In her new book Nicola Graimes has developed quick, inspirational and nutritious meat-free recipes that the kids will love, tackling the universal parenting problem of getting children to enjoy and eat up their veg...
Whether it’s increasing obesity rates or cutting out sugar, children and their health are never far out of the news. Vegetarian or not, anyone can benefit from having an increased vegetable intake in their diet.
Nicola says: “Every parent wants the best for their children and top of the list for most of us is good health. The theory is so simple: just eat nutritious foods, drink enough water and cut out the junk. But we know that’s light years away from what happens in practice. I don’t profess to be the perfect role model, but experience has taught me a lot about helping my children to make the right dietary choices.”
Apple Crumble Porridge
Perfect comfort food, this warming porridge captures the flavours of a classic apple crumble and is a good way of adding fruit to breakfast. Any leftover porridge can be turned into porridge bars: simply spread out about 1cm/1/2 in thick and leave to cool. Cut the porridge into bars, then fry in a little coconut oil until golden – delicious!
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
200g/7oz/heaped 2 cups rolled oats, or a mix of flaked grains including quinoa and buckwheat
300ml/10.fl oz/scant 1. Cups almond milk or milk of choice, plus extra to serve
2 small apples, with skins, cored and grated
1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice, plus extra to serve
A few spoonfuls of ready-made granola, to serve
1 Put the oats and milk in a saucepan with 900ml/31fl oz/ scant four cups water and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
2 Add the apples and mixed spice to the pan, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the oats are cooked and creamy. Stir the porridge continuously with a wooden spoon to stop it sticking to the base of the pan.
3 Spoon the porridge into serving bowls, pour over a little extra milk, if you like, and sprinkle with extra mixed spice and a good spoonful of the granola.
Hero Food - Oats
A recent study found that youngsters who regularly eat oats are 50 per cent less likely to be overweight. As well as providing filling fibre, wholegrains, such as oats, surprisingly contain 25 per cent more protein than refined cereals – a winning combination.
The beauty of these is that you can quite easily cook lots at a time, so they’re perfect if making breakfast for a large family, guests or friends – and they look fun, too. I’ve put garlic mushrooms in the base of each roll or‘cup’, but you could fill them with other veg or serve plain, if you prefer.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
140g/5oz mushrooms, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
4 crusty rolls, preferably wholegrain
4 large eggs1 tbsp snipped chives (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Lightly brush a baking sheet with oil.
2 Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until there is no trace of liquid and they start to colour. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.
3 Meanwhile, slice off the top third of each roll to make a lid. Pull out most of the crumbs inside to leave a 1cm/.in thick shell (saving the breadcrumbs for another recipe). Brush the rolls and lids all over, inside and out, with more oil and place the rolls on the baking sheet.
4 When the mushrooms are ready, divide them evenly among the hollowed-out rolls. Crack an egg into each one. Brush the yolks with a little oil, then bake for 5 minutes. Put the roll lids on the baking sheet and return it to the oven for a further 15 minutes until the egg whites are set and the lids are crisp. Serve the egg cups with their lids by the side. You could sprinkle a few chives over the eggs before serving, if you like.
Hero Food - Olive Oil
Olive oil contains high levels of antioxidants and beneficial monounsaturated fats, which support the health of the heart.
Polenta and Pepper Muffins
These make a refreshing change to bread-based lunches and are a wholesome combination of protein, carbs, good fats and veg. They’re easy to make, but for morning sanity are probably best prepared the night before, which will also give them the chance to cool. For a healthy boost, why not split them in half and fill with soft cheese, guacamole or houmous.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
85g/3oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
1 large corn-on-the cob, husk removed, or 140g/5oz/1 cup kernels
140g/5oz/heaped 1 cup spelt flour
140g/4oz/scant 1 cup instant polenta/cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground linseeds/flaxseeds
1 tsp sea salt
284ml/10fl oz/generous 1 cup buttermilk
100ml/3.fl oz/scant, cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60g/2oz/cup mature Cheddar cheese, grated
3 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced
Small red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 red chilli, deseeded and diced (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Liberally grease a 12-hole muffin pan (or line the pan with deep paper cases).
2 Stand the corn cob upright on a chopping board and carefully slice away the kernels.
3 Mix together the spelt flour, polenta/cornmeal, baking powder, linseeds/flaxseeds and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
4 Whisk together the buttermilk, milk and eggs in a jug. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and add the cheese, corn, spring onions/scallions, red pepper and chilli, if using. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix until everything is combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 30–35 minutes until risen and cooked. Leave in the
tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Hero Food - Ground Linseeds/Flaxseeds
Golden linseeds/flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, which are essential for a healthy brain, joints and heart. Not only are they easy to use when ground to a powder, the omega-3 is said to be in a more readily absorbable form.
These sausage rolls have a nutrient-dense filling of green lentils, vegetables and yeast flakes all wrapped up in a puff pastry casing. You could make the filling up to 3 days ahead of using, if more convenient, and then assemble the rolls as and when you need them. The uncooked rolls are also suitable for freezing – simply defrost before baking.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil 1 large onion, finely chopped
200g/7oz/3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
60g/2oz/scant 2⁄3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped
400g/14oz can green lentils, drained well
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
320g/11.oz pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 and lightly grease a baking sheet.
2 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and saute the onion and mushrooms, stirring often, for 8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, thyme, sundried tomatoes and lentils
and cook for another 3 minutes, or until there is no trace of liquid in the pan. Season with pepper. Using a stick/immersion blender, blend the filling to a coarse paste and leave to cool.
3 Unroll the pastry and cut it in half lengthways. Divide the lentil mixture between the two pieces of pastry, placing it down the middle in a long sausage shape, about 2cm/.in wide. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg and then fold the pastry over the filling. Press the edges together to seal and crimp with a fork.
4 Cut into 5cm/2in long sausage rolls and prick the tops a couple of times with a fork. Tidy up the ends of the rolls if the filling has squished out a bit and place on the prepared baking
sheet. Brush with the remaining egg and bake for 30–35 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through. Leave to cool slightly before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Hero Food -Nutritional Yeast Flakes
These nutritious golden flakes have a slightly cheesy flavour and are a rich source of B vitamins as well as protein.
Award-winning cookery writer and former editor of Vegetarian Living magazine, Nicola Graimes has written more than 20 books, including The Top 100 recipes for a Healthy Lunchbox and the best-selling The Part-Time Vegetarian.
Selected recipes from Vegetarian Food for Healthy Kids by Nicola Graimes, published September 15, 2016 by Nourish Books, RRP £12.99
© Nourish Books 2016 commissioned photography by Tony Briscoe.