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Keep little ones smiling all summer long with these tasty ideas from food writer, magazine editor and all-round superwoman Donna Hay

“My latest book takes tried and true classic recipes, then adds variations: the perfect way for kids to grow their cooking skills”


“Many of my happiest memories are food-related: baking cakes with my grandmother, or picking herbs from her vegetable garden. These days, we’re all so time-poor, I think people have forgotten how great it is to teach kids to cook from scratch. I know a lot of parents who struggle with fussy eaters, and I’m a firm believer in teaching children about fresh, healthy food from an early age – that way, you set them up for a lifetime of positive eating habits.

“I’ve always loved cooking with my two boys. Whether they’re washing vegetables, whisking eggs or just watching you make dinner, being in the kitchen helps them feel more confident. Take kids shopping and let them pick the fruits and vegetables you want to cook with – they’ll be much more likely to try something new if they’ve had an input. As they grow up, give them a say in what’s in their lunchbox. And if children fuss over a certain food, don’t worry about it – odds are, they’ll change their minds when they’re older.

“A few tricks can really help you out when it comes to cooking for kids. On Sundays, I make batches of healthy muffins or cauliflower mac’n’cheese to freeze for the week ahead. And I keep the fridge stocked with fresh produce for quick, healthy dinners, like frittata. To pack more vegetables into their food, try adding grated courgette or beetroot to meatballs, and serve sweet potatoes alongside fish or meat. Or try a family ‘pizza night’: get the whole family to help spread wholemeal tortilla wraps with tomato sauce and fresh veg, then simply bake in the oven. For dessert, whizzed-up frozen bananas and yoghurt or homemade ice lollies made from fresh fruit and coconut water are a great alternative to ice cream. Get the kids to help you, and they’ll always be more likely to eat what you’ve made.”

Recipes from ‘Basics to Brilliance Kids’ by Donna Hay, published by Fourth Estate

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Nacho bowls

“I love reinventing classic recipes with a simple twist. In this fun take on chilli con carne, the edible bowl makes it interesting, especially for little ones.”

Serves 4

6 20cm wholemeal tortillas
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
90g cheddar cheese, grated
1 avocado, peeled and chopped

For the nacho filling
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
80g courgette, finely grated
140g carrot or butternut squash, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp smoked paprika
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
180ml passata
400g tin of black beans
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4. Arrange 4 tall ramekins or ovenproof mugs upside-down on a baking tray. Using a pastry brush, brush 4 of the tortillas with oil and place them, oil side down, over the ramekins. Set aside.

Line a baking tray with non-stick paper. Brush the remaining 2 tortillas with oil and place them flat, with oil side facing up, on the prepared tray.

Bake all the tortillas for 8 minutes, or until they’re nice and brown. Carefully remove the trays from the oven and allow to cool and crisp up.

To make the nacho filling, place the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, courgette and carrot or butternut squash and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes, until the onion is brown and softened.

Add the spices and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, passata and beans and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes, until thickened. Add the maple syrup, then season and stir to combine.

Slice or break the flat tortillas into crispy dipping chips. Take the tortillas out of the ramekins and flip them over to make nacho bowls. Spoon the nacho filling into the bowls and top with the cheese and avocado. Break pieces of your bowl and scoop up the filling. Serve the flat tortillas alongside, as crispy dipping chips.


Strawberry and cream
yoghurt panna cottas

“Panna cotta might sound tricky, but I promise this is super easy to make. My version swaps out cream for yoghurt, making it a healthier sweet treat.”

Serves 6

420g natural Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp warm water
1½ tsp powdered gelatine
250g strawberries, green tops removed, halved
2 tsp vanilla extract
60ml maple syrup
250ml milk
Strawberries, yoghurt and maple syrup, to serve

Remove the yoghurt from the fridge and set it aside to take off the chill.

Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until all the gelatine has been absorbed.

Place the yoghurt, strawberries, vanilla and maple syrup in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place the milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk, for about 2 minutes, or until little bubbles start to appear (don’t let the milk come all the way to the boil). Remove from the heat, add the gelatine mixture and whisk for about 1 minute, or until totally combined. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Carefully pour the cooled milk mixture into the blender with the yoghurt and blend for 10 seconds, just to combine. Divide between 6 180ml serving glasses and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until set.

Remove the panna cottas from the fridge just before serving and top each with some extra strawberries, a spoonful of yoghurt and a little maple syrup.


Coconut popsicles

“These creamy popsicles are dairy-free, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup. Start with the basic recipe, then switch up the flavour by adding other ingredients, such as fresh raspberries or grated dark chocolate.”

Serves 6-8

1 400ml tin of coconut milk
80ml maple syrup

Place the coconut milk and maple syrup in a medium jug and whisk well to combine.

Divide the mixture between 6 80ml lolly moulds.

Insert the lolly sticks and freeze for 3 hours, until solid.

To make pineapple-lime pops, place the coconut milk and maple syrup into a blender instead of a jug. Add 225g chopped fresh pineapple, 1 tbsp lime juice, and 1 tsp finely grated lime zest. Blend, then divide between 6-8 lolly moulds. Insert the sticks and freeze until solid.

To make raspberry-coconut pops, tear 125g raspberries in half and divide between 6-8 lolly moulds, scattering them into the bottom. Make the coconut lollies as per this recipe, then pour over the raspberries. Insert the sticks and freeze until solid.

To make choc-coconut pops, whisk 100g finely grated dark chocolate into the basic coconut popsicle mixture. Divide between 6-8 lolly moulds. Insert the sticks and freeze until solid.

Photographer: Chris Court / Portrait photographer: William Meppem / Editor: Heather Taylor

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