Exciting things are afoot on the blog; it is being redesigned *as we speak* which means that pretty soon I will be unveiling the new look for Spring/Summer 2015 on The One-Handed Cook website. Woo hoo.
In other news, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone, which means that Christmas is practically upon us. I’ve made a list, I’m checking it twice, and yes, I still need to buy about 800 presents. I have started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the gifts, which feels a bit too organised, even for me.
What else is new? Well, my son is obsessed with Match Attax trading cards, my daughter with her Tiny Tears doll and my husband with his new KitchenAid, which he was given for his birthday. A beautiful red KitchenAid just for me him.
In the meantime, here’s something for you: a soup recipe to help chase away the November blues. It’s a recipe my grandma – a wonderful home cook – used to make, and my mum has passed it on to me. Like all my soup recipes, it’s dead easy to make, and completely delicious. You can make it in stages – make the soup and liquidise it later, if needs be. It also freezes really well, so make double if you have the energy – and freeze half for later. Steaming hot, silky smooth, deliciously fragrant Carrot and Tarragon Soup on a cold winter’s day; what could be nicer?
Carrot and Tarragon Soup
A delicious soup for the whole family. Omit the salt – and go easy on the pepper – if serving to babies and toddlers. If serving to grown-ups, the soup looks good served with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped parsley on top. It will keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well in an air-tight container.
Makes 8–10 portions
You will need
2tbsp light olive oil
1kg carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and cut into eight
1.5 litres (approx) vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon)
1tsp freeze-dried tarragon flakes, or 1tbsp fresh tarragon, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What to do
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a Le Creuset), add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots, stir well with the onions and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the stock, the potatoes and the tarragon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 mins. Check that the carrots are cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise in a blender, keeping an eye on the thickness of the soup. (Sometimes you have too much liquid and other times you may have to add a bit of water.)
- Season to taste. Reheat the quantity you need and pour into bowls.
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
Phew, life is busy. Busy but good. I’ve been trying to practise a bit of gratitude recently – as in, ‘My train was delayed, there’s no food in the fridge and my hair looks like the hair of a madwoman, BUT I am thankful I have a job I like, two healthy children, a roof over my head and all my own teeth.’ It is not always easy to be grateful, but then being frustrated and cross isn’t conducive to a calm, fruitful home life either. So I will be grateful. I am grateful I have a glass of wine next to me, now, for instance 🙂
So what have I been cooking up at One-Handed HQ recently? Well, in keeping with my gratitude theme, I am grateful that it’s asparagus season. Lovely green British asparagus. Years ago I used to live in Germany, and round rolled May, and they all went wild for ‘frische Spargel’ (fresh asparagus). Hooray, I thought, only it looked like no asparagus I’d ever seen – it was white. Weird.
Anyway, I love asparagus, and look forward to its arrival every May, so when Sainsburys got in touch asking me what I would like to celebrate for their Best of British produce theme, of course I plumped for the green stuff – as Sainsburys are stocking 100% British-grown asparagus this year and I like buying seasonal British-grown fruit and veg.
In the past, I’ve always steamed or boiled asparagus – hmmm, yes, nice enough. But I recently discovered the joys of cooking it in a griddle pan. It is a breakthrough – the asparagus retains its lovely sweet deliciousness but also has a bit of bite and crunch to it. Plus it is SO easy, which we like. You just need a very hot griddle pan (one with ridges), some oil, a pastry brush and some tongs. It can be cooked one-handed while dealing with something child-related with the other. It’s great dipped into the yolk of a soft-boiled egg. My (initially very dubious) kids really enjoyed the novelty of dipping something that wasn’t toast into a boiled egg and ate it all up. Hurrah.
Join me in gratitude for this wondrous dish.
Delicious Griddled Asparagus Dippers
What you need
One bunch British asparagus, washed, and with the woody stems snapped off
Some light olive oil for brushing onto the pan and the asparagus
A free-range egg (medium) at room temperature
What to do
- Put a small pan of water on to boil for the egg. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to a gentle rolling boil, add the egg and cook for 4½ minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat your griddle pan (I have a heavy-based Le Creuset one) until it’s nice and hot. Brush the pan with olive oil while it’s heating up.
- Brush your asparagus spears with olive oil using the pastry brush.
- When the pan is hot, lie the asparagus across the ridges and allow to cook for a few minutes before turning. They need approx. 5-6 minutes total cooking time.
- Once your egg is done, remove and put in an eggcup; cut off the top.
- Put your asparagus dippers on a side plate, allow them to cool before giving to your child – they will be very hot!
In the interest of full disclosure, Sainsburys asked me to choose my Best of British produce and write about it in exchange for some vouchers to buy some produce. These are my views. And mine only!
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!
I have been thinking about one-handed breakfasts lately – things you can successfully put together with a baby in one hand. I’ve managed scrambled eggs, toast (tricky to butter, mind) and porridge. Yippee. There is life after kids. OK, it’s not quite up to The Wolseley standards, (check out their breakfast menu here – OMG!!) but it does us just fine.
I love breakfast. In fact, I often start planning it the night before. Whether it’s soaking porridge oats in water in advance (helps them cook quicker), making pancake batter and sticking it in the fridge to save time, or simply laying the breakfast table to make for an easier morning – I am all about making breakfast easy, and tasty. It sets you up for the day, it’s a chance to sit down together, if only briefly, and just check in with each other.
I like trying new things for breakfast – Spelt Flakes are a new favourite, for instance, and we always have fruit – cut-up apple or orange, or maybe banana or blueberries – and the children drink milk or water. I don’t buy fruit juice. I will drink a cup of Assam tea first thing, and have coffee later on.
So I wanted to share a recipe for something else I like at breakfast: muffins. These banana pecan ones are really easy and not too sweet. The pecans give them a protein kick, which is a good energy booster for kids. You can’t make them one-handed, but you can make them in stages; get the dry ingredients all ready, then the wet, and then simply mix together. And no, you don’t need to be a chef – they are really easy!
Breakfast Banana Pecan Muffins
250g self-raising flour
75g pecans, chopped
1tsp baking powder
75g light brown sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
100ml vegetable oil
250ml whole milk
You will need a 12-hole muffin tin
What to do:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and stir in the pecans, the sugar and the cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients in one bowl, mixing swiftly. The mixture can be quite liquid, don’t worry.
- Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top.
- Fill your muffin cases about three-quarters full, and then bake for 25-30 minutes.
Perfect for a quick breakfast or mid-morning with a coffee.
If you have any one-handed breakfasts you make – do share them.
Have a nice breakfast!
I met my dear friend Camilla for lunch the other day. She brought her delectable baby son Zeb with her, who is 16 months old. Once we’d set up his high chair and we’d ordered our meal, he proceeded to sit and devour the contents of the carefully packed little containers of food she had stowed away in her bag. One revealed pieces of cucumber, mini tomatoes and strips of cheese, another fresh blueberries and raspberries. Once he’d worked his way through these, she brought out the big guns: two mini hummus sandwiches. Surely life doesn’t get better for a one-year-old. His obvious delight in feeding himself was clear. And in the meantime, we were able to tuck in to our (delicious) moussaka at the same time and have a good old chat. Result.
My friend is a huge advocate of BLW (baby-led weaning). Not once had she spent her precious free time labouring over a pile of apples that needed peeling, coring, chopping, cooking and puréeing, nor had she mashed up bananas nor had she spent hours making sweet potato and carrot mush and dolloping it into ice-cube trays. From day one, Zeb had fed himself. As someone who has been through the whole puréeing and spoon-feeding process twice, it was so interesting hearing about an alternative. So I have asked her to contribute to The One-Handed Cook blog by sharing her best BLW advice with you!
A former cookery book editor and now a recipe consultant, Camilla is a true foodie.
Read all about her BLW experience here, and stay tuned for her
Top Five Baby-Led Weaning tips coming soon!
Why did you decide to try BLW?
BLW was first mentioned at an NCT breast feeding workshop I went to and when the time came to introduce solids, all my NCT friends were talking about it and swapping videos. . . it was seeing a YouTube clip of a six-month-old baby devouring a chicken leg that convinced me – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzPMAJCPhmA) – though I should say that my son has never quite shown the same mastery of the drumstick!
Did you have any fears or concerns when you first tried BLW?
I was a bit worried about choking at first, but a friend made me see that the BLW approach made it less likely that a baby will choke on a large object because it is used to ‘chewing’ and moving solid things around its mouth unlike a baby who has only been spoon-fed who automatically swallows without chewing. The gag reflex is really strong in young babies and it is all part of learning how to process food.
I also worried that he wouldn’t eat enough but someone else told me that ‘Up to one, food is fun’ because babies get most of their nutrients from formula or breast milk. Zeb didn’t seem to swallow much at first (you spend a lot of time examining dirty nappies for signs of semi-digested food!) but that slowly changed over the first two months or so.
What are the advantages of BLW – for you and for him?
For me, it is the time you gain from not having to sit and spoon-feed your child. You also cut down the amount of cooking because many foods can be given whole and just lightly steamed or roasted. While your child is eating, you can eat your own lunch with him or cook for the next meal, tidy the kitchen, do the crossword . . . Particularly when they start walking, it is a valuable half hour of captivity! I still chat away to him and we try to eat together as often as possible but it does free you up to get things done. I have found that my son often eats more when I’m not sitting and staring at him so I potter around the kitchen, checking in with him and chatting on and off.
Eating out in restaurants is easier because you all eat at the same time and you can get on with your delicious meal without having to do airplanes with spaghetti Bolognese. I think this helps with general behaviour in restaurants – my son seems to be fairly well-mannered eating in public because he is quite used to tucking in to whatever is in front of him without throwing it on the floor or smearing it on every surface. Though it doesn’t stop him reaching for the glasses, cutlery, salt and pepper, butter dish etc. . .
For him, I think it teaches self control, independence and good motor skills (is there a better example of the pincer movement than picking up individual peas?!). The mantra to remember is ‘You choose the food, he chooses the amount’ – I think this sets up healthy eating patterns and good awareness of satiety and hunger for life. If you can trust that your child will eat what it needs and never force food into its mouth (though you are seriously tempted to on occasion!), you can be more relaxed about feeding and mealtimes don’t become a battleground. Perhaps it will all change when he’s older but so far Zebedee eats a wide range of foods without throwing tantrums or sprouts across the room.
I should mention that there are disadvantages too. . . The mess is really bad at first and a change of clothes is often required at the end of each meal but this doesn’t last for too long. There is also a lot of wastage early on; it isn’t the most thrifty way of introducing your child to solids.
Did you buy any books about BLW?
A canny friend told me to buy the BLW cookbook rather than the general BLW book as well as the cookbook because it’s all in the introduction (and online) and you just want the recipes for inspiration. I like the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook and Jenny Maizels’ Finger Food for Babies and Toddlers for more good ideas.
Tell us the first few things you gave your baby to try? (What age was he?)
At six months, we started with banana and avocado and broccoli. Broccoli is a good one because though it gets everywhere, some of it always goes in and you can track it through their system to their nappy giving you the encouragement to continue! We moved on to mango, asparagus, sweet potato, baby corn, eggy bread and mozzarella balls – all things that are soft enough to eat but hard enough to hold.
What are his favourite things to eat now?
Corn on the cob, felafels, fish cakes, edamame beans, meatballs, cherry tomatoes, buttermilk pancakes.
Would you encourage new mums to try BLW?
Absolutely. . . there are times when you discover more food in the crevices of their clothes or high chair than they have eaten or you are on all fours clearing mush from the floor when you wonder whether it is all worth it, but a year down the line, it is so brilliant to watch Zebedee tucking into risotto or picking up lentils. He already weighs 13Kg at 16 months so I can now totally relax that he is getting enough to eat!
Thanks, Camilla, a brilliant insight into BLW. Love the part about BLW enabling you to
get things done while baby has his lunch!
Stay tuned to The One-Handed Cook for Camilla’s top five BLW tips coming soon!