Sunday Lunch Campaign: 'It gives my kids a sense of belonging'

Ainsley Harriott says the weekly family meal helps his children to learn about their roots
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The Independent Online

It may be just a meal, but for the celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott it's one of the most important events of the week - and a precious opportunity to embrace his West Indian roots.

Sunday lunch in the Harriott household is a priority for the whole family - but often it's not even a lunch at all.

"A typical Sunday meal will be brunch at 11am," says the TV chef, who lives with his wife and two teenage children in Wandsworth, south London. "I'll probably do muffins, proper scrambled eggs and sweetcorn fritters, which the kids love. Kedgeree's another thing I like, and if any of the West Indian family are over, definitely ackee and saltfish."

Harriott believes that it is vitally important for families to enjoy a weekend meal together. He believes Sunday brunch is one of the best ways to ensure it.

"Everybody is so busy these days, but if you feel you're going to miss out on Sunday lunch, then what could be easier than doing brunch instead?" says Harriott. "At least that way, you'll get the whole family together, and that's the important thing."

Harriott's jovial demeanour belies his genuine concern, shared by many leading culinary figures and health experts, that the decline of the Sunday lunch has become a serious issue. The Ready Steady Cook presenter is the latest big name to throw his weight behind The Independent on Sunday's Sunday Lunch Campaign. He joins a lengthy roll call of celebrity chefs, including Jean-Christophe Novelli, Heston Blumenthal and Antonio Carluccio.

"The decline of the Sunday meal is a major concern because it means that family values are being forgotten," says Harriot. "Once that creeps into mealtimes, it will begin creeping into other areas."

It's an opinion that fewer and fewer Britons seem to share. A recent poll by the internet company Lycos found as many as 60 per cent of us do not now bother with a weekly family Sunday lunch. And just 29 per cent of families eat together more than once a week.

Harriott considers the Sunday meal as an important chance to teach his children about their roots.

"I'll often invite over the West Indian relatives, and we'll talk about the traditional foods and customs," says Harriott, whose book, The Feel-Good Cookbook, is published this month.

"That way they get a real sense of belonging - instead of 'dad's black, mum's white and that's all there is to it'."

Spinach, cheddar and parmesan muffins, from Ainsley Harriott's 'Feel-Good Cookbook' (BBC)

500g plain flour; 4 tsps baking powder; pinch of salt; 3 eggs beaten; 250 ml milk; 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing; 100g cheddar cheese, grated; 75g parmesan, grated; 150g cooked spinach, finely chopped; 1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional); 200g cream cheese; 25g sesame seeds

Line a muffin tray with paper cases or grease with oil. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in the eggs, milk and oil and stir until combined. Lightly fold in the cheeses, spinach and hot pepper sauce (if using).

Half-fill the muffin holes, then pipe or spoon a tablespoon of cream cheese on to each and cover with the remaining mixture. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the muffins, bake for 20-25 minutes at 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and serve warm.