14 July 2010

Books, books and more books: food for kids

I got sent a cookbook from the nice people at Little Dish the other day. I have to confess, I'd not heard about them before, probably because (a) M has long since left the days of toddlerdom behind at the grand old age of almost 5 and (b) I've never really gone down the route of ready meals, either for children or grown ups (although fruit purees have been a good lunchbox standby for a long time).

But I'm very glad they did send me the book - the Little Dish Favourites Cookbook - because it's one of the best children's cookbooks I've read for a while. It's that rare beast - a cookbook that has
  • recipes aimed at kids, which the whole family will enjoy
  • recipes that kids can help to make, that aren't just fairy cakes or chocolate cornflakes
The book doesn't have huge numbers of recipes - there's just over 60 - but the ones it does have are simple and easy to understand. Most importantly of all, they're the sort of easy, comforting food that it's a pleasure to make at the end of a long day of chasing about. There's some nice purees and things for early eaters, although if you want an enormous range of combinations you really need the guru herself, Annabel Karmel.

But then there's a whole section on family food - and here's where it scores really highly with me. I'm passionate about the whole family eating together (we do this every day with M - although I realise that we have it fairly easy just dealing with one child, rather than two or more). There's everything from staple Italian favourites like lasagne or meatballs, to some good vegetarian ideas like green pie. I like the way that each recipe tells you how many children/adults/family members it serves - and a lot of the recipes are easy enough that you can really get kids involved in cooking them.

The design's good - although I suspect that some people will find the lack of pictures of the food disconcerting (it doesn't bother me, but then I cook a lot, and have a fair idea of what things should look like at each stage). I do like the fact that it's a very user-friendly book - as well as a decent index, there's a great recipe planner at the back, which divides dishes up into:
  • simple, straightforward, slight degree of complexity
  • make ahead
  • freezes well
  • child participation
  • meal matchers (recipes that go well together)
All in all, it's a great book - and would make a good gift.

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