With young kids and fussy eaters in tow, it can often feel an impossible task to feed the whole family the same meal. Food stylist, writer and mother, Georgina Hayden, shares how she does it with a delicious fish curry for kids, and adults too…
In the early days of weaning I kept things simple by offering Persephone (our now 13 month old daughter) single flavours, letting her try all types of veg and a little fruit here and there. I didn’t want to over-complicate things and wanted her to try everything in its truest form. Some things were a hit, and some weren’t.
I wasn’t shocked that pure puréed spinach received a thumbs down at first. Because let’s be honest, who eats that as an adult? But that’s not the point. It’s all about first tastes when they’re that small and not trying to disguise strong flavours.
I didn’t want to over complicate things and wanted her to try everything in its truest form.
This is a real bugbear of mine with ready-made baby foods. Why do they all add puréed apple or fruit to everything? I am by no means perfect. We all have to rely on ready-bought things now and then, and sometimes there really is no other safe and hygienic way (hello 26-hour plane journey).
But you have to be savvy with these ready-made baby foods because they often love to add a sneaky bit of fruit to sweeten them up. If you add apple to spinach, babies will almost definitely enjoy it that little bit more but aren’t we setting them up for a fall by doing that? Their taste buds are for training, gently. They’ll surprise you with what they’ll eat.
Once we’d given solo flavours a good go, I started getting a bit more adventurous. A little cinnamon here, some coriander there. And she loved it. Continues to love it. Quite quickly it became apparent that Pea likes strong flavours, and actually the thing I’d have to watch more than anything was salt content. Many punchy ingredients, such as olives, tuna and anchovies – all of which she loves – contain a lot of salt, so it’s important to use them sparingly when feeding kids.
Interestingly she likes cod and haddock less so. I don’t think it is because they have less flavour, as I have cooked them with herbs and gentle spices, but she does seem to prefer the texture of oily fish.
I am focusing on fish here, because it is something I am fanatical about. Fish is such a great source of protein, can be inexpensive and if you can get your kids to eat oily fish, then you are laughing. Total brain food. At first I simply baked things like salmon fillets and flaked them up (making sure to be incredibly careful with picking out bones), then I made fishcakes and fish pies which are always a winner. I continue to try to be adventurous with Pea, and if I am honest not everything is a hit but she does enjoy a Thai-style green curry.
You can use any fish you like here, salmon fillets would work well, or even sea bass fillets. If you’d rather use something like cod or haddock, just poach skinless and boneless fish chunks in the sauce, and don’t pan fry it first.
Kid-friendly Thai green fish curry
Serves 2 adults, plus 2 to 4 children
– ½ onion
– 1 garlic clove
– 2cm piece of ginger
– 1 stick of lemongrass
– ½ a bunch of coriander
– 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
– ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
– groundnut or coconut oil
– 4 x 120g fish fillets, such as mackerel or salmon, skin on and bones removed
– 1 x 400ml light coconut milk
– 2 lime leaves (optional)
– 200g greens, such as asparagus, sugar snap peas and tenderstem broccoli
– 200g basmati rice
– 1 lime
– salt and pepper
– 1 fresh chilli or chilli oil, to serve
1. Peel the onion, garlic and ginger and roughly chop. Trim and roughly chop the lemongrass. Place everything in a mini chopper or blender along with the fresh coriander, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Blitz to a paste, adding a couple of tablespoons of oil to loosen.
2. Bring a pan of water to the boil for the rice. Place a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Drizzle in a little oil and fry the fish, skin-side down, for around 6 minutes until golden and crispy. Flip over and fry for a couple more minutes until just cooked through, then transfer carefully to a plate.
3. Turn the heat down a little and spoon the curry paste into the frying pan. Fry for 10 minutes, until starting to soften, adding a splash of water if need be.
4. Add the coconut milk and lime leaves, if using. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, trim and finely slice the greens. Add it all to the pan, returning the fish to the pan also -skin side up – and cook for a further 6 to 8 minutes until the veg is tender. Cook the rice at the same time, for around 10 minutes, and drain.
6. Squeeze a little lime juice in the curry to taste, and serve on the cooked rice for toddlers and kids. Season the adult portions and top with sliced chilli or a little chilli oil. If cooking for a little baby, blitz together the rice and curry with a splash of water at a ratio of ⅓ curry and ⅔ rice, until smooth.