Anyone with children will know that when it comes to eating, fuss is often high on the menu. As a parent you want your child to have a healthy, nutritious and tasty diet, but persuading them it is a good idea is a different matter.
If your child throws a tantrum when presented with a dish which has traces of visible onions or green bits, you can create recipes in which the vegetables are blended in so that they disappear. These include a hidden vegetable tomato sauce for pasta or a creamy tomato soup made with carrots and onions. You can also hide vegetables in other popular dishes like wraps, enchiladas or lasagne, or hide vegetables under grated cheese on a pizza. And if your child is on to you, you can double bluff by leaving a few chunky vegetables in the sauce for him to pick out, then he’ll never suspect there are still some remaining.
You can also make tasty mini-veggie burgers with grated carrot, leek, mushrooms, gruyere, soy sauce and thyme. And some children prefer their veggies raw, so carrot, sweet pepper and cucumber sticks with some hummus would make a nutritious snack.
Another idea that was popular with my three children when they were little was to make a vegetable stir fry with noodles and let them eat this with children-friendly chopsticks that are joined at the top. Frozen vegetables are good too — they are often more nutritious than fresh as they are frozen within hours of being picked. Frozen peas, sweetcorn and spinach make good standbys.
This hidden vegetable bolognese makes a tasty meal for the whole family. The apple is an unusual ingredient but adds a hint of sweetness that children enjoy.
Preparation: 15 minutes. Cooking: 1 hour. Makes 8 portions. Suitable for freezing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, thinly sliced
½ stick celery, diced
¼ small red pepper, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
½ eating apple, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
450g (1lb) minced beef
4 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
250ml (9fl oz) beef stock (I use a Telma stock cube)
¼ tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the vegetables, apple and garlic for 10 minutes until soft.
Transfer to a blender and add the tomatoes, then whiz until smooth.
Wipe out the pan with a piece of kitchen paper, then add the mince and fry over a medium-high heat, breaking the mince up with a wooden spoon, until browned (you may need to do this in two batches). If your child likes a finer texture you can transfer the browned mince to the food processor and whiz for a few seconds.
Add the tomato and vegetable sauce to the mince and stir in the tomato purée, ketchup, stock, and oregano. l Bring to a simmer and cook for 40–45 minutes until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.