Neven Maguire joins Marian to talk about healthier alternatives to fast food and his new book: "The Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook".
Bento boxes, which originate from Japan, are suddenly all the rage. Cuteness is the name of the game in the current trend of making bento lunches: food is often shaped into animals, flowers or cartoon characters. Although these adorable feasts tend to take a bit longer than a regular packed lunch, your child’s reaction will be worth it. Whether you decide to go super cool or not, you’ll need to purchase a bento box, which are now readily available in supermarkets and department stores.
Choose at least one option from each group:
Mandarin orange segments
Cubes of chicken
Chunks of their favourite cheese
Rolls of ham
Canned tuna flakes
Shredded cooked turkey
Pasta with tomato dipping saucepot
Mini pitta pockets
Slices of cucumber
Raw sugar snap peas or mangetout
Handful of sweetcorn
A few cherry tomatoes
Creamy Chicken Korma
The spicing in this korma is absolutely authentic, so it won’t resemble the formula restaurant version. Apparently it is traditionally the emperor’s favourite and it’s now one of mine too. In India it would be garnished with fresh rose petals, but for me it needs nothing more than a scattering of fresh coriander leaves.
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chilli, seeded and finely
2 tsp finely grated root ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp chilli powder
400g (14oz) can
2 tbsp mango chutney, plus extra to serve
1 tsp tomato purée 400g (14oz) can coconut milk 4 x 175g (6oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes sea salt and freshly ground black pepper steamed basmati rice, to serve handful of fresh coriander leaves, to garnish warmed naan bread or green chilli and coriander flatbreads
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onions and garlic for 6–8 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the green chilli, if using, and the ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add the garam masala to the pan with the turmeric, chilli powder and a pinch of salt and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the tomatoes, chutney, tomato purée and 4 tablespoons of water. Stir well to combine, then bring to a fast simmer for 5 minutes, until the sauce is so well reduced that it is almost sticking to the bottom of the pan, stirring occasionally.
Stir the coconut milk into the pan and then stir in the chicken.
Slowly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10–15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and completely tender. Season to taste.
To serve, arrange the basmati rice and chicken korma on warmed plates and scatter over the coriander leaves to garnish. Place the naan or green chilli and coriander flatbreads in a separate dish to pass around at the table along with the mango chutney.
12 dried Chinese mushrooms
2 heaped tbsp Chinese dried shrimps
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
225g (8oz) rice noodles
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
1 tbsp Madras curry powder (hot)
good pinch of salt
100g (4oz) cooked skinless chicken or pork fillet,
100g (4oz) cooked peeled prawns, chopped
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
This is one of those dishes that is worth taking a trip to the Asian supermarket for, where you’ll find Chinese dried mushrooms and shrimps, not to mention a fantastic range of rice noodles to choose from. The finished result will taste better than any Chinese takeaway. If you can’t get them, use fresh shiitake mushrooms instead of dried ones and add in a few more fresh prawns.
Place the dried mushrooms and shrimps in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes to soak. Drain the liquid, reserving 2 tablespoons, and place in a bowl with the soy sauce and sherry. Set aside until needed. Squeeze out the excess moisture from the mushrooms and chop into fine shreds.
Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large bowl, cover them with warm water and leave them to soak for 15 minutes, then drain well in a colander.
Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan until very hot. Add the onion, garlic and ginger along with the shredded mushrooms and drained shrimps. Sauté for 5–6 minutes, until completely softened and all of the flavours have nicely combined.
Stir the curry powder and a pinch of salt into the onion mixture.
Cook for another minute, stirring. Tip in the chicken or pork, prawns and spring onions, stirring quickly to combine. Add the drained noodles, then, using either a large fork or some chopsticks, toss the ingredients around so that everything is well combined.
Sprinkle the reserved mushroom and soy sauce mixture over the Singapore noodles, give everything a good stir and put into a wide-necked flask. Pack with chopsticks.
Sizzling Beef with Black Beans and Broccoli
If you don’t want to use purple sprouting broccoli, try long-stemmed broccoli, or even asparagus would work well. All will give an excellent crunch to this dish, which is far superior to anything you would order from a takeaway.
450g (1lb) beef fillet
350g (12oz) purple
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp Chinese black beans,
2 tsp finely chopped root ginger
3 tbsp chicken stock
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
steamed rice, to serve
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the beef into thin slices, then place in a bowl. Make the marinade with the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour. Season to taste and mix well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to combine.
Meanwhile, trim down the broccoli and cut into 7.5cm (3in) pieces on the diagonal and set aside until needed.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot. Add the oil and swirl it around until it’s very hot and slightly smoking. Tip in the beef from the marinade and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.
Tip the onion into the wok with the garlic, black beans and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for another minute. Add the stock, rice wine and sugar and season to taste.
Continue to stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until the broccoli is slightly tender.
Quickly return the beef to the wok, add the oyster sauce and stir well to combine. Place on warmed plates with some steamed rice to serve.
Crispy Butter Milk Chicken with Celeriac Slaw
2 x 200g (7oz) skinless chicken fillets
300ml (½ pint) buttermilk 2 tsp salt
50g (2oz) butter, plus extra for greasing
100g (4oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
40g (1½oz) freshly grated Parmesan
4 large slices chargrilled sourdough bread, to serve
snipped fresh chives, to garnish tomato or chilli relish, to serve
CELERIAC SLAW :
1 small celeriac (about 675g (1½lb) in total)
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp snipped fresh chives 2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp maple syrup 2 tsp dijon mustard 1 tsp cider vinegar
120ml (4fl oz) mayonnaise sea salt and freshly ground
Putting chicken in buttermilk is a wonderful way to quickly tenderise it and make the flesh much more succulent. If you had the time you could leave it in the buttermilk overnight, but 15 minutes at room temperature really does make a difference.
Cut each chicken fillet in half into 2 thin escalopes. Place on a chopping board, put a piece of non-stick parchment paper on top of each one and quickly flatten out with a rolling pin to about 1cm (½in) thick. Place the buttermilk and salt in a bowl and add the chicken. Set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes to allow the buttermilk to tenderise the chicken, or place in the fridge overnight if you have the time.
Meanwhile, to make the celeriac slaw, peel the celeriac and then cut into julienne on a mandolin. Whisk the parsley, chives, buttermilk, maple syrup, mustard and vinegar into the mayonnaise and then fold in the celeriac. Season to taste.
Preheat the grill to high. Melt the butter in a small pan or in the microwave, then tip into a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan and season to taste, then mix well to combine. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade, gently shaking off any excess. Place on a greased baking sheet and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Grill for 4–5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the crumbs are golden.
Arrange the celeriac slaw on the chargrilled sourdough on warmed plates. Top with the crispy buttermilk chicken and scatter over the chives. Serve at once with small dishes of tomato or chilli relish for dipping.
FISH FOOTBALLS WITH MINTY YOGHURT DIP
It is important to introduce babies to fish at a young age and these freeze brilliantly. My twins absolutely loved these football-shaped fish cakes as they were able to pick them up and eat them all by themselves.
A dip made from some natural yoghurt mixed with a little mint makes a nice accompaniment. Makes about 50 small footballs
200g salmon fillet
200g frozen diced
vegetables (to include
sweetcorn and carrots)
450g leftover mashed
3 spring onions, finely
4 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
100g dried white
olive oil, for cooking
lime wedges, to serve
MINTY YOGHURT DIP:
150g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
Place the salmon in a saucepan with the milk, cover and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes to finish cooking, then remove the fish and break up the flesh into rough flakes, discarding any skin and bones.
Cook the frozen mixed vegetables in a saucepan of boiling water over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes, until tender, or according to the packet instructions. Drain and tip into a bowl. Add the poached salmon, mashed potatoes and spring onions.
Take walnut-sized spoonfuls of the mixture and shape into balls. Dust with flour, dip in the egg and roll in breadcrumbs. If you don’t intend to use the fish footballs immediately, flash freeze them on solid baking sheets, then pop into freezer bags for long-term storage.
Heat some sunflower oil in a non-stick saucepan and deep-fry the footballs in batches for 2–3 minutes, or 6–8 minutes if cooking from frozen. Of course you can shallow fry them, but they will not keep their round shape as well.
To make the minty yoghurt dip, stir the mint into the yoghurt. Drain the footballs well on kitchen paper and arrange on plates with small dipping bowls of the minty yoghurt and lime wedges, if using, to serve.
FRESH FRUIT ICE LOLLIES
These are perfect for when your child is teething, as they are very soothing on sore gums, which might put your baby off their food for a while. If you don’t want to go to the bother of making these – although they literally take just a few minutes – try using ready-made fruit smoothies or fresh juices straight from the carton. Just make sure to check that there are no added sugars or preservatives.
Makes 4 ice lollies.
WATER MELON AND RASPBERRY LOLLIES
Cut the flesh from the watermelon and remove the seeds. Place in a food processor or blender with the raspberries. Blend until smooth, then strain through a sieve into a large jug. Pour into ice lolly moulds and freeze for at least 4 hours. To remove lollies from moulds, dip them briefly into hot water to loosen the lollies. Use as required.
TROPICAL MANGO LOLLIES
2 ripe medium mangoes
juice of 2 limes
Peel the mangos and cut the flesh off the stone. Place in a food processor or blender with the lime juice, then blitz until smooth. Finish as described above.
BLACKBERRY AND ORANGE LOLLIES
juice of 2 oranges
Place the blackberries in a food processor or blender with the orange juice. Blend until smooth, then press through a sieve into a large jug. Finish as described above.
FRUITY CHICKEN CURRY
This is an excellent curry to introduce your child to spices, as it’s very mild. Children love the combination of chicken and fruit, so it’s bound to be a hit. If you’re going to freeze it into portions, omit the diced apple, as it will discolour.
Serves 2 plus toddler (makes 6 portions)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp korma curry powder or paste
2 skinless chicken fillets or 4 chicken thighs, cut into small bite-sized pieces
3 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp raisins
150ml homemade chicken stock (page 90) or cold water
1 tbsp mango chutney
150ml natural yoghurt
cooked brown basmati rice, to serve
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and diced
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until completely softened and lightly coloured. Stir in the curry paste and cook for another minute or so, stirring.
Increase the heat, add the chicken to the pan and stir-fry until it’s sealed on all sides. Reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10–15 minutes, until the chicken is completely tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir the almonds and raisins into the chicken. Cover and cook for another 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock or water with the mango chutney and stir into the pan, then bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Stir in the yoghurt and simmer for another few minutes to allow the flavours to combine.
Spoon some rice onto your child’s plate and add a couple of spoons of the fruity chicken curry, then scatter some diced apple on top.
The remainder can be used for two adults or frozen into individual containers to be used at a later date.