Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Rice and Easy

Dedicating a few days to the subject of easy and healthy food for your children, I have delved into my brain to recover a few tried and tested recipes that are sure winners. Like all new food to the amateur taste buds, if at first you don't succeed, first of all ensure that you are cooking it as yummy as can be. Then encourage without showing any disappointment. Then freeze it for another day of trying. It usually takes anything from 1-5 shots at it but I am yet to fail, so you can succeed in exactly the same manner.

In the early days of cooking for Cerys, I was quick to get annoyed if she winced or protested. I was and still am so dedicated to her growing up with no food phobias that it almost became a problem for me. Any failures I took personally. This, I can guarantee, is the wrong attitude to take. I quickly learned to hide this disappointment and realise how fantastic this little person was to be trying my concoctions at such a young age. Nowadays I glow with pride no matter what she is doing, whether it a firm 'NO!' or a satisfying 'Mmmmmm...'. Without sounding brazened, it is usually the latter. Simple encouragement, varied food and of course well cooked food have ensured this and anybody can do it using these techniques.

This recipe I have called a risotto but of course it isn't, I simply prefer the term risotto to plain rice. And if your little one can say, 'risotto' before they can say 'potty', I'm pretty sure you will be the proudest parent in the world. Using plain brown rice rather than Arborio or similar risotto grains, it is cooked slowly with the rest of the ingredients. It makes a very tasty and again, a very easy one pot meal that the whole family can enjoy. If you prefer to use risotto rice, go for it. I just want to get them whole grains in now and again. The peas are optional but if you have a pea obsessive in your little one like I do, it always helps.

Give it a go, it is a really lovely dish and it just may get you and your kids onto a path to healthy eating.

Tuna, Apple and Fennel Risotto
To feed 2 adults and 1 child
2x Pieces of fresh tuna loin
1x Fennel bulb
2x Large eating apples of choice
2x Garlic cloves
250g brown rice
500ml Vegetable stock (you can use a decent instant such as Swiss Marigold for ease)
Fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas (optional)

1 - Finely chop the fennel and garlic. Soften but do not colour in the olive oil in a large pan.
2 - Add the rice and stir until coated. Pour in the hot stock, stir once and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover.
3 - Chop the tuna and apple into 1cm cubes. After 15 minutes of simmering, put the tuna and apple into the rice and stir, cook for a further 15 minutes (or check the rice packet if longer). Keep checking to ensure the pan has not dried out.
4 - Once cooked, stir in finely chopped fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmesan. Check for seasoning but be very steady with salt as the Parmesan should have enough. A couple of handfuls of frozen peas at this point adds colour and texture and for your little pea addicts.

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