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Annabel Karmel INTERVIEW: "This book will get your child to love eating vegetables"

Annabel Karmel takes a little time out of her frantic schedule to chat to writer, Cass Chapman, about cooking for kids, and the new 'Busy mum's cookbook'

Posted: 25 February 2016
by Catherine Hudson

Annabel Karmel, and her new book

Annabel Karmel is a literary sensation, since there aren’t many mothers out there who haven’t dipped, at some point, into the recipes of her infamous baby and toddler food books. All are bestsellers, and her original Baby and Toddler book will be re-released in May 2016 as the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner, a 25th anniversary edition. Mother to three children (all now in their twenties), Karmel is busier than ever and has recently released her latest tome, The Busy Mum’s Cookbook. She chats to writer, Cass Chapman, all about it.

Q. Could you talk me through a little bit about how Busy Mum’s Cookbook came about and how you formulated ideas for the recipes?

A. Well, I’m known for my baby and toddler cookbook and the number of times people have told me they make my fish pie for their dinner parties or my chicken for the husbands, I just thought ‘let’s do one for the whole family, including adults.’ So, I wanted to write it because, for me, it’s wonderful to be able to use wine and chilies and things I don’t normally use in the baby books.

I wanted to make it very easy, because I think a lot of people get really stuck in a rut and just make the same three or four things over and over again. So, I used things like quinoa and duck and clams that many people think of as hard. When you break it down into individual component parts, none of these recipes are difficult. You don’t need to be a schooled chef at all to use this book.

I wanted to do 20-minute meals with no more than six ingredients that could be made ahead of time. There are some amazing things that look incredible but are so easy to make so they are also ideal for entertaining, such as the jellies and cakes, that don’t even need baking.

Q. Are some of the recipes personal family favourites?

A. Yes, some of them are, and others are completely new. But they have to pass by my children, or they don’t go in the book!


Annabel's children - all now grown up!

Q. Were the recipes with no more than six ingredients challenging to create?

A. Some of my favourites are the simplest. For example, I love spiralising. I know it’s become very trendy but it’s brilliant and my spiralised sweet potatoes are delicious. Some things my children didn’t like – cauliflower, for example – so I made a roasted cauliflower recipe and added rice wine vinegar and honey into a dressing, cut the cauliflower up and roasted it in the oven, really easy, and now they absolutely love cauliflower. It’s how you cook things that matters. I didn’t expect them to like it, but just left it on the table and now they absolutely love it.

 Q. Have you got any personal favourites in the book, which really stand out for you?

A. I love my linguine with clams. I love pasta with seafood. I love my sweet potato, which you just put in the oven and some of the desserts too, like the raspberry and prosecco jelly. Oh, and there’s a plum and almond tart that’s incredible in there. Gosh, I like them all.


Annabel's berry and white chocolate tart

Q. For a real novice or a brand new mum, how would you suggest approaching the book?

A. I think, start with the 20 minute recipes that have no more than six ingredients, because they are very simple and very delicious. It’ll help give people the confidence to move on. They should think about vegetables, because kids generally don’t like eating them.

This book will get your child to love eating vegetables, which I thought was my challenge, so the roasted cauliflower or corgetti or corn fritters are ideal. They are all in the six ingredients chapter and all are amazing. And then I’d probably get them to start thinking about preparing ahead so they don’t have to cook everyday. A lot of them can be made and then put in the freezer if they’ve not yet got into the mindset of cooking every day. And for some fun I’d get them on the dessert chapter. A lot of people think they can’t make cakes, but I think they would think again if they tried some of my cakes. For example, my berry and white chocolate tart (above) has no cooking involved. You crush your biscuits with a rolling pan and go from there. It’s so simple and looks amazing. And it’s fun to make with young kids. There is a Rocky Road in here, which is fantastic and children will love making it.

Q. Have you got anything else in the pipeline that we’re allowed to discuss?

A. I do but I can’t talk about it! I have an idea in mind for another book but I always have a “next book” in mind.


Recipes from Annabel's new book, the 'Busy mum's cookbook'

Q. What is it, do you think, that makes your Baby and Toddler book still so popular in such a saturated market after 25 years of publication?

A. It was my first book and it’s still my best-selling book. When I wrote it there were so many misconceptions about feeding babies, like they only like bland food, and you can’t give them eggs or chicken, but it was all wrong. I made it very simple, but the recipes were not bland - I don’t believe in giving bland food to babies. When tested, the babies liked the non-bland food, so I used garlic and herbs – all sorts of things that taste so good. I don’t think anybody had cared what baby food tasted like then, so I think it was a groundbreaking book. I put Garam Masala in a mild chicken puree, and kids loved it. I think they should have lots of different tastes, so they don’t grow up to be fussy.

READ...  When can my baby eat curry? Sooner than you might think. Read on for more information and some tasty, baby-friendly curry recipes.

I’ve revised that book a few times, but the 25th anniversary edition is the best yet. And that is the second best selling hardback, non-fiction book of all time in the UK. It’s incredible, because I couldn’t get it published in the beginning. I could so easily have given up but it makes the success all the sweeter. That started my entire career - I’ve got 40 books now, food ranges in supermarkets, and I sell in Australia and China - all because of that one book.

We have three of Annabel's delicious recipes from her latest book, 'Busy mums cookbook', to share with you...

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Chef Ken Hom reveals some traditions – and superstitions – for Chinese New Year


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