Saturday, September 29, 2007

Meals for Picky Eaters

Today I am including recipes which might suit children, teenagers, and possibly even older folks who won't touch certain foods even though should because they are very good for them. It often helps to name a dish in a certain way such as Bart Simpson's Super Soup (or in Grandma's case: The Queen Mum's Favourite Soup) Let whoever you are cooking for believe their idol actually has eaten it, and they almost certainly will give it a go.

Sunshine Soup: (F) (V)
1 oz (25g) butter
1 lb (450g) carrots, chopped or grated
1 medium potato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 pints (1.2 litres) vegetable (or chicken) stock
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, grated
5 fl.oz (150ml) milk
Melt the butter in a pan and add the carrots, potato and onion. Fry for about 10 minutes until the onion has softened. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, partly cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat and pour into a blender or food processor (or use one of those electric wand mixers you can use in a saucepan) and blitz until a smooth puree. Add the cheese and blitz again. Reheat adding milk (cream is even nicer), and let them add their own seasoning. Serve with whatever they like best: buttered toast, crusty bread rolls, breadsticks or croutons.
Tip: This is the type of soup where you could include just a little of another vegetable such as butternut squash, or parsnip. Even blitz in cooked yellow peppers as they are quite sweet (most children like to eat anything sweet). If you prefer to omit the grated cheese, you could blitz in some cream cheese.

Tuna Fingers or Balls: (F)
1 x 200g can tuna in oil
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 large egg, beaten
oil for frying
Tip the tuna, together with its oil, into a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, cheese and egg. Mix everthing well together. Either form into 12 balls, the size of pingpong balls, or make 6 -8 larger ones and form into fish-finger shape. Chill (or freeze) until ready to cook.
Heat 2 tblsp oil in a pan and fry the chilled shapes for 8 - 10 minutes (allow longer if from frozen), turning often. They need to be golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm until the rest of the dish (which should be whatever they like to eat) is ready.
Tip: use canned salmon AND tuna together if you wish, include any bones as these are packed with calcium and grind down to nothing anyway. Herbs add extra flavour. So does tomato ketchup which can be served with the meal or some incorporated into the mixture.

Not normally recommended, but favourite crisps crushed and used with egg to coat fish balls, fish cakes, chicken or what you will (as you would use egg and crumbs) will often get picky eaters gobbling up whatever they cover. Once they accept what they have eaten, use less crisps and more crumbs next time, and eventually you can leave out the crisps altogether.

Beckham's Burgers: makes 8 (F)
Full of healthy ingredients, start by incorporating very small amounts of any that are disliked, then increase slowly each time you make them. By using more of the ingredients they DO like, the less favourite ones can usually be disguised.
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) porridge oats
1 lb (450g) fresh turkey or chicken mince
3 oz (75g) no-soak apricots, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 egg, beaten
Heat 1 tbslp oil in a pan and fry the onion for five minutes, stir in the oats and fry two minutes longer. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool. Add the rest of the ingredients and using hands, mix together well. For a smoother texture blitz them all together in a food processor. Season to taste and form into 8 patties. They can be frozen at this point, thaw before cooking. But see tip below).Heat the remaining oil in a pan and brown the burgers on each side (3 - 4 minutes) then transfer to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15 minutes longer at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Serve in baps with favourite toppings: fried onions, pickle, cucumber slices, salad...
Tip: Quite a few things can be added to burgers without them being noticed. Grated cooked beetroot is another good addition and if blitzed with the turkey or chicken will colour it to look more like beef, the flavour will be hardly noticed. (If using thawed frozen mince to make the burgers DO NOT refreeze).

Sweet 'n Spiced Your Choice: serves 4
This dish is made with chicken wings, but - as the name suggests - you can choose another main ingredient. Could be chicken fillets, sausages (best split lengthways), even baby burgers, and a good way to introduce meat substitutes to youngsters.
4 tblsp runny honey
4 fl.oz (125ml) soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (opt)
small piece of ginger, peeled and grated*
6 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
16 - 20 chicken wings (or your choice)
Mix together the honey, soy, garlic, ginger and chilli sauce. Put the chicken wings into a roasting dish and pour over the dressing. Leave to marinate for an hour, preferably overnight in the fridge, turning and basting from time to time. Cook in the oven 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 minutes, again turning and basting. Cook until crispy and browned. Serve with a favourite salad.
Tip: * Keep root ginger in the freezer and grate it from frozen. The peel usually keeps on the top side of the grater so you may not need to remove it first.

Subs for Students: serves 2
2 sub rolls or 1 ciabatta
1 tblsp mayo or horseradish sauce
1 small (pref. sweet or red) onion, finely sliced
1 tblsp sunflower oil
thinly sliced cooked roast beef*
thinly sliced tomato
grated cheese
salad leaves (pref. watercress)
Split the rolls or the ciabatta down the middle (leaving one side just attached) and spread the cut sides with mayo or horseradish. Heat half the oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft and tender (10 minutes) or longer if you want it crisp. Drain and set aside. Put some salad leaves on the base of the sub, top this with grated cheese, cover this with the tomatos, then the beef and finally top that with the onion. Add more salad on the top of that if there is room. Close the subs and start eating. If using one ciabatta loaf, once filled, cut this in half to share.
Note: * It doesn't have to be roast beef (unless home-cooked this will be expensive), use instead thin slices of corned beef, or those wafer thin slices of ham or chicken. Or even cooked and split (lengthways) sausages or those ready-to-eat thin slices of chorizo/pepperami.

Join the Club: serves 1 (V)
This American club sandwich can be filled with favourites, tucking in a few 'extras' (if you know what I mean). We all know the BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato), but here is a veggie version which of course, can be adapted to suit.
3 slices bread (preferably granary)
2 dessp. hummous
1 handful watercress (or rocket)
1 carrot, grated
lemon juice
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 oz (25g) cheddar cheese, grated
1 tblsp olive oil
Mix together the watercress, carrot, and oil with a squeeze of lemon juice. Toast the bread and spread the hummous on each slice. Top one slice with the cress mixture, lay over the second slice of toast and top with with the tomatoes and grated cheese. Cover with the final slice of toast, hummous side down. Press down and eat as-is or cut across diagonally. If serving to adults, you can spear the diagonals with a cocktail stick to keep the layers in place.
Tip: Instead of hummous you could use peanut butter, or mayo. Or - if you want something a bit upmarket - introduce cooked prawns and cucumber with a guacamole spread.

Nutty Nibbles:
Whisk together equal amounts of olive oil and honey, season with a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of spice according to taste: cayenne, paprika, or chilli. Pour this over a bowl of mixed unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts etc), stir so the nuts are all coated, then roast in the oven 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10-15 minutes, stirring and turning halfway through. When golden leave to cool before serving.
Tip: include some of the larger seeds as well - the sunflower, pumpkin etc. as they will look like small nuts anyway. Best coat the seeds separately as they need adding halfway through the cooking stage to prevent burning.

Of course I cannot finish without including a cake recipe. One that is full of goodness, and - as ever - add a few more bit and pieces (nudge, nudge, know what I mean!). The nuts are optional and again can be what you have rather than going out to buy what it says.
Apricot, Nut and Chocolate Loaf: cuts into 12 slices (F)
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, chopped
5 fl.oz (150ml) orange juice, pref fresh
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
3 tblsp milk
2 oz (50g) chocolate chips or grated chocolate
3 oz (75g) pecan or walnut halves
icing sugar for dusting
Butter and line the base of a 2 lb (1.2ltr) loaf tin, it helps to butter and flour the sides as well. Put the prepared apricots in a small pan with the orange juice and simmer for five minutes. Cool. Into a bowl put the butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, flour and the milk and beat until smooth (this part can be done in a food processor if you wish). Into this mixture stir in the chocolate and two-thirds of the nuts (these can be chopped if you wish) and finally stir in the apricots with their liquid. Mix well then pour into the loaf tin, smoothing the top. Scatter over the remaining nuts and bake for 50-60 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until firm and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to stand in the tin for 5 or so minutes before turning out onto a cake airer. Dust with icing sugar. When completely cold wrap tightly in foil. It will then keep moist for up to a week. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Tip: If using the juice from an orange, grate the zest and add this to the mixture along with the sugar, eggs etc. If no ground almonds then substitute with plain flour (the gr.almonds have no raising agent), but the end result may not stay moist as long. If the cake is wolfed down (as it surely will be) next time you make it use half apricots and half prunes.

A final Tip: when making a dark cake, such as chocolate brownies or a fruit loaf, blitz a couple or so (stoned) prunes into a puree and mix these into the cake batter. They will make the cake darker, more succulent and will almost certainly not be noticed.