Tuesday 18 June 2019

Spice up their lives

It's not a given that children's food has to be bland. Arun Kapil, chef, spice expert and founder of Green Saffron, shares some flavoursome recipes

Chicken ‘Vadagam’ with coconut milk & gentle spices
Chicken ‘Vadagam’ with coconut milk & gentle spices
“Mashed” Salmon & Broccoletti fingers

Spice science is a newly emerging, relatively unexplored and exciting area of food flavour innovation. Many unsubstantiated 'definitive' claims are made around spice, however, tradition and dietary use over years do seem to indicate there is a positive benefit to eating spice. I come at 'spice health' through an ancient Hindu philosophy known as Ayurveda. Basically, this theory distils down to, and places paramount importance on, maintaining a strong digestive system as the key to good health. Spices are consumed therefore for the maintenance and promotion of good gut health.

Spice is the 100pc natural way to add flavour to food and getting children's palates accustomed to it from an early age will help them to grow up appreciating varied foods. Adding spice to food and daily meals is a delicious way to add vibrant, exciting flavours to favourite dishes, and also to not-so favourites including those veggies. If food is flavoursome, healthy and hearty it will be relished by those we want to nurture. A varied, balanced diet is the key to good health and having a good healthy digestive system underlies this. Gut microbiota is emerging as a key mediator between diet and health and has been demonstrated to impact the bioavailability of spice phytochemicals. Adding spice to children's meals can give them a great head-start on the road to good gut health.

● The key point here is to go gentle and to be restrained when spicing children's meals.

● Remember, spices are more about flavour than heat, so start with the more perfumed, sweeter spices such as fresh black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. Balance these fragrant spices with more earthy tones such as cumin, coriander and turmeric.

● Spice can replace the need for sugar and salt. Rather than sweetening with sugar, can cinnamon or vanilla be used? Instead of more salt, how about a sprinkle of spice?

● Add scant teaspoons and half measures of turmeric to scrambled eggs and a sprinkle of ground cumin on buttered soldiers.

● Try couple of rubs of nutmeg over porridge, custard and creamy dishes.

● Cinnamon with lemon juice and black pepper in a plain yoghurt makes a great marinade for chicken

● Black pepper, cumin and coriander work well with most root and leafy green vegetables. So when roasting, poaching or frying, add a sprinkle to vegetables, in the poaching liquor or instead of salt, say, over a fried egg.

● Toasting the really versatile spices such as pepper, cumin and coriander, mixing in ratio 1:1:2 then sprinkling them over any meal, can add a great lift to any dish.

See greensaffron.com for more information.



“Mashed” Salmon & Broccoletti fingers

Serves 2


  • 2 fresh salmon fillets, 200g to 240g
  • 250g broccoli, blanched, refreshed in iced water
  • 1 large egg, free range or organic
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper, fresh ground to taste
  • 5-10 rubs of a nutmeg on a small grater
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil, for frying
  • 200ml tomato passata, reduced by half


1. Set your oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4.

2. Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a cut piece of grease-proof paper, place this onto a baking sheet, then pop onto a middle shelf of your oven and roast for 8 to 10 mins, until the fish is just cooked. Remove from the oven.

3. Slide a fish slice between the flesh and the skin of a fillet and lift the fillet away from the paper, neatly leaving the skin behind. Repeat, discard the paper, set the fillets aside to cool. Once cool to the touch, gently flake into generous ‘chunks’. Set aside.

4. Pop the broccoli and crack the egg into a food processor, add the salt and spices. Pulse lightly so as to retain a good chunky texture to the vegetable, then decant into a small mixing bowl. Add the salmon flakes, gently combine, then decant this mixture into a grease-proof paper lined baking tray or small Swiss roll tin, making sure you smooth out the mix to an even, approx. 20mm depth. Cover with cling film and pop into your fridge overnight.

To Serve

Cut out fish finger-sized batons and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C, gas mark 4 for 12 to 15 minutes until cooked, when the egg just starts to ooze slightly and hold the finger shape nicely. Serve with a little of the reduced tomato passata and maybe a potato waffle – delicious.


Chicken ‘Vadagam’ with coconut milk & gentle spices

Serves 4 children


  • 250g onions, peeled, diced
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 10g ginger, blitzed
  • 20g of Green Saffron Vadagam Spice Blend
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 200ml tomatoes, chopped
  • 500g chicken thigh cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Coriander, fresh, roughly chopped (optional)
  • Juice and zest of ½ lime
  • Sea salt, a little to taste (optional)


1. Sweat the onions in the oil in a heavy bottomed pan until soft. Turn the heat up to medium, add the garlic and ginger. Stir for a couple of minutes.

2. Next, add the Green Saffron Vadagam Spice Blend and stir for another minute. Turn up the heat a little, add the tomatoes and coconut milk, stir and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

3. Add the chicken and cook on a gentle heat until everything’s cooked, approx. 20 to 25 mins.

4. Take off the heat, grate the lime zest into the pan, squeeze in the lime juice, sprinkle with the fresh coriander. Stir, check the seasoning, adding salt if you think it needs it, stir again, then serve immediately…simple.

Alternative suggestions

Try replacing the chicken with the same quantity of turkey or try it with monkfish. Remember to only just cook the fish. This could take as little as 10 to 15 minutes.


Iggy Eggy “Bites”

Serves 2


  • 2 slices of bread, 12mm thick cut, crusts removed, buttered on one side
  • ½ level tsp turmeric, powdered
  • 2 free range or organic eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g cooked turkey or chicken, cut into bite size pieces or sliced sausages or frankfurters work well
  • 2 tbsp wilted spinach, or cooked kale, cabbage as you choose, chopped or evenly sliced


1. Slice the bread into ‘soldiers’, then into even diced cubes. Pop the bread into a small bowl, sprinkle over the turmeric and shake the bowl to coat the cubes.

2. Take a deep, non-stick fry pan, place on a medium heat and add the buttered bread cubes, gently fry until lightly crisp all over, about 4 mins.

3. Add the meat and vegetables, moving them around the pan. Once warmed through, pour in the eggs and cook gently, ‘scrambling’ the mix with a fork.

4. Remove from the heat, pop on to plates and serve.

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