Thursday 26 April 2018

Made with love - healthy recipes you can cook with your kids

In a new series, Weekend puts food at the heart of the family by bringing you tasty, healthy, easy-to-make recipes that you can cook with your kids. Today, Galway chef Cliodhna Prendergast and her children show you how it's done

Building blocks: Cooking at home with family - Galway chef Cliodhna Prendergast
Building blocks: Cooking at home with family - Galway chef Cliodhna Prendergast
Galway chef Cliodhna Prendergast. Photo: Julia Dunin
Photo: Julia Dunin
Half 'n' half frittata. Photos: Julia Dunin
Fish Cakes with smoky yoghurt dip. Photos: Julia Dunin
Maki Sushi Rolls. Photo: Julia Dunin
Rolling sushi. Photo: Julia Dunin
Serving fish cakes. Photo: Julia Dunin
Serving sushi. Photo: Julia Dunin
Preparing a frittata. Photo: Julia Dunin

'Cooking good food at home, together as a family, provides the building blocks for healthy, confident children," says Cliodhna Prendergast, the Galway chef behind the Breaking Eggs project.

Having grown up in her family's hotel in Connemara, Cliodhna was surrounded by food and cooking from a young age. "I was involved in the daily picking, foraging, buying and preparation of food that was eaten by ourselves and our guests," she says. "It wasn't until years later that I realised I was privileged to have been involved in food in this way from an early age."

Now a professional chef of 20 years, the mother-of-three enjoys teaching her own kids where their food comes from - be it collecting eggs from the hens or rolling out their own pizza dough. "There is special energy at play when children get their hands dirty and get involved in the preparation of their own food."

Breaking Eggs is an online project that aims to bring cooking to the next generation in a fun way, as well as encouraging parents to pass on skills to their youngsters. "We've fallen out of the practice of cooking meals with our children," Cliodhna says. "It's difficult when we lead such busy lives, but Breaking Eggs is designed as an online programme so you can do this at your leisure." Together with her own children - Jake (eight), Iseult (six) and Milo (four) - Cliodhna made a series of short videos that introduce kids to where our food comes from and how to cook it. "Children love to get involved and are much more willing to eat food they have helped to prepare themselves."

Photo: Julia Dunin
Photo: Julia Dunin

Today, in the first part of Weekend's Cooking With Kids series, Cliodhna shares the recipes for three dishes (overleaf) which have been a great success with her own children. The first - sushi - may seem a little daunting, but Cliodhna says that both parents and children alike will love learning how to roll it. "It's much more simple than you might think, and I have noticed the children eating all kinds of raw vegetables, as they want to make them with all sorts of different colours."

Her fish cakes - a "weekly winner" in Cliodhna's house - are an easy way of getting them to eat fish, and children love getting involved in the flour, egg and crumbing part. Finally, the frittata is a simple recipe that children can manage easily. You can add just about any ingredient - and making it 'half 'n' half' gives the option for the children to have something a little more plain, or indeed adventurous, than the adults if they prefer.

Pint-sized chefs

Maki Sushi Rolls

Maki Sushi Rolls. Photo: Julia Dunin

For the filling, you can use any combination of vegetables and/or meats you like. You do not have to include  fish - sushi is the rice, not raw fish. If raw fish is a step too far for your children, try some smoked mackerel or tuna. A thin omelette cut into strips is very common in maki sushi.

Makes about 1kg - enough for 13 slim rolls or 7 big ones, to serve 4

You will need

Serving sushi. Photo: Julia Dunin
Serving sushi. Photo: Julia Dunin

1 bamboo rolling mat - you can buy these in most supermarkets


500g sushi rice

625ml cold water

1-2 packets nori (roasted seaweed sheets)

Fillings of your choice

Soy sauce and wasabi, to serve

For the sushi vinegar:

120ml rice vinegar

5tsp sugar

2tsp salt



Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear and strain. Bring the rice and the 625ml water to the boil in the water slowly, cover and simmer very gently for 10-13 minutes (until all the water is gone). Remove the rice from the heat and allow to sit, lid on, for a further 10-15 minutes.


For the sushi vinegar, place all of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved; remove from the heat. Put the rice in a large dish and pour the vinegar mix over evenly, while cutting through the rice with a spatula and fanning at the same time. Allow to cool, covering with a damp cloth to prevent the rice drying out.


Before you start to lay the rice down, prepare all the vegetables and omelette, if using, or fish. Avocado, sugar snap peas, peppers and carrots can all be cut into thin strips. The likes of asparagus and string beans can be left whole. Fish should be cut into strips. Add vegetables that have contrasting colour. It is easier to roll the sushi if you do not overfill it. Particularly when starting off, just put one or two vegetable strips in, plus some omelette or fish, running the full length of the rice.


Keep some water close by - rice does not stick to wet hands, plus you will need some water to seal the roll.

It may take a few attempts before you have the perfect roll, but they just take seconds to roll once the ingredients are ready and it is guaranteed fun for all the family.

On a sushi mat, lay out a piece of nori seaweed that is prepared for sushi. You will notice it has a shiny side and a dull (matte) side. Put the shiny side on the rolling mat and the dull side facing you. You will also notice when looking at the dull side that there are lines on the seaweed. Use these lines to guide you.

Wet your hands. Leaving a line free at the top and bottom, fill the three lines in the middle with rice, pressing it in evenly across the whole width of the nori. Place your chosen ingredients in the centre of a strip, stretching the full width of the nori. Place your thumbs underneath the bamboo mat and lift the edge that is closest to you up and over the filling in the centre. Curve the rest of your fingers over the bamboo mat and gently press along the length of the 'log'. This helps to press the rice and the filling together, holding everything in place.

As you roll, you'll find there is too much bamboo mat on top to hold comfortably. Pull the edge of the bamboo towards you to fold it underneath your hands, then continue to roll the sushi away from you until you come close to the end. Then dip one finger in water and rub on the edge of the nori, just like wetting an envelope, and roll to the end to seal.

Serve by slicing the sushi into sizes of your liking, without pressing down on the sushi to squash it! A serrated knife and a sawing motion works best. Serve with some soy sauce and a little wasabi.

Half 'n' half frittata

Half 'n' half frittata. Photos: Julia Dunin

This is a fun frittata with two different toppings to keep everyone happy!

Serves 6-8


Olive oil or butter, for cooking

8 eggs

Salt and pepper

Toppings for one half: 80g Cheddar cheese, grated

150g cooked bacon lardons

80g cooked potatoes, cubed

Topping for the other half: 70g goat's cheese, broken into pieces

5 strips of roasted red pepper


Note: Have the toppings prepared before you start to cook the eggs - it all needs to happen quickly once you get started. Break up the goat's cheese.

Add a small amount of olive oil or butter to a 20cm skillet pan on a medium-to-high heat. Gently whisk the eggs, salt and pepper.

When the pan is hot, add the eggs and move around the pan with a spatula, as you would for an omelette. When half cooked, add the potatoes and bacon lardons to one half, pushing them in slightly. Turn down the heat a little. Then stop stirring and allow the eggs to set a little underneath.

Add the grated Cheddar cheese to the half with the bacon and potatoes. Add the goat's cheese to the other half. Remove from the heat when the eggs are almost done. Place the pan in the oven or under a grill until the eggs are set and the cheese has melted on top.

Lay the strips of roasted pepper on top of the goat's cheese and serve immediately with a green salad.

Fish Cakes with smoky yoghurt dip

Fish Cakes with smoky yoghurt dip. Photos: Julia Dunin

Serves 6


For the fish cakes: 1.6kg/1lb 5oz hake, cod or pollock (filleted and skinned)

150g/5½oz (approx) breadcrumbs (one handful of which is for the fish cake mixture)

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

100g/3½oz (approx) flour

50ml milk

Olive oil, for the pan

For the smoky yoghurt dip: 200ml thick natural yoghurt

½tsp smoked paprika

1 clove garlic, grated finely

Pinch of salt


Cut the fish up into large chunks and place in a food processor. Add a handful of the breadcrumbs, 1 whole egg and a little salt and pepper. Blend for about 10 seconds or until smooth.

Next prepare the crust. You will need 3 trays or flat dishes with sides. Place the flour in one, crack the egg in another and whisk together with the milk, and the remaining breadcrumbs go in the last.

Divide the mixture up into 6 balls. Dip them one by one into the flour, and shape into a thick burger shape about 1in thick. Dust off the flour a little and put each one into the egg mixture, flipping over and ensuring it is completely coated in egg (sides too). Then place them into the breadcrumbs and cover completely with crumbs.

Warm a pan with about 2 tbsp olive oil and place the fish cakes on a gentle-to-medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned.

Mix the yoghurt and the smoked paprika. Stir through half the garlic, and add the rest to taste. Add a pinch of salt.

Serve with the fish cakes and salad of your choice.

Irish Independent

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