Chiswick mum Lucy McDonald introduces her new cookbook of dishes to keep your family well fed and give you inspiration for mid-week recipes that are healthy and quick
What inspired you to write the book?
Sheer greediness and a love of food, combined with a desire not to spend my whole life in the kitchen. I wrote the book with my sister Claire for people like us. We are busy parents, not chefs, so it is about how to cook delicious, simple food, fast.
How did you choose what recipes to include?
There are 150 really quick and very easy recipes in the book. Most are new, but some are the big-hitters from our blog and YouTube channel – crumbsfood.co.uk – like five-minute-cake-in-a-cup or our much-loved Broccoli Pasta which has been known to turn even the most vegetable-phobic of children.
What are your top tips for getting kids to eat healthily?
1 Don’t stress about it – if they see you eating lots of different types of foods, chances are one day they will too. Until then be patient and bide your time. Don’t concentrate on what they won’t eat, but what they will eat.
2 For some reason, my children are more likely to eat fruit if I chop it
up small. A whole banana overwhelms them, but slice it and throw in a handful of raisins and it disappears fast.
3 Get them involved in cooking and I don’t mean just baking cupcakes, but proper food. There is a chapter on cooking with children in the book.
4 Look at the labels on drinks in particular. Some, marketed as healthy, are anything but on closer inspection!
Do you think children have better diets now than they did 50 years ago?
Tough question – on the one hand there is so much more delicious food from around the world available today. I remember eating my first Kiwi fruit in the 1980s and thinking it was so exotic. But food is so processed now, which means it can be high in sugar and fat with little nutritional value.
What’s your failsafe after-school dinner recipe?
I can get noodles with prawns, sweetcorn and spring onions – fried in garlic-infused oil (saves time, less crushing!) – on the table in less than three minutes.
What are your tips for making packed lunches exciting?
I insist my children have school dinners, partly so they eat something hot at lunch-time, but partly because I don’t want the stress of making lunches every morning! But we often make packed lunches for family days out or school trips and then my strategy is hummus and breadsticks, and wraps served with sliced cucumber and grated cheese which they can assemble themselves. If I am feeling kind, I make chicken goujons the night before and serve them with a little pot of ketchup. Trail mix (a handful of chocolate raisins, popcorn, sour cherries, almonds etc in a freezer bag) is always popular, as are edamame beans in their pods.
They have water to drink and a home-baked flapjack (I bulk bake once a week) or a slice of lemon drizzle, if I have time, for pudding. Then obviously a piece of fruit – most likely a handful of grapes, as everything else – bananas, apples – seems to be left to wilt in their school bags.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Too tough to call – what I eat very much depends on my mood. Last night it was courgettes and cherry tomatoes tossed through pasta. Tonight, it is peanut butter and jam on white toast. But if pushed I would say good olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese make everything taste better.
What are your guilty food pleasures?
Pork crackling from Mackens Butchers on Turnham Green Terrace, the sausage and onion marmalade rolls in the Grove Park Deli and anything from Outsider Tart.
The Crumbs Family Cookbook is out on 11 September, priced £16.99
Five-minute cake-in-a-cup recipe
Ingredients4 tbsp self-raising flour
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil (I use sunflower; melted butter would probably be nicer, but it would take too long, and the idea of this recipe is that it is quick)
3 tbsp chocolate chips (or just smash up a bar of chocolate)
A small splash of vanilla extract
2 teacups or small mugs to cook the cake
Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and mix again. Divide the mixture between the two teacups.
Put the teacups in the microwave one at
a time and cook for 60 seconds at 1,000 watts (high) or until risen and cooked. Allow to cool a little and serve with natural yogurt (an attempt at being healthy) or ice cream.
Playdate fun: Rather than make this yourself, find lots of little people to help you. This is great playdate entertainment. Each child mixes their own cake and then watches it nearly explode in the microwave. Not many desserts provide this level of excitement.