Who wants to be like the brainiest creature in the sea?

Today I am going to write about cooking, and, more importantly eating. Moreover, I am focussing on the eating done by my three (varyingly fussy) children. As you will probably find out if you stick with me in this blog, I like to cook and so does my husband. He is currently rustling up a nice steak for our supper (see below) – in fact I think he may have just lost his eyebrows in the flambe-ing process.

Made by Dad – there is a steak under there, honest

I am having a phase of trying out more adventurous family meals and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that most of them are being eaten. You might be thinking “Why is she only doing this now?” and “Children need to be exposed to interesting food from the time they start eating solids” and I would agree with you. As a family, we have always eaten a fairly varied diet so my children have seen and smelled a lot of different foods even if they haven’t eaten them. We also grow various fruits and vegetables. However, the last three and a bit years have been a bit of a challenge. In July 2008 my first born, who was almost three, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukeamia – the most common form of childhood cancer.

The treatment affected his appetite and palate almost immediately. He has been on oral chemotherapy constantly and steroids on a monthly basis. As well as that he also takes prophylactic antibiotics. As you can imagine, his digestive system has been more than a little bit messed with. In September we reached the milestone that was the end of chemotherapy. He still takes antibiotics but at last he is free of the drugs that have turned him into a fussy eater for the last three years. Of course, he is still relatively fussy. His sister is much more likely to step up and give something new a go. She is, after all, the girl who ate a whole jar of pickled runner beans last Christmas.

So, back to my latest experiments in the kitchen. Last night I decided to have a go at a store cupboard fish cake recipe from Kat at Housewife Confidential. I really liked the idea of this recipe because it is nutritious (plenty of brain building Omega-3 oils), cheap and easy. Oh, and as you will see if you hop over to visit Kat, it is a great baby led weaning meal. I tried to get organised and get everything ready before I had to dash out on the school run. However, I only got as far as mashing the fish and cooking the potatoes, which, by the way, I steamed as I tend to over-cook spuds otherwise. By the time I got back with my little darlings, Babykins was starting to shout for dinner (he does literally shout, being only 11 months old). Fortunately it was a quick job to mash the potatoes and mix them up with the fish. I began feeding Babykins this mixture, as it was still warm. He is really keen on holding the spoon himself and luckily it was just the right texture to stick as his current technique of self-feeding involves turning the spoon upside down. Bingo, one child fed.

Now for the real challenge…..Son number one had to be won over. I decided to make small flat fish cakes and roll them in breadcrumbs before baking them.

I suppose I was trying to make them as fish finger like as possible. Don’t ask me why I didn’t make them oblong shapes. If I could have found my star cutter I would have made starfish cakes. I had a lovely image in my mind of a plate with sweetcorn for sand, a few beans for seaweed and some nice little nutritious starfish. However, it was not to be. My main weapon of attack for getting my delicacies to be accepted was a bottle of tomato ketchup. Who says the North-East has no class?

My second method of encouragement relates to the title of this post. Son Number One is currently keen on all things ‘animal’, the deadlier the better. My meal time conversation are frequently taking the form of “I’m pretty sure Steve Backshall would eat this if he was on an expedition looking for XXXXX”  (insert appropriate animal here). This time I thought maybe the idea of growing a brain as big as a dolphin might be appealing. After all, dolphins eat mackerel don’t they?

I must admit that I was a bit nervous about how they would go down as they do smell a bit, well, fishy. The genius of this recipe is the inclusion of the sweet potato. I defy anyone to not like it. It gives it a whole yummy, sweet flavour that children can’t really complain about (though I’m sure some will – children are like that). Sure enough, Son Number One and the Middle Miss ate the lot, accompanied by a firm family favourite ‘make your own salad’. Brilliant.

fishcakes

Nearly all gone! I think I can see your brain growing already.

The grown up version was much the same but with the addition of a yoghurty dressing, jazzed up with chopped, home-made nasturtium capers. I even added some of the chopped capers to the potato/fish mix but I couldn’t really tell the difference. Maybe I should have added more. Some fresh dill would have been a good addition too. Husband seemed to enjoy his and I certainly enjoyed mine. Now if I could only get motivated to peel and sort a few more of our (slug damaged) allotment potatoes I could get a good stash of these yummy little fish cakes in the freezer. Maybe next week…..

::Note:: I should have added that Son Number One is, to all intents and purposes ‘cured’. It’s fabulous to see him gradually shake off the effects of the chemo and steroids. His energy levels have gone up, he is growing and loosing weight. However, as anyone who has dealt with cancer will know, the risk of relapse always lingers at the back of your mind. I still can’t really allow myself to believe that he is better, completely and forever, just in case I’m proved wrong….. 

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