Woman’s Hour on Fussy Eaters


I’ve posted before when the Woman’s Hour podcast has covered Fussy Eaters but as they’re covering it again as part of their current series on Parenting I thought I’d cover this one again too as I think they always have some interesting points of view (and their other Parenting podcasts are also well worth a listen).

Today’s podcast had a couple of guests – Ciara Atwell from myfussereater.com and a mum of two (3 and 6) as well as Jackie Blissett, Professor of Childhood Eating Behaviour at the University of Coventry and also a mum of two (17 and 13).

And in fact I think listening to two mums at different stages of the parenting spectrum was an interesting dynamic.  One of the comments from a listener was basically that all of this passes and one day you wake up, mother to a teenager who doesn’t insist that they will only eat plain pasta everyday or that you chop up the cheese into hedgehog shapes before they’ll contemplate it.

To some extent this is comforting, it’s always nice to know that the painful phases are just that and that your daily efforts will ultimately result in a relatively normal adult.  My sister Cara definitely seems to be discovering this now and has two pretty adventurous teenagers on her hands to show for all of the years of refused dinners.

It also resonates with one of my strongly held beliefs about feeding young children – the more stressful you make the experience the more likely you are to have a fussy eater on your hands. I’ve always refused to use the naughty step (or whatever disciplinary method you might choose) as a method to “punish” reactions to food at the dinner table (not something my husband has always agreed with) because I think it brings added stress into the situation and the child ultimately starts to associate dinner and the dinner table with an unpleasant situation at which they are being held at against their will.

I’m fully aware that this is all sound enough in principle and that in reality it’s quite hard to hold your shit together when you’ve been cooking for the last hour and nobody will eat any of it, but this is one of those occasions where it really does pay off to bite your tongue as much as you are able I believe.  So I found it interesting that Ciara’s view tallied with this and her main piece of advice was not to get too stressed about the whole thing.  After all, they really are unlikely to starve themselves.

Again, of course this is all sound enough if the scenario is short lived and your child eats well in general but if you’re in the midst of a fussy eating war and it’s been going on for some time the advice that it one day passes or that you shouldn’t lose your mind is probably not that comforting at all.

I think there were some interesting pieces of advice to those in this scenario too however.  Ciara advised taking the fussy eating element away from the table – that is, don’t try and introduce new foods at the table in the mealtime environment.  Consider letting younger children play with food that they may be suspicious about outside or on a picnic blanket on the floor at other times to get them used to the concept of different foods and textures.

For slightly older children reward them for giving things a try, and see that as a win even if they don’t eat a full portion.  My friend has put together a meal planner which encourages her 6 year old to try one new meal a week whilst keeping the other days more Jack-friendly so he feels like he still has some control over the situation.  Blissett rejects the idea of rewarding kids with pudding if they do eat the food in dispute as this gives that food a less attractive connotation which I agree with the principle of but I do find that if there’s ice cream on offer they’re much more likely to try something than when I’m not offering ice cream so I’m happy to use it every now and then.

Ultimately, as Blissett points out at the beginning, fussy eating is a case of “gene environment interaction” so whilst some kids definitely are more likely than others to be disposed towards fussiness, the environment in which they are exposed to food is also an important factor towards their subsequent attitude to it.  So basically those kids that see their parents eating varied, healthy food and are offered it on a regular basis are less likely to be fussy eaters than those that don’t.  That doesn’t mean that the whole thing doesn’t have everyone tearing their hair out on a pretty regular basis but stick to your guns and, more importantly, your broccoli and one day you too will wake up with a teenager that eats it without the need for negotiation.


Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 13th March


A colourful meal planner for a colourful week…Starting off with some fantastic birthday celebrations for our mum’s 70th as well as our niece’s 18th and nephew’s 21st and ending with my… well let’s just say it’s not another big one quite yet and leave it at that.

Today was my mum’s actual birthday so after relieving her of her babysitting duties(!) I made her a hearty bolognese followed by a birthday cake and some singing. I think she approved. I’ve started whizzing up my garlic and onion as the base for this kind of dish with a splash of water in the food processor instead of dicing. The kids complain so bloody much about onions but I refuse to do without them. Turning it into a paste in this way seems a fair compromise and worked well today, the 5yo went for seconds and thirds.

Tomorrow I’m repeating one from a couple of weeks ago – jacket spuds with roasted veg. I’m going to roast up some veg in the morning – squash, courgette, carrot pepper and then reheat while the potatoes cook in the evening and serve with plenty of cheese for them. Less for me to compensate for the excess of cake recently…

Wednesday we are also reliving an old favourite, egg-fried rice served with prawns. I do find that this is one that seems to go down well with most kids and given the upping of vegetable quota we’re on at the moment they’ll get plenty of greens with it too.

Thursday is quesadillas which we repeat frequently on days when we’re very short of time and Friday is fishcakes because you’ve got to have fish on a Friday.

On Saturday I’m doing a recipe from Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen, a book that I really rate if you’re trying to come up with new recipes to cook for all of you. I’ve added the recipe to our recipes page if you want to cook along.

And on Sunday, well I think I deserve a day off. We’re thinking of heading to Morecambe to the day, back to the hotel where we got married but the weather may dictate otherwise. Either way, I’m not cooking!

Have a good week!


Ladies that Afternoon Tea – Part 1

The King Street Townhouse, Manchester


After a busy week at work I do honestly relish the opportunity to spend 48 hours in the company of my little ones. Inevitably there is a party to go to (and rarely of the grown up variety) and it’s also mandatory to spend several hours in the park regardless of the weather.  Having said that, every now and again it’s a bit of a treat to have an afternoon away with the girls and not have to wipe the snot and break up the fights.  Thus was born The Ladies that Afternoon Tea.

Over the next year or so (or perhaps decade) our intrepid group of ladies are intending to bring you the lowdown on the best afternoon teas out there for that well deserved trip out. Selflessly sacrificing hours of our own Saturdays we’ll let you know who does the best sandwiches, who has the best chairs and, most importantly, the biggest cakes.  We’ll mostly be focusing on Manchester in the first instance but who knows where our afternoon tea adventures may take us?!

Our first stop a couple of weekends ago, was the King St Townhouse which, annoyingly, is not actually on King St at all but Booth St but we’ll let them off that minor indiscretion (and also for being within view of my office which is a bit off-putting on a Saturday).

This is a truly lovely hotel, one of the stable of Eclectic Hotels, which opened to the public in December 2015. The décor is beautifully done and as soon as you’re through the door you’re made to feel like you’re going to experience a real treat.

Our only criticism of the hotel on this front is that we were seated in a small area off the main bar and restaurant which was a bit cramped. This we could have lived with but our table also had weirdly small chairs which made you feel like you were sitting with your knees around your neck.

We spent quite a while trying to understand the reasoning behind this furnishing decision – was it because the ceiling was quite low and they were trying to compensate by chopping half of the legs off the chairs so you didn’t notice? Were they trying to effect a chaise longue feeling but without the longue?  Who knows?  But what we do know is that we’re some way off retirement age and it was still hard to stand up after 2 hours in that position.

On a more positive note, two of the ladies had noted before we got started that the problem with Afternoon Tea is often that there isn’t enough of it. This definitely wasn’t the case at KST, there was more than enough to go around and a good chance you’ll need a doggy bag at the end of it.  I’m a bit picky when it comes to sandwiches but there was a great selection and a good veggie alternative for one of our ladies.  Don’t be too tempted to fill up on the sandwiches though as the cakes are coming next.


And what cakes they are. Scones (naturally) with clotted cream and jam which were great.  We also had an amazing raspberry panna cotta which was my favourite part of the meal as well as Bakewell tarts (lovely), pistachio profiteroles (in raptures) and an orange cheesecake which as you can see was a slightly off-putting colour but still went down well with most.


For the £30 fee you also get a glass of champagne which was really good quality or you can choose to have it with just tea and a soft drink for £23.50.

All in all the food went down a storm and it was hard to fault them in this regard.

In general I think the service at the hotel is good and you’re made to feel very welcome as soon as you arrive but we did deduct points for the fact that our server had to go and check when we asked what was in the sandwiches and what the cakes were which you’d think would be a fairly straightforward request. Having said that, we did discover that they were pretty good in emergency situations when they looked after an old man that fell and hit his head while we were there.  So that’s good to know.

And so to the scores on the doors.

We will score each tea a score out of 30 for each of the following:

  • Sandwiches
  • Cakes
  • Drinks
  • Service
  • Atmosphere

The KST scored well in all regards.

For sandwiches we awarded them a whopping 27/30 or 90%

For cakes an admirable 23/30 or 76%

For drinks an amazing 29/30 or 96%

For service a slightly lower 16/30 or 53%

For atmosphere a middling 21.5/30 or 71%

All in all the food and drink are fab but KST you need to sort out your chairs if you are anticipating an audience of greater height than 3ft 5”.



Meal Planner (Archive)


Week starting 6th March

After a week off from the meal planner (but not from eating don’t worry), I’m back on it this week with this week’s plan and hopefully also with a blog later this week on the first in a series of review of Manchester-based afternoon tea establishments after a visit to The King Street Townhouse on Saturday.

Tomorrow we’re starting with an oldie but a goodie – pasta pesto. Now that Max (the 5yo) can read he can obviously see the meal planner and looks ahead. When he sees this he counts down the days until it’s pasta pesto day. There is a special reverence for the green stuff in this household.

On Tuesday we will probably be having a day off/pizza house visit as it’s his Parent’s Evening. I’m anticipating that it’s going to be a relatively positive one (because he’s a swot) and so I can reward him/me with some tea out after we’ve sat on the tiny chairs.

Wednesday I’m planning on working from home for the day so can do a slightly more interesting midweek meal than usual. I’m going to go for Toad in the Hole because it’s another crowd pleaser and I’ll make some onion gravy for the grown ups. My parents are both from Yorkshire so I’ve both eaten and made a lot of Yorkshire puddings and there are a few things which are key to a nice fluffy pudding. The first, I think, is a good mix – see the one below which has a lot of great ratings. The second is whisking plenty of air into the batter and the third, and the most important in my book, is getting the oil good and hot before you pour the batter in.


On Thursday it’s going to be veggie stir fry with noodles and then on Friday we’re finally doing our long awaited Spicery curry night which is a chicken jalfrezi with all of the trimmings.

I’ve mentioned The Spicery on this blog before but in case you missed it it’s a subscription service to a spicing site which sends you a set of bespoke spices each month to make a recipe from somewhere around the world. It includes all of the spice mixes to exact quantities as well as a detailed recipe card. So far I’ve had the spices for this jalfrezi meal, for a tagine, for a Szechuan dish and this month for a fab looking Iranian meal. If you want to see more you can check it out here:


On Saturday I’m going to make some crab cakes with potted crab meat. I think I might neglect to tell the kids it’s crab in case it puts them off but I love crab so I hope it’s something they’ll tolerate more frequently. Granted it isn’t cheap but for a nice weekend meal I think it’s worth it.

And then finally we’re off out on Sunday for a birthday extravaganza. My mum is turning 70, my niece is turning 18 and my nephew is turning 21 all in the space of 3 days so we’re all off out to celebrate – with a big meal of course. Oh and it’s also my birthday a few days later but I’m a non-interesting age so they’ll just forget about little old me… sob. Actually that suits me just fine, trying to forget that next year is a big one myself…

Have a good week!


The Home Cook

Without wishing to sound like a stalker, I do tend to follow what Thomasina Miers does with interest.  This is partly because I’m a bit of a Masterchef addict and wannabe and that’s where her career took off.  It’s also because about 10 years ago my then little family (now mostly my size) enjoyed her Cook’s Tour of Spain together; there were lots of moments which, because we spend a lot of time with family there, resonated with us – such as the goose-necked barnacle eating!  I spent time in Spain (pre-children) too and Miers spent time in Mexico, collecting ideas and recipes.  Ok, so she did more with her experience but I’m not bitter….! Now that it seems both she and I have 3 kids, I thought there might some common concerns and decided I’d give this new book a go and see how useful and inspiring it was.



So I was impressed on flicking through, which I did as soon as the book arrived, instead of focusing on the essay I was supposed to be writing (shh!). It was a weekend and I’d promised a roast of some sort so I decided to try out the Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Anchovies, Rosemary and Potatoes.  I like shoulder because it’s cheap and slow-roasted is nice and tender for the kids.  This is a pretty quick thing to throw together before heading out to do something else.




Verdict:  Very tasty; the kids enjoyed the lamb in particular.  The only criticism was that the potatoes were a little greasy; so even though the idea is to do this as a one-pot thing, I’d probably cook the potatoes separately rather than under the meat.


Whilst that was roasting, I put in some chopped sweet potato to roast for another recipe, to take to work the next day (unusual organisation). The recipe for Sweet Potato & Watercress Salad with Quick Labneh really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my other favourite cookbooks, Moro.  It also satisfies the cook-geek in me, suspending yoghurt in a muslin over a home-made contraption which the kids enjoyed mocking me for.


Verdict:  It made going to work something of a pleasure.  It was delicious, different and filling.  The labneh (strained yoghurt) turned out surprisingly well and the dukkah (crushed spices and nuts) really brought everything together.


All in all, this is a great book and I’ve got a good few things ear-marked to try next.  Top of the list is the Coconut and Jasmine Rice Pudding, which is right up my coconut-obsessed daughter’s street.  Miers has really thought about things which are interesting but not too ridiculous, or too expensive.  It is good for families, as well as for special occasions; the food is tasty without being unhealthy and is influenced by different cultures in a knowledgeable way.  It’s enjoyable to read and I only have one criticism – I like pictures of everything!


Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 20th February


There was a whole lot of half term fun on Instagram and Facebook last week so whilst that was a bit painful to watch we’re feeling cheerful that it’s our turn this week, even if I only get to have 1.5 days of it off! At least we’re spared the school run mornings of “get dressed!” “why haven’t you brushed your teeth yet??!” which feels like a holiday in itself.

Mondays are for pasta in our household and today I tried out a new recipe – one-pan creamy squash pasta from Georgina Hayden’s lovely book Stirring Slowly. I’ll publish a review of the book at some point soon, in the meantime I’m enjoying out trying the recipes which are intended to “restore, revive and rejuventate”. Just the thing for busy parents surely?! I’ve shared this pasta recipe on our recipe page in case you want to try one of Georgina’s meals out. I expected the kids to turn their noses up at this but neither said anything at all, just focused entirely on clearing their plates. Highly recommend.


Tomorrow is an easy one as everyone’s out for the day, prawn stir fry and noodles, on the table in ten minutes flat and then on Wednesday, as I’m off the day, something a bit more complex and this veggie cobbler recipe from the Ocado site. I’m also going to be trying a few more recipes from the Ocado site having loved their chicken katsu curry one so I’ll let you know how this goes.


On Thursday I’m out in Birmingham for the evening so the rest of them are going to make the most of my absence and have tuna jackets. I can’t bloody stand tuna. And then on Friday I’m back to make roast chicken which I’m going to serve with flatbreads (homemade if I have the time, shop bought if not!) which I’ll serve with couscous and salads.

And finally, I’m finishing off the week how we were supposed to finish off last week with Ocado’s katsu curry but as we all know, sometimes life just gets in the way…

Hope you all have a good week.

Emma xx