It shouldn’t be hard to encourage children to help when it comes to making meals. If it’s less of a ‘project’ and more of a fun thing that just happens – like picking a recipe, getting the ingredients out and making something for everyone – it can be something children love. Making food an activity they are included in – from picking out fruit in the shop to helping to peel veg from an early age – will make it feel like less of a gear change, and more like something they want to be involved in. As far as knives and chopping go, try giving them a safe kit from Opinel and they’ll be able to peel and chop things from about the age of three or four.
The best way to incorporate vegetables into meals is all about how you deliver it and mixing it up. Having a bowl of chopped veg on the table first, as you get lunch or supper ready, means they’ll be hungry and ready to munch on stuff without being forced. Fritters, bhajis and spiralised strings of veg added to pasta are all great ways to add different formats of the same veg, and a crispy mouthful of a fritter is a very different proposition to a boiled, soggy side of veg on a plate. Adding veg to smoothies also works so well – frozen cauliflower is a particular stealth hit.
When it comes to fail-safe recipes for easy family suppers my sweet potato bhajis are a 15-minute favourite with most people. I always have a fridge full of things I’m getting to the end of, so wraps, tortillas and tacos are a staple – everyone chooses their fillings (such as peppers, avocado, carrot and fried halloumi), we all chop them and put into bowls, and then everyone assembles their own. Stress free and fast.
Lockdown is definitely hitting us harder this time round. With three not-so-young children and both parents working full time, we have definitely not been learning Mandarin or baking sourdough every day – getting everyone outside before dark has been challenging enough. We’ve tried to give all three children a 20-minute run round the local park every morning before they start lessons and we’ve noticed how that impacts the rest of the day – especially when it comes to how easily they fall asleep. My natural remedy Be Sleepy has also been a huge help in unwinding and relaxing them in the evening, and we’ve been blown away by the thousands of happy families getting better sleep too. The natural melatonin really supports the body’s circadian rhythms that have been turned upside down at the moment.
We’re all cooking more, but not always with more time. Writing a weekly plan is always a pain to think about, but it gives you back so much headspace in the week, it’s worth every second. Batch-cooking is always a great way to steal time, too – make a double batch of a pot of chilli, ragu or stew over the weekend, and then freeze double portions, and have some in the fridge for the week.
Make use of certain hacks such as chopping veg and freezing it, and have carrots, cucumber and peppers prepped in containers of water in the fridge, so they keep for longer and are ready to go. If you want smoothies at the ready, you can put the ingredients into portions in the freezer and just add milk as it goes into the blender.
We’re all getting better at lowering our expectations generally, and food has to be part of this for now. I definitely don’t make every meal, and there are plenty of shortcuts going on. We’ve had a much-prized weekly delivery of pastas and sauces, which is similar to a ready meal. Frozen fish fingers get an outing most weeks, too. And I adore the meal kits the hospitality sector has been creating – beautiful burgers, egg and bacon butties etc. Generally speaking, though, I don’t really buy meals to go, as I’m just too greedy. I know they won’t taste as good as a cheese toastie we can put together in five minutes back at home.
Inspired? Here are six of Lizzie’s recipes to try at home…