Last week was National Vegetarian Week. It’s interesting that the veggies get a week when women only get a day but if that week persuades my children to eat their greens, it probably deserves the extra 6 nights and a spa hotel!
The truth is, I am in a children’s cooking rut. My sons (ages 3 and 1) eat the same thing aaaaaaaalllll the time. They eat a lot of quiche, sweet potato, chicken drumsticks, and did I say pasta? Pasta, pasta, pasta.
The baby has this amazing filter like a Baleen Whale; he stuffs a huge fistful of food in his mouth, swallows everything except the veg and spits the greenery back out.
"The baby has this amazing filter like a Baleen Whale ... swallows everything except the veg and spits the greenery back out."
I stubbornly hold on to the mantra spouted by my friend Lucy’s Norland Nanny, “kids will eat greens one day if you keep serving them without a fuss.” She earns 5 times what I do in a year, so she must be right! So, I pretend I don’t care. I will not attach any emotion to a 3 year old’s feeding habits, I don’t bribe or force feed.
I am of course, the model mother … “LAURIE, EAT THE BLOODY GREENS!”
Meet Author, Rachel Boyett
So, I turned to an actual model mother for inspiration, Rachel Boyett author of “Little Veggie Eats.” I admire that Rachel is good about not ‘hiding’ vegetables, the veg is mostly transparent.
I really like her attitude towards vegetarian eating. Rachel eats for the planet but is not preachy. She makes me laugh – yes, I wholly agree, nutritional yeast smells and looks like fish food! She doesn’t throw soya sauce at everything to make it taste of something.
"She makes me laugh – yes, I wholly agree, nutritional yeast smells and looks like fish food!"
Just to be clear, while I am using the cookbook as inspiration for more vegetarian eating, it is primarily written for parents whose babies are at the weaning stage. There is lots of good advice about choking and baby-led weaning vs puree (with no judgment). Rachel includes a useful breakdown of the nutritional value of foods, I learnt a lot.
Good for older children? Our experiments ...
We have had a surprisingly successful time with her Vedgeree, a twist on the old kedgeree, with peas, broccoli, sweetcorn, cauliflower mixed in rice and lentils. The eldest insisted on grated cheese on top – fair. Went straight down the hatch. My husband and I used the leftovers as the base for our aubergine curry that night. Double use, tick.
Quinoa Veggie Chips and Homemade Ketchup … I know what you are thinking, what a bore. You didn’t?! OK, so you are a better person than me, I had to wonder, who can be bothered to make their own ketchup? Turns out even the 3 year-old can do it and we made it together. YUMMMM. The baby spat out the aubergine – it’s a tough texture - but was prepared to take down the courgette. Naturally he recognised the old mate, the sweet potato, with unashamed glee.
Peanut Butter and Coconut Cookies.
Why yes, that is my kind of protein. Interesting that a chickpea should be such a good base for a cookie. It reminds me slight of halva, it has the same nutty, crumbly texture but without the sugar. As a gluten-free old timer, this cookie is a cracker! (Yes, I am GF, long before the acronyms and the free-from aisle, from way back when the only alternative was abstinence, so I can tell you, this is one great cookie!)
I must admit, I fused my Nutribullet making this … maybe put a touch more milk in ... but we were undeterred and finished the job with a potato masher.
It takes 10 minutes to make.
1 x 400g can of chickpeas, 1 banana
8 tbsp peanut butter
4 tbsp desiccated coconut, 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted 2 tbsp milk of your choice (see above!)
Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C/160 ̊C fan/350 ̊F and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until the mix
is smooth. Spoon the mixture onto the baking parchment (you need around 1 1⁄2 tbsp per cookie, to make 24). Use a fork to flatten and shape each cookie (they don’t spread when cooking so try to get them to the shape you want now). Sprinkle a little more desiccated coconut on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the cookies are crisp and golden on top.
The cookies are best (and crunchiest) when they are first cooked. They go softer as you leave them. They’ll keep for 2–3 days in an airtight container.
Lentil Balls in Tomato Sauce
Lentil Balls in Tomato Sauce - this was our winner! We all ate it for supper, even the committed carnivore husband. It is GOOD.
1 tsp olive oil, 1⁄2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 400g can of brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1⁄2 cup/40g oats
3 closed cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated Zest of 1⁄2 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano (or a couple of sprigs of fresh)
1 tsp olive oil, 1⁄2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1⁄2 tsp balsamic vinegar 1 tsp dried oregano (or a couple of sprigs of fresh) Fresh parsley, to serve
*(You can also blend the sauce and Rachel suggests throwing in more veg - carrots, red peppers etc.)
Preheat the oven to 200 ̊C/180 ̊C fan/400 ̊F and line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the onions for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes before turning off the heat.
While the onion is cooking, put all the other lentil ball ingredients in a food processor (or in a bowl if using a stick blender). Add the cooked onions and blend. You want the mix to have a bit of texture so don’t blend it until completely smooth.
Shape the mixture into 18 small golf ball-sized balls and put them on your baking tray. Bake the balls for about 35 minutes until they are crisp on the outside (but still soft in the middle).
While the balls are cooking make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a pan and add the onion. Cook the onion for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add the chopped tomato, 1/2 cup /120ml of water, the balsamic vinegar and oregano. Cook the mixture over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes until thickened.
Serve the balls with the sauce poured over, and a little freshly chopped parsley.
If you want to freeze or store for a later meal, keep the balls and the sauce separate (the balls will go too soft otherwise).
Recipe extracted from Little Veggie Eats by Rachel Boyett, photographed by Tanya Dolvers.
PomPom Essentials For Baking With Kids
Linen Animal Apron (£12.99)
Personalised Baking Set (£24.99)
Cookie Cutters (£19.99)