Chatting at Toddler Group on Friday, the subject turned to food. If you’ve read any of the recipes on this blog, you’ll know I don’t shy away from spicy food – and, thankfully, neither do my kids. It’s one of the things I really love about them – they all travel well, they all sleep well and they’ll eat whatever’s put in front of them. This ability hasn’t sprung fully-formed in each of them, it’s something they’ve learned. And now I pass on my wisdom to you, make of it what you will.
- Don’t serve the kids something different to the grown-ups.
- Eat as a family
- Know what adds (chemical) heat to a recipe
The first is straightforward, even if a bit of common sense is needed – if you’ve a baby that’s weaning, blitz up a portion of whatever it is you’re having and serve that. If you’re having steak and chips, so are they. If you’re having pizza, so are they. Getting started cooking separate meals for the kids is a mug’s game. No-one’s got time for that. See point 3 for further tips if you’re having vindaloo or a five-alarm chilli…
The second is more complicated. Commute times, after school activities, job rotas, they all conspire against making this happen. I’m lucky in that my commute is 7 minutes, tops (but it is from one side of the island to the other!). Even if you can’t all eat together, get one parent to sit down and eat with the kids and make it obvious that the missing parent is having exactly the same, only later.
The third requires a lot of common sense. Kids don’t like things that are hot and spicy, that’s an acquired taste. But things that are just spicy without the heat are great. So dial down the heat. Chillis are an obvious one to substitute for red/green bell peppers. Pepper itself – cayenne, black or white – needs toning down. Cayenne gets substituted for mostly paprika (with just a pinch of cayenne); black or white pepper gets the quantities halved.
If you’re worried that something will be too spicy, just halve all the quantities. Now here’s the clever bit – keep a jar of something you can use to add heat back in. Tabasco sauce, home-made chipotles en adobo, the Swazi Fire chilli sauce from Eswatini, even my favourite braai marinade… Once you’ve served the kids, stir some of this through and give the dish the kick it’s supposed to have. As your kids get older, they’ll want to experiment with the hot stuff – make sure you’ve got plenty of milk or orange juice on hand. Before you know it, you’ll all be on exactly the same.
But what about Masterchef? Where does that come in?
Well, we’ve had vanilla Masterchef, we’ve had The Professionals. We’ve had Australia, South Africa, Ireland and many others. What we haven’t had is The Families. Each week, contestants have to prepare a meal for 2 adults and 5 kids of varying ages (between, say, 2-12). They’ve got a limited budget and time constraints. They’ve also got to make sure the kids have done their homework and got their kit for at least one out-of-school activity ready to go. And they’ve got to make 4 packed lunches for the next day at the same time.
You could have themed nights – rice night, potato night, bread night, chicken night, fish night, vegetarian night, leftover night, oh-bugger-it’s-gone-off-now-what night? Each contestant could have a Joker they could use once in the series and declare they’re having take-out…
Well, I’d watch it.