Last week Little Dish released their latest family cook book 'Proper Food for Kids, The Family Cookbook' by Hillary Graves. Up All Hours were lucky enough to be sent a preview copy, so we gave it to some of our Kids' Review Panel to try out in the form of Leo, aged three and a half, and his sister Elodie, aged six. They did ALL the work, with very little help from their mum Aly. But they were so tired after doing all that cooking, they generously let Aly write up the review (and do all the washing up)
Saved review for later
When I first heard about the Little Dish family cook book 'Little Dish, Proper Food for Kids, The Family Cookbook' by Hillary Graves, I had to admit to being a bit sceptical.
I think that, like many parents, I've bought most 'healthy' cook books for kids that are out there, in a desperate attempt to get anything other than sodding fish and chips into my two. But despite all my good intentions, I've found the reality is that nothing is going to persuade them that Captain Birds Eye does not make the best fish fingers known to man or beast.
My other issue with these 'family friendly' cook books is that usually the recipes inside aren't nearly as quick and easy as the blurb on the front implies. After a busy day at work you find yourself up until about midnight waiting for a ‘very simple’ cheese soufflé to do what it's meant to do – which it inevitably does not.
However, this book has made me eat my words.
The book is simple, easy to use and has cooking with children at the very heart of it. Hillary is a mother of two, and obviously has an understanding of what cooking with kids should be about. She really gets how learning about food at a young age, in a fun and engaging way, can have a real effect on their relationship with food as they grow up.
First off, you're automatically drawn by its beautiful photos. Secondly, as a mum, having a hardback copy is essential, as it's wipe clean – essential when cooking with kids in my house!
The recipes are divided into mealtimes, Breakfast, Lunch etc, as well as snack types, Smoothies, Savory Snacks and Treats so it's easy to find something that someone will like, at any time.
We opted, ambitiously (it was raining and I couldn't deal with the noise levels) for apple compote, low-sugar granola, fruit yoghurt pots, the Green Smoothie (more on that later!) and the obligatory fish fingers, with a twist of sweet potato chips.
An important note is that we genuinely made everything in about two hours in total, which was great. The recipes were easy to read and quick to do, meaning that there was almost instant gratification - the kids could see the fruits of their labours unfurl in front of them.
I think the fact that as the recipes turned from words on a page to something edible, so quickly, the kids were really keen to try everything we cooked. Some ingredients they had tried before, others were new, and others that they had tried before and deemed 'yuck' were somehow now suddenly acceptable! Why? Because they had made it.
This brings me nicely back to the Green Smoothie.
This was chosen by Leo, because “It will be like drinking snot mummy, and the Incredible Hulk is green.' I was about to go off on one about the use of the word snot, when I looked at the recipe and saw that the majority of it was raw spinach, so I felt that would probably be punishment enough for the snot expletive.
The pictures speak for themselves. The boy who only eats greenery under pain of death wolfed the lot down - and has had one for breakfast, lunch and dinner EVER SINCE!
Why? I wondered. We don’t even have a fancy juicer so it still had all the bits in.
I think it was mainly because he got to use the whizzer, because of the colour and because it was fun. And that is, after all, what food should be for kids. Fun.
The recipes are healthy, yes, but unlike other ‘family’ cook books it's written with the child at the heart of it.
The coloured text and little characters on the page (like the little characters that appear on the Little Dish meals) really entice the kids to have a stab at anything and ensure that they, not you, are the target audience.
You'd almost feel guilty using it without them, as each page also has a little tip to tell the parents where the kids can get involved in making each recipe - from squeezing a lemon to crumbling feta. Once they accomplish each skill they get a sticker to go in the skills chart at the end of the book.
Once they have completed all the skills on their chart you can even send off a photo of them, and they get a personalized Little Dish apron sent back as a reward!
If I had any criticism of the book, it would be that it doesn't have one of those handy string bookmarks, so that you can easily flip between one recipe and another. Because when you have panko (yup, three days ago I didn’t know what it was either) and egg-covered hands, and your three-year-old wants to see if there is a 'Captain America Smoothie' on page 46, things get messy!
The only other criticism would be that there aren't a great deal of recipes for batch cooking. But again I think this is because the very idea of the book is to make an event out of cooking with your children, not cook a load in advance without them. You shop, you cook, you eat – together.
So with the dark afternoons of winter on the way, I honestly can't think of a better way to spend the odd afternoon. The food is healthy yes, but that's really bonus to what is essentially some great family fun. Who knows, your kids might even like the 'Incredible Hulk snot shake' too!
'Little Dish, Proper Food For Kids, The Family Cookbook' by Hillary Graves, published by Sphere, RRP £14.99