Simple breaded chicken and rice supper for a 5 year old

Our lovely friend, Heather Shuker is staying with us for the weekend. She’s photographing a wedding at Studland. So we are having supper late when she gets back: chicken tikka masala from Can Cook’s Healthier cook book. Can Cook is a wonderful social enterprise project based in Liverpool that teaches communities and schools to cook. They are campaigning at the moment for funding to teach Liverpool to cook.

Because we are eating later, I’ve just made s simple chicken dish for my daughter. Ideally we eat together but sometimes timings just don’t work out. She loves rice, and has just got into living lettuce from the local supermarket (grown in the UK – probably in polytunnels).

Hopefully Heather won’t see this post, as am sure she will have something to say about my photography. Its tricky to take pictures in the evening when there’s no natural light.

I weighed out about 60g of raw chicken breast. The recommended amount for 5-11 year olds is around 75-90g raw weight, according to CHEW! This is guidance of course and children have different appetites and activity levels and therefore nutrition requirements.

I cut the organic chicken into 4 strips and dipped them all in flour, then beaten egg and then finally in breadcrumbs*.

Then I baked them in the oven at 200Β°C (gas mark 6) in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes – turning them halfway through

*I put left over bread in the food processor to make breadcrumbs and then freeze them to use as I need them.

I served the breaded chicken with plain boiled rice and vegetables. It doesn’t look that exciting and sometimes I think children just want uncomplicated dishes – and I suppose on those occasions when you aren’t eating together then that’s the time to serve such simple suppers.

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If you buy one book for your kitchen, make it Joanna Blythman’s What to Eat…

We are bombarded daily with messages about the food we eat. Newspapers, TV and the internet telling us about the latest “superfood”, miracle ingredient or diet or health scares. Then there’s health claims on packaging, supermarket promotions and advice from celebrity chef’s or experts. All of this can create a constant background noise of conflicting, confusing information and mis-information.

Against this background, Joanna Blythman has thrown us a lifeline: a no-nonsense reference book with independent advice on What to Eat.

The book opens with 20 principles of eating made simple, with headings such as “practice vegetable-centric eating” and “adopt a ‘closest to home’ buying policy”.

There is a section on how how to keep to your ethics without breaking the bank. With rising food prices there are some tricks that can help reduce your weekly food spend. For instance, taking time to look for alternatives to supermarkets.

The book is then divided into different food group chapters, from vegetables through to larder staples. For each type of food Joanna gives extensive and comprehensive guidance – a lot of work has gone into this book. Even providing inspiration on ways to prepare each food, she answers the questions you ask yourself when you’re shopping or looking through the ingredient’s list in a recipe : Is it good for me? How is it grown? Is it a green choice? When and where can I buy it? and Will it break the bank?

Something very likeable about the approach of the book is that Joanna doesn’t harangue her reader for not adhering to idealistic food rules and isn’t critical. Instead, she lays out the ethics and encourages the reader to follow them.

Nutrition is described as a science that is “work in progress” – so true. You only have to think back to the nineties when sunflower margerines were touted as healthier than butter. Joanna was one of the few dissenting voices warning us of the dangers of hydrogenated fats and the transfats they produce.

I read Joanna Blythman’s The Food We Eat when it was published in 1996. At the time I was looking into studying nutrition and working at a company, whose clients included NutraSweet. The Food We Eat answered a lot of the questions I was asking about food. Just to put it into context, the internet was just starting up. Sixteen years later (eek) with with all that background noise, What to Eat provides clarity. By informing readers, it equips them with the knowledge they need to make ethical food choices.

If you have a local independent bookshop buy a copy of What to eat there. I bought mine from the lovely Bookends in Christchurch, or buy it online at Waterstones.

Easy mackerel fish cakes

The 5 year old had mackerel, mash and veg for supper last night. Doesn’t sound exciting, but was a good simple meal that went down well.

I had the fish gutted in the supermarket and had baked it whole in foil at 200˚C for about 15-20 minutes.

Of course she didn’t eat it all, so I mixed left over fish and mash and left it in the fridge.

So Saturday lunch was easy, cheap, sustainable, healthy (Omega 3’s of course) and delicious.

Ingredients…

Mackerel
Mashed potato
A little butter
A little sunflower oil
Flour
Finely chopped parsley

How to….

Take the mackerel off the bones, checking the flesh for bones as you go.
Mix in with the mash (and finely chopped parsley if using).
You want a roughly equal amount of fish and potato – taste to check. Its easier to add more potato if you need to.
You want a good mackerel flavour – so you don’t want too much potato.
Put some flour in a flat bowl or plate.
Shape the fish and mash mixture into balls (ping pong ball size) and then pat into fish cake shapes.
Cover the cakes with flour.
Heat a good knob of butter with a teaspoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan.
The oil helps prevent the butter from burning.
On a medium heat Fry the cakes for 3-5 minutes each size, until golden.
Serve with plenty of seasonal veg.
You could serve with good quality bread and butter for extra hungry children.

This recipe is a little bit of an experiment, it has no amounts. Let me know if it works for you…if it doesn’t will make the dish again, and include the weights in the ingredients…

I do think this recipe works well for children who have previously refused the strong mackerel flavour as the potato tones it down a little.