– tiny swirls of runny honey (my children love it when I ‘draw’ their initial in honey on top)
– nuts and seeds (be careful with younger babies as these could be a choking hazard)
Have fun topping your yogurts!
Ah, pudding. Who doesn’t love pudding? Especially when it’s fruit. And especially when it’s fruit in the shape of a loveable animal! My children love mango hedgehogs. And while I am not really one for making such things as miniature edible sailboats with cheese sails, or fruit faces with blueberries for eyes and grapes for the nose (you get the picture), these are so easy to do, and bring such joy I cannot resist sharing with you here, lovely blog readers.
Admittedly, mango hedgehogs most definitely cannot be created one-handed, however they are quick to do and will keep your child quiet and happy for between 5 and 15 minutes. For younger babies (9m+) remove the cubes of mango, and serve in a little plastic bowl, or – even easier – straight onto the tray of the high chair.
You will need
A very sharp knife. I have this Global knife (it was a gift, I had no idea it was this expensive) which is just wonderful because it has a sharp point so you can score into the mango flesh to make your lines.
A cutting board
What to do
Take your mango and, using your sharp knife, slice off one side. Turn it flesh side up, and using your sharp-pointed knife, score 5 or 6 lines in one direction (from top to bottom), and then the equivalent number from side to side, creating a criss-cross pattern in the flesh. Now press your thumbs into the skin side and push out the little ‘cubes’ created by your artful cutting. Add two raisins for eyes, and voila, a mango hedgehog.
Here is my daughter devouring her mango hedgehog. (She ate three that day.)
In other news, I have been nominated in the Mad Blog Awards Best Food Blog category for 2013, which I am completely thrilled about. I feel very honoured to have been put forward by some of you lovely people. I started this blog in October 2012, and it is an incredible feeling to have been recognized by my peers, some of whom are writing such incredible blogs, they put me to shame (I still don’t know what a linky is, and I am not on Facebook). But I am on Twitter! It’s a start.