Introduce your children to the jobs of healthy, home-cooked food with these tempting recipes, says Mark Hix.

Feeding the children, sadly, often comes way down the list of priorities in the busy schedules of many parents today. As I said in my first cookbook, Eat Up, one thing that makes mealtimes a lot easier is when parents cook just one meal for everyone in the family (with a bit of tweaking to take the needs of babies into account) – rather than trying to cater for the various needs of different fussy eaters.

Feeding the kids can be fraught with difficulties, but giving them a huge choice of ready meals and frozen convenience food is not the answer, if we want them to learn how to eat healthily and well.

If children knew a little more about food and where it comes from, they would be far more likely to want to eat well. Schools these days are going some way to addressing these problems, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made.

For this special issue, I have chosen four easy-to-prepare recipes which will appeal to both children and their parents, and which hopefully will go some way to providing them with a tasty alternative to junk food.

Breaded cutlets

Serves 4

Children find breadcrumbs hard to resist – if you are roasting a best end of lamb or grilling cutlets, it’s easy to breadcrumb some for the whole family. You can serve a sauce of your choice with these or use the tomato sauce from the recipe overleaf, or simply serve them with lemon.

8 French trimmed lamb cutlets
Flour for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

Have 3 bowls ready, one with the flour, seasoned, one with the beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs. Flatten the cutlets a little with the palm of your hand or a cutlet bat. Pass the cutlets through |the flour, shaking off any excess, then through the egg and finally through |the breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the cutlets for 4-5 minutes on each |side, until golden and crisp, and keeping them a little pink. You can finish them in the oven if you wish.

Broccoli and mozzarella brik

Serves 4

Brik à l’oeuf is a delicious North |African turnover and one of my favourite breakfast dishes, although it often gets served as a starter in Tunisia.

This variation works very well with sprouting or normal broccoli and children invariably fall for the the gooey |mozzarella inside.

Warka pastry is traditionally used |in this dish, but it can be tricky to get |hold of – filo pastry works just as well |and can be bought in ready sheets from any supermarket.

150g sprouting or normal broccoli, cooked
100-150g mozzarella
4 sheets of filo pastry, cut into 30cm squares
Olive oil for frying

Chop up the broccoli and season and break the mozzarella into small pieces.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan, lay a sheet of the filo in the pan, overlapping the edges, and put a quarter of the broccoli and mozzarella |just off the centre of the filo; fold it in half into a triangle.f

Fry for a few minutes until crisp, |then flip it over and fry the other side |until crisp.

Do the same with the other 4 sheets |of filo pastry, keeping them warm in |the oven until they are all cooked. |Serve immediately.

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce

Serves 4

It’s good to get kids used to real flavours, rather than the taste of processed food – and pasta is a great vehicle to do just that. You can choose whatever is your kids’ favourite pasta for this recipe. Cherry tomatoes tend to impart the best flavour, or you can use extra-ripe tomatoes.

4 servings of pasta
200g cherry tomatoes or ripe red tomatoes
2-3tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100-150g firm red or coloured tomatoes, finely diced
Basil leaves to finish (optional)

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the manufacturer’s cooking instructions and drain in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, blend the cherry tomatoes in a liquidiser until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil and diced tomatoes; season to taste. Toss the hot pasta in a pan with the sauce and transfer to a warmed serving bowl and stir in the basil leaves if using.

Fish dogs

Serves 4

We will be serving these delicious breadcrumbed fish dogs this weekend at the Harvest Festival at Alex James’s farm. Proper, posh fish fingers are so much tastier than their frozen, shop-bought counterparts, and white fish such as haddock, cod, pollock and coley all work well in this recipe.

200-250g white fish fillet, skinned and boned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4tbsp flour
1 egg, beaten
50 fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

For the mushy peas

A good knob of butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
100-150g frozen peas
50ml vegetable stock
A few sprigs of mint, stalks removed
Salt and pepper

4 hot dog rolls
Tartare sauce to serve
Wedges of lemon

Cut the fish fillet into fingers measuring 5cm x 1-1½cm wide; season. Put them first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then into the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

To make the mushy peas, heat half the butter in a pan; cook the shallot until soft. Add the peas, stock and mint leaves, season and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Blend until smooth. Before serving, reheat the purée and stir in the remaining butter. Pan-fry the fish for 3-4 minutes on each side in 1cm or so of oil, or deep fry in 8cm of oil at 160-180C. Fry the fish fingers and cook for 3-4 minutes, until coloured. To serve, cut the hot dog roll in half, spoon the pea purée on the base, place a fish finger on top and top with tartare sauce and wedges of lemon.

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