Baby, that tastes great
With sales of four million for book 'The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner', Annabel Karmel has been helping parents find a way to feed their families healthy and nutritious food for 20 years.
The English author, foodie and mother of three is now on an urgent mission to gain more followers in the UAE.
During a recent trip to Dubai for the Emirates Litfest the dirham dropped for the author, who has written a range of books dealing with child and baby nutrition.
She says: “I didn’t realise just how big a problem we have on our hands here. I always associate America with obese children and had never thought the Middle East had an issue but diabetes is a huge issue and, just look around, there are so many fat children here. We need to tackle the issue by getting the right advice out there on how to bring up children on a healthy diet. We need to put meals together for children that are healthy and tasty.”
Annabel is in talks to translate her popular debut book into Arabic and is also pitching her children’s TV series ‘Annabel’s Kitchen’ to the UAE. She hopes to work with airlines on improving children’s in-flight meals and a new book, to help pregnant mothers with their diet, is due out in June.
Clearing up a mealtime mystery
Annabel’s debut book came out in 1991. It was based on her efforts to feed first son Nicholas and also provide meals for other fussy eaters in a playgroup she started after the tragic death of her firstborn Natasha, at just three months old, from a virus.
The original book may be more than 20 years old but Annabel says it is still relevant today as there’s confusion for many parents over what to feed baby.
She says: “Children can be difficult to feed. But many people don’t know that you can introduce them to meat and so many other things early on. So many people feed babies fruit and veg puree for months on end and they really need meat, for the iron. A lot of people don’t give these foods when they are so important.
“Finger foods are so important too, a child needs to interact with their food. By making food tasty and attractive, and by getting them interested in their food, you can have a big effect.
“Babies have a sweet tooth, because mother’s milk is sweet. Instead of feeding just fruit, try adding it to something savory. Nice chicken with sweet potato and apple, or apricots and tomato. Or try a beef puree with prunes or apricot in it.”
She adds: “The book is based on research and not old wives’ tales of what not to give.
“By avoiding foods you are not always doing the best thing.
“If you don’t give a child a particular food, the child can’t sensitise to it. Take eggs, fish and wheat for example. People worry about feeding this to their little children but you are much better off giving them these foods from six months, providing there is no history of allergy in the family or if they have hay fever, eczema or asthma.
“With something like eggs, you will know if there is a reaction and it is not life threatening.
Taking on the nanny state
Many babies and small children in the UAE are looked after by nannies and Annabel warns parents to be strict over their child’s wellbeing.
She says: “If you leave your child with somebody they might give the child what they want rather than what they need.
“They are not the parent who really cares about their child’s health and that is a one of the problems as to why certain children are fat. They want the child to be happy so they give whatever they want from the fridge.
“You really must know what your child is eating. Get a nanny or minder to write down exactly what your child is eating, so you are informed. In the book you will see meal planners and advice on what you should be giving your child, it is very simple and easy to follow. Just remember that the child isn’t going to change and have different eating habits aged 12.
“They are going to turn into a fat, really unhealthy and unhappy child. ”
Win the mind games
Fussy eaters can be tricky for new mums to deal with but we must be tough says Annabel.
“All mums have good intentions but if food is rejected, often we give in because we want to feed our children. “However, if you stand your ground, your child eventually will get hungry and eat something.
“If we give in and feed them what they want, then the more fussy they will become. It’s hard, but sometimes you have to let your child go hungry. A hungry child is a less fussy child and that’s the only way to break that pattern. In the end you want to give your child variety and healthy food.”
Recipes from Annabel
MINUTE STEAK AND SWEET POTATO WEDGES - 2 PORTIONS
Quick and Easy Sweet potatoes cook quickly and make yummy wedges.
1 medium/ large sweet potato
2 tbsp olive or sunflower oil, plus extra for frying
1 x 200g sirloin steak
Preheat the oven to 225C /400F/ Gas. Cut the potato lengthways into wedges about 1∏ cm thick (8 to 10 wedges). Put in a bowl and toss with oil and season. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the wedges on the sheet and bake for 10 minutes, turn over and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes until soft and golden brown. Meanwhile, trim the fat from the steak, cover it with cling film and beat with a mallet or rolling pin until half cm thick and cut in half. Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan until sizzling hot, season the steaks with salt and pepper and fry for 1 ∏ minutes each side for medium (still pink inside) 3 minutes each side for well done. Transfer to a plate to rest for a couple of minutes, then slice into strips to serve with the potato wedges.
For the Pan Gravy
Add one small chopped shallot to the frying pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Add 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and boil until evaporated. Add 200ml beef stock and boil for 3 to 4 minutes until reduced to about 60 ml/4 tbsp add a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the gravy.
For the Cream Sauce
Add 1 tsp mascarpone or 1 tbsp double cream to the pan gravy
APPLE AND SULTANA MUFFINS
It's fun to make these muffins with your child. They are quick and easy to prepare and taste delicious.
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
200 ml milk
Quarter tsp salt
225g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
Half tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g dessert apples, peeled and grated
A little demerera sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 C Fan / 200 C / Gas 6. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. Measure all of the ingredients into a free standing mixer and whisk until combined. Spoon into the cases. Sprinkle with demerera sugar. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes until well risen and lightly golden. (Makes 12 muffins.)
MICE IN JACKETS - MAKES 4 BAKED POTATOES
From 1 year; Serves 4; Prep time 35 mins; Cooking time 1 hour
Not suitable for freezing
A great recipe for turning a baked potato into a delicious mouth watering treat….
It’s really important to involve children in cooking from an early age. They can help scoop out the potato flesh, mix in the ingredients and mash it all together . Children will love helping you decorate these to look like mice. Butternut squash is very rich in vitamin A which is important for healthy skin, eyesight and fighting infection. Just 150g provides approximately 300% of your vitamin A needs for the day. Another good nutritious filling for baked potatoes is to mash the potato with a little mayonnaise, milk and grated Cheddar and then mix in a little sweetcorn, tuna and chopped spring onion.
4 medium baking potatoes (approx 225g each)
A little vegetable oil
∏ medium butternut squash (approx 300g)
40g fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp milk
40g grated Cheddar cheese
For the decoration
4 small Cherry tomatoes
Prick the potatoes in several places, place on a baking tray and brush all over with the oil. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 190C (375F) for 1 to 1 π hours or until they feel soft when pressed. Cut a medium butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds and brush with a knob of melted butter bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut the tops off the baked potatoes and scoop out the flesh. Scoop out the flesh of the cooked butternut squash and mash together with the baked potato flesh, mustard, parmesan, milk and butter. Season with a little salt and pepper. Put the mixture back into the potato shells, cover with the grated Cheddar and cook under a pre-heated grill for a few minutes until golden.
Fix a small cherry tomato into each of the potatoes using a cocktail stick for the noses. Add some short lengths of chives for the whiskers – you can tuck these behind the tomato. Decorate with halved radishes for the ears, raisins for the eyes and spring onion for the tails.
GOUJONS OF FISH
Prep time 20 minutes; Cooking 3 to 4 minutes; Makes 6 to 8 portions
Half pound skinless sole or flounder fillets
One and a half cups Rice Krispies
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 (quarter) tsp paprika
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
2 tbsp plain flour
2–3 tbsp canola oil, for frying
salt and pepper, to season
For the Lemon mayo dip
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp lemon juice
A pinch of salt to season
Cut the fish into little finger-sized pieces. Cover and set aside in the fridge. Put the Rice Krispies, Parmesan and paprika in a food processor, and whiz to fine crumbs. Transfer to a plate and stir in salt and pepper to taste and the sesame seeds (if using). Beat the egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Spread the flour out on a separate plate.
Toss three or four of the fish pieces in the flour then dunk in the egg and roll in the Krispie crumbs until well coated. Sit on a clean plate and continue with remaining fish. Cook immediately or freeze according to the instructions below.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the fish fingers. Fry for 1 1/2 –2 minutes each side, until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and cool slightly before serving.
To make the dip, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. If you like you can season the dip to taste with a pinch of salt.
To freeze, lay the uncooked fish fingers on a baking sheet lined with cling film. Cover with cling film and freeze around 2 hours, until firm. Transfer to re-sealable plastic bags and cook as above, direct from frozen (the cooking time is the same). Not suitable for reheating. Dips area good way to encourage healthy eating. Serve with sticks of carritm pepper, celery as well as toasted pitta slices.
MUMMY'S POT NOODLE
Preparation time 10 minutes; Cooking time 5 minutes
Always popular with kids, but the one’s you buy are really high in salt. It only takes a few minutes to make one of your own! It’s fun to serve them in a cup, a bit like pot noodle.
70g (2 ∏ oz) fine Chinese-style dried egg noodles or use straight-to-wok fine thread noodles
125ml (4 fl oz) chicken stock
1 ∏ tsp dark soy sauce
1 small onion, chopped
25g (1 oz) frozen peas
35g (1 ∏ oz) drained canned or frozen sweetcorn
50g (2 oz) cooked chicken, shredded
∏ tsp cornflour
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions (or use pre-cooked noodles). Drain and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil and sauté the onion until softened. Put the stock, soy sauce, peas, sweetcorn and chicken in a pan over a medium heat Add the sautéed onion with the noodles and reheat biefly , stirring. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
In a small cup, mix the cornflour with 1 teaspoon of cold water and add the contents of the pan then cook, stirring, for a further minute until the liquid thickens slightly. Add the noodles and reheat briefly, stirring. Transfer to a bowl and serve.