Cooking for kids can be the biggest meal battleground: one day, they’ll eat something you have lovingly made with gusto, only to push it away the next (or throw it on the floor – we’ve all been there). Then there is the question of vegetables: there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which ones are in favour at any given moment. The key thing I have learned is that if you involve them in the process, the likelihood of them eating a dish – or at least trying it – is much greater. Today’s coconut rice is a great example of an inexpensive meal they can help with, while the quiche is the baking equivalent of messy play: rolling, dusting, grating … Mushrooms aren’t the easiest sell to my little ones, at least, so making them cheesy and playful works wonders.
Red pepper, kidney bean and coconut rice
This is one of my daughters’ favourite meals; there are so many parts to this Caribbean-inspired rice that they can help with, it makes them enjoy it all the more. It’s nutritious, too.
Prep 10 min
Cook 50 min
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced or snipped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated or chopped
2 red peppers, halved, pith and seeds removed and discarded, flesh torn or chopped into small pieces
1 medium tomato
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 allspice berries
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, undrained
200g long-grain rice
Sea salt and black pepper (optional)
4 large eggs (optional)
2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve
Chilli sauce, to serve (optional)
Put a large pan or casserole on a medium-low heat, add the oil, spring onions, garlic and peppers, and cook, stirring often, for 12-15 minutes, until softened. Chop the tomato, then add it to the pan with the thyme and allspice. Finely grate in the ginger, cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the coconut milk and kidney beans, including the liquid from the bean tin. Add 250ml water, bring to a boil, then stir in the rice. Season to taste, then cover the pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
If you’re using the eggs, when the rice is almost ready, bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs andcook for seven minutes. Drain, then cool in cold water.
After 30 minutes, take the rice off the heat, remove the lid, replace it with a tea towel and leave to steam for a few minutes.
Serve the rested rice topped with a peeled boiled egg, if using, the lime wedges for squeezing over, and a bottle of chilli sauce on the side for anyone who likes a bit of heat.
Chestnut mushroom, mustard and cheddar quiche
I have consistently struggled to get my girls to eat mushrooms, but when I enrobe them in a cheesy, creamy quiche filling, they love them. The addition of subtle flavours such as mustard powder and chives are a great way gently to move their palates away from more simple foods, and are both ingredients children can help with in preparing.
Prep 15 min
Chill 20 min
Cook 1 hr
Plain flour, for dusting
500g shortcrust pastry
500g chestnut mushrooms
1 large knob butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper (optional)
3 large eggs
200ml double cream
100 whole milk
1 tsp mustard powder
10g bunch chives
100g mature cheddar cheese, or vegetarian alternative
Dust a worktop with a little flour, then roll out the pastry into a large, roughly ½cm-thick circlethat’s big enough to line a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Gently roll the pastry over the rolling pin, then drape it into the tin. Tear off a bit of the overhang and use it to push the pastry right into the fluted edges (keep that piece aside, in case you need it to patch up any holes later). Leave the rest of the overhang, prick the pastry base all over with a fork and pop the tin in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Wipe the mushrooms, then tear them into roughly 2½cm pieces. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the butter, oil and mushrooms, season and fry, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms lose their moisture and start to turn golden.
Put the chilled tart tin on an oven tray, line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans or similar. Blind bake for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out the paper and beans, and bake for 12-15 minutes more, until golden.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk and mustard powder, then snip in the chives. Coarsely grate the cheddar and whisk most of it into the egg mix.
When the quiche case is ready, trim off any excess pastry, then spoon in the mushrooms evenly. Pour the cream mixture over the top, scatter over the remaining cheddar and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is just set but still has a slight wobble in the centre. Leave the quiche to cool for at least 15 minutes before releasing it from the tin, slicing and serving.
Georgina Hayden’s latest book, Nistisima: The Secret to Delicious Vegan Cooking from the Mediterranean and Beyond, is published by Bloomsbury at £26. To order a copy for £22.62, go to guardianbookshop.com.