I have a confession to make.
I’m an addict.
I try to be logic, sensible, grown up about it, but I can’t help myself. I’m addicted to recipe books.
The titles pile up high on the table next to the sofa (reading in progress); they peer out like mushrooms in between the walls and the furniture and are squeezed in so tight next to each other on the bookshelf that I’m afraid that corner of the living room will soon disappear under raw bliss balls and avocado toast, three ways.
I hear what you’re thinking, “Wow, she must be trying out something new every day” or “Where does she find the time to read through all this” and probably “Four books on eating the rainbow? Really?”
The truth? I’m one of the most boring cooks you’ve ever met. My repertoire includes 5, maybe 6 classics I cook really well and the rest is just checking the fridge for leftovers. Why? Because it takes a lot more than a pretty photo and a list of instructions to get me excited about taking over the kitchen.
But there’s someone who always gets me excited about the sound of pots and pans: private chef Manuela Avarello. You leave her cooking classes with that “Yes, I can” spring on your step and before you know it you’re working that shortcut pastry, making puntarelle spaghetti and mixing fragrant, mouthwatering sauces woohoo! Ah, the joy.
Bringing happiness into the kitchen
I joined Manuela for her latest cooking class on healthy kids food. She’s got two little girls herself, so knows exactly what it takes to get them excited about the good stuff. And (can I say this?) I actually loooove kids food.
Manuela is obsessed with the quality of the ingredients that sit at the heart of her simple yet amazing recipes. I’ve learned what the best canned tomato is and discovered surprising new veggies. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to take home a sample of her family’s own extra virgin olive oil (delicious on sourdough bread), a private stash that travels directly from Italy. It’s everyday food immersion at its best.
Healthy food for kids (and grown ups!)
The menu was simple and delicious, taking classic kids faves and giving them a healthy twist: crispy baked chicken nuggets, courgette pesto spaghetti and finally (drum rolls) mini custard and fruit tarts.
Excuse me but can I be a kid again? Because the food is much better than I remember. Also: no cellulite.
Healthy twists that make a difference
I’m not going to go through the actual recipes (they’re Manuela’s to share) but I’ll talk you through some of the small healthy swaps that make them extra-specially-good.
Like oven-baking the nuggets, instead of frying. Or addding the courgette to your traditional pesto, for extra green power. And the fruit tarts? Well, let’s not beat around the bush darlings – they are treats. But 1) we all need soul food and 2) Manuela’s own custard recipe (in fact, her mum’s special recipe) turns it into a much friendlier kids version. So we can have three. Or six, depending on who’s watching.
The cooking class effect!
What I love about Manuela, besides her obvious talent for cooking, is how she makes her classes so easy, chilled and hands-on. She gives me the extra motivation to get cooking and everyone back home seems pretty happy with the new smells coming from kitchen ;).
So, good people – if you’re looking for a way to re-ignite that kitchen mojo, a hands on cooking class might just be what you need. And if you live in london, I strongly recommend you check out Manuela’s cooking classes schedule here.
That stash of cooking books? Now that I’m back experimenting in the kitchen, I got a feeling that they’re going to be put to good use. Although I may be actually be trying Manuela’s custard and fruit tart recipe first. Alone.
For more healthy kids food tips, check out my 7 Practical Tips To Get The Kids Eating Healthy!