Child-friendly recipes to teach your kids about making simple meals and healthy eating. Fun and educational.
Chef Yiannis Baxevanis, recently in town for the Taste of Dubai culinary event, introduces five healthy dishes to please pint-size picky eaters – so simple that kids can join in making them.
Are your mealtimes at home more like a recipe for disaster than success? Picky eaters ca=n often kick up a fuss at the dinner table, but it’s a problem that can be avoided if we take the time to educate children about food, says Yiannis Baxevanis. This award-winning chef hails from Athens, Greece, but looks after proceedings at the recently-opened Elia restaurant at the Majestic Hotel in Bur Dubai. Baxevanis has worked on his theories behind food for children for many years – a range of ideas to get kids into healthy eating and try a wider range of dishes.
Back home in Greece, Baxevanis came up with the Little Chef programme – held every weekend at his restaurant for nine-15 year olds. ‘We familiarise children with the culinary world via playful, fun activities that they enjoy and want to be part of,’ he reveals. The theory is that if children are able to see the food, be familiar and even involved with its preparation, then they are more likely to try it.
In town to take part in the Taste of Dubai event – presenting cuisine alongside Gary Rhodes – Baxevanis dropped in on his team at Elia to see how things were shaping up. He visits Dubai once a month for around four days at a time, and it was on his most recent visit that we caught up with him.
We wanted to learn ways to help increase a child’s interest at mealtimes. ‘I don’t make food that specifically targets children,’ he admits as a first rule. ‘Involving them in the whole process of cooking is the way to appeal to them – making cooking an opportunity to have fun, almost like a game. I get the youngsters to participate and enjoy being at the family table, sharing and enjoying the same food as the rest of the family. I try to always introduce new things that they have not encountered before, so that each meal is an exploration of a new taste.’
While some children may list burgers or chicken nuggets as a favourite food, we were a little surprised to hear what was top of the list in this chef’s household. ‘I have somehow managed to make fresh fish and vegetables my children’s favourite,’ says Baxevanis, laughing. But the secret, it seems, has a lot to do with prevention. ‘I never let them have burgers or fried food. And I mean never,’ he adds.
So how can you introduce more of this way of thinking into your own household? Baxevanis has some advice here too. ‘Bring the kids into the kitchen and get them involved,’ he says. ‘Allow them to familiarise themselves with the whole concept of food, recipes and cooking. If it is fun for kids to enter this universe, side by side with their parents in the kitchen, they start to appreciate food and they will learn to enjoy trying different dishes.’
With its huge eating out culture and varied restaurants, where does Baxevanis recommend taking children in Dubai to help broaden their culinary tastes? ‘I would suggest that families look for something simple, open air, authentic and fun, where parents and children can all behave like children.’ And, of course, there’s plenty of opportunity for that in the kitchen at home by trying the following recipes.
Thanks to Elia Greek restaurant, Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai. More info on 04 501 2690, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spinach pie with hand-made pastry
Ingredients For the spinach filling 1kg fresh spinach Fresh dill 100g feta cheese, crumbled Leaves of fresh mint Dash of olive oil Pepper
For the pastry 1kg all-purpose flour Dash of olive oil Water (as needed) Salt and pepper
Method To make the filling, simply put all of the ingredients in a big bowl and mix them up. For the pastry, knead all of the ingredients together until it makes a dough. Let it rest for 15 minutes. With a pin, roll out two thin sheets. Sprinkle a baking tray with olive oil. Place one of the thin sheets on the bottom of the tray. Spoon out the spinach mixture on top of the sheet. Place the second sheet on top of the mixture.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 35 minutes at 180°C.
Ingredients Five fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced One onion, finely diced Mint leaves, finely chopped Parsley leaves, finely chopped All-purpose flour A little baking powder Olive oil Salt and pepper
Method In a deep bowl, place all of the ingredients, except for the flour and baking powder, and leave them aside until their juices run. Then add the flour and baking powder. Mix well and roll into patties. Lightly fry these patties in a frying pan with a little olive oil, at a low to medium heat. Once removed from the frying pan, place on kitchen paper to drain any excess olive oil.
Ingredients 500g fresh hammour Two potatoes One medium-sized leek Two onions Juice of one lemon Salt and pepper
Method Boil the fish in one litre of water for 30 minutes. Once boiled, remove the fish, but keep the broth. Debone the fish and keep it aside. Sauté the vegetables in a big cooking pot and then add the broth gradually. Allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes. A little before the end, add salt, pepper and the lemon juice. Serve in a deep dish and add the fish.
Chicken with pasta
Ingredients One medium chicken, portioned Two onions 10 button mushrooms Two peeled tomatoes Fresh flat leaves of parsley A little star-shaped aniseed Dash of olive oil 500g pasta Water Salt and pepper
Method Lightly sauté the chicken in a frying pan with a little olive oil. In a cooking pot, place all of the other ingredients and sauté lightly. Add the chicken and water, just enough to immerse the chicken. Let it simmer for about an hour. In a separate pot, cook your child’s favorite pasta shape. Once cooked, serve the pasta with the chicken and sauce on top.
Yoghurt mousse with dried fruit caramels
Ingredients For the mousse 600g single cream 100ml fresh milk 200g sugar 60g honey 200g strained yoghurt One-and-a-half large gelatin sheets
For the caramels Skewers Dried apricots, prunes, dates Sugar A little water
Method To make the mousse, place the gelatin in water and ice to soak. In a pot, place the cream and the milk, the sugar and the honey. Place the pot on the flame and stir well. Once the mixture is warm (do not bring to the boil), remove the pot from the flame and let it cool for 10 minutes. Add the gelatin and the yoghurt, and mix well. Fill the bowls with the mixture, and while it is cooling cut the dried fruits into chunks and skewer them. In a frying pan, place sugar and a little water and heat until the sugar caramelises or turns brown. Then take each skewer and dip into the warm caramel. Leave the skewers to cool on a baking sheet. Serve with the set yoghurt mousse.