In the battle to overcome picky eating Emily Leary is ‘making new the norm’ by linking imagination to food so introducing kids to different flavours, colours and textures is a breeze…
Emily is a multi-award winning writer, presenter and mum-of-two. Her blog, A Mummy Too, has over 300,000 followers and last year was crowned Best Food Blog at the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards.
This recipe is great when you start to introduce your family to more exciting foods because it looks familiar but has exciting new flavours to explore. Sweet potato fries are a lovely colour and naturally sweet, so will win over younger palates with ease.
PREP TIME: 30 MINS • COOK TIME: 25 MINS
For the chips
500g (1lb 2oz) sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of pepper
For the fish fingers
240g (8½oz) skinless cod fillets
50g (1¾oz) plain flour
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
50g (1¾oz) dried breadcrumbs
pinch of pepper
½ tablespoon garlic granules
½ tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ tablespoon ground coriander
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F), 180C fan, Gas Mark 6.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chips about 1cm (½in) thick. Put them in a bowl and mix in the cornflour with your hands. Add the garlic granules, paprika and olive oil and mix again, then tip onto a non-stick baking tray in a single layer and sprinkle with pepper.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then turn and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.
- Meanwhile, slice the cod into 2cm- (¾in-) thick fingers.
- Set up 3 bowls: the first containing the flour, the second the egg and the third the breadcrumbs. In a small dish, mix the pepper, garlic granules and spices together, then stir half into the flour and half into the breadcrumbs.
- Dip a fish piece into the flour to lightly cover. Shake off the excess, then dip into the egg to coat, then into the breadcrumbs to cover. Repeat with every piece of fish, placing on an oiled baking tray as you go. Spritz all over with oil spray.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until just golden (break one open to check the fish is cooked through). Serve with the chips.
- If your family are keen on spice, try upping the cumin level and adding a little chilli powder for a more pronounced kick.
- Once you’ve got the hang of the crumbing method, you can flavour the crumbs to your liking. How about a lemon and herb crumb for breaded chicken goujons?
PREP TIME: 15 MINS • COOK TIME: 30 MINS
Roasted strawberries walk a delightful line between savoury and sweet. You’ll be amazed how much the whole family loves them. My daughter, who is suspicious of anything that dares invade her beloved creamy pasta, was so enamoured with this recipe when I first made it that she asked for seconds.
For the Balsamic Strawberries
300g (10½oz) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
For the Pasta
180g (6oz) butternut squash
300g (10½oz) macaroni
30g (1oz) plain flour
30g (1oz) slightly salted butter
450ml (16fl oz) whole milk
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, or vegetarian alternative, finely grated
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F), 180C fan, Gas Mark 6.
- Place the strawberries on a baking tray, season well with pepper, then drizzle with balsamic glaze. Stir, then place in the oven for about 15 minutes until the glaze bubbles. Set aside to cool.
- Put the butternut squash into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender, then drain and set aside to cool.Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions, then drain.Put the flour, butter and milk into a saucepan and place over a medium heat, whisking regularly for 5-10 minutes until thickened, then season.Tip the squash, Parmesan and white sauce into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
- Stir the hot, drained pasta into the sauce. Divide equally between four bowls, top with the strawberries and serve.
Try introducing fruit to other mealtimes – perhaps some sliced grapes in a cheese sandwich, or thinly sliced pear in your next cheeseburger?
PREP TIME: 10 MINS • FREEZE TIME: OVERNIGHT
These delicious smoothie lollies contain only natural ingredients and can be whizzed up in minutes. Make sure the kids get involved in adding the spinach and watching the lolly mixture turn green. Remember, this isn’t about hiding veg, it’s about celebrating all the ways it can be used and challenging our perceptions while enjoying our food.
4 tablespoons natural yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small handful of baby spinach
granola, to serve
- Pop the yogurt, bananas and vanilla into a blender and blitz until very smooth.Pour one-third equally between six lolly moulds.
- Pour half of the remaining mixture into a bowl. Add the spinach to what is left in the blender jug and blitz again until bright green. Divide the green mixture between the lolly moulds.Finally, rinse the jug and return the reserved mixture to it. Add the strawberries and blitz until pink.Pour into the moulds, push in lolly sticks and freeze overnight. Best eaten on a hot day, dipped into granola!
- Cucumber adds a light, fresh taste.
- Cauliflower can make chocolate lollies particularly creamy, as can avocado.
- Always taste the mixture before pouring into the moulds and add a dash of honey or more sweet fruit if it seems bitter.
- Try topping each mould with a spoonful of granola before pushing in the lolly sticks and freezing overnight.
Get Your Kids to Eat Anything by Emily Leary (amummytoo.co.uk)is published by Mitchell Beazley, £16.99 and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops. Image ©Tom Regester