How do you introduce children to Indian spices?
You could do what my friend did. Took her toddler to a British curry house. Gave him a stick of tandoori chicken, which he promptly spat out.
Or you could do what I recently did. Leave an errant green chilli in the kids’ khichdi and wait for your darling sprog to finger feed himself the new veggie.
Both the culinary equivalents of a double shot of tequila for a teetotaller!
Seriously though, I get asked how to introduce curry spices to kids a lot. Bar the green-chilli-bad-mother-incident, I have been taking a “slowly, slowly, catchy monkey” approach. Did I just liken my kids to feral beasts? Odd, that.
So I started putting the tiniest sprinkles of chilli, turmeric, cumin powder and fresh herbs in their weaning food, based on current medical advice, eventually increasing quantity and variety. If they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t eat it but mostly they chomped their way through their meals. There were three unfailing donts:
* Don’t force feed
* Don’t feed them anything I wouldn’t eat
* Don’t decorate their food into funky shapes, faces etc (think: slippery slope)
As they got older, I’ve involved them in cooking too. Not just the cookie cutting, cupcake-baking modern femininity nonsense, but peeling garlic, pouring milk, tossing tomatoes and onions into warm olive oil, and mixing and stirring under my watchful eye. I always let them try new foods if they ask, and let them make their own mind up about whether it’s chilli, bitter or twisted.
This recipe is a lovely way to introduce your little ones gently to Indian spices. It looks like a fish cake, feels like a fish cake but with a lightly-spiced Indian-style fish chop twist: child friendly fish cakes. Created out of leftover boiled potatoes and a desperate need for lunch, they prompted my daughter to declare: “You’re a very good cooker mama.” Now, that makes it all worthwhile.
Feeds 4 little kids/ 2 bigger ones:
Peel, quarter and then boil the potatoes and cook the fish. I cheated by using leftover boiled potatoes and sticking two frozen fish fillets in the microwave, but you could quickly grill or poach them in a little milk.
Turn the grill on to a high setting. While it’s warming up, bring the oil to heat in a medium-sized pot. When it’s hot, tip the masala powders in and as they sizzle, toss in the boiled potatoes. Speed is of the essence here or the spices will just burn to cinders. Mash the potatoes in the pot. Once smooth, mix in the fish and the lime juice. I tend to do this with my hands as it’s much easier to get stuck in. Add salt to taste.
Finally, line a baking tray with foil and grill on high for about eight minutes on each side. When you turn them over, the fish cakes may be a bit soft and threaten to fall apart. But just piece any bits together and crack on. The end result will be golden crisp on the outside, with a squidgy lemony centre. Serve with a smile for the kids and with ketchup spiked with chilli powder for the bigger ones.