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Annabel Karmel On Her Recipe For Success

Annabel Karmel On Her Recipe For Success

October 10, 2014 - By Mumazine Guest

Top family nutritionist Annabel Karmel MBE has a busy month ahead – as the leading authority on children's food and nutrition she has been asked to speak at the Baby Show, taking place at Olympia from 24-26 October. Her new and improved phone app has also just been launched and she's a regular on CiTV. We caught up with her to hear more about her latest culinary activities!

Annabel thank you for talking to Mumazine, we hear that as well as appearing at the upcoming Baby Show, your other current project is the revised version of your phone app called 'Annabel's Essential Guide to Feeding Your Baby & Toddler'. Can you tell us a bit more?

A: Yes well the app now has more than 200 recipes on it, which is great if you're in the supermarket and you don't know what to make for dinner. Everything is there in front of you – the ingredients and all you need. There's party recipes too like my Goldfish cupcakes or Animal cupcakes. I also have videos of how to make them. The app is often in the top 5 food and drink apps, its actually more popular than Gordon Ramsey's app. I think it's because so many people are determined to give their children healthier meals and the best start. You can end up with your freezer being so full that you take spinach purée out for your gin & tonic instead of ice! Oh its happened!

Forums are awash with stories of reflux and milk allergies at the moment. When weaning a baby that has severe reflux and/or a milk allergy it is often suggested that highly acidic foods are avoided. Can you suggest how best to start weaning for those babies affected?

A: Solids are just so helpful to reflux and they are heavier and sit in the stomach better. Root vegetables are good as they're less acidic, but give smaller and more regular meals. Keep the baby upright to feed – this really helps. Keep away from foods like tomatoes and citrus foods but bland foods like avocado are good. In fact avocado mashed with banana is great and easy to take out and about with you.

Do you have a great dairy free recipe?

A: The commonest allergy in babies is milk but there's loads of recipes on my app for this. Chicken and apple is always a good combination or chicken and sweet potato. Simple fruit purées are great as are my chicken cornflake balls.  Lovely lentils is always so popular, the kids just love it! Another good one is fish with rice krispies, egg, flour and parmesan but you can leave the parmesan out. Its in my book Top 100 Finger Foods.

We all know kids can be fussy when it comes to food – what are your top tips for hidden veggies other than the traditional fish pie or spaghetti bolognese options?

A: Well fussy eaters often prefer raw food and things they can hold like sugar snap peas or sweet potato wedges. Corn on the cob is also good. You can hide courgette or tomatoes in a chicken burger. Apple and carrot muffins are also good (the recipe can be found on my app). Stir-fried vegetables with noodles are great but try not to keep hiding the vegetables too much, after all they need to be able to eat them at some point!

Nurseries often find it difficult to cope with kids with allergies and end up giving them very basic foods like plain pasta with sweetcorn. Do you have any suggestions for how they can tweak their menus or any recipes suitable to all?

A: There are so many recipes that are allergy friendly with a few tweaks like cottage pie or fish pie. Rice noodles are great if any kids have a wheat allergy as a small portion can be made just for them. Coconut milk is good as its creamy without using dairy, I do a good coconut masala with that. Porridge is good for breakfast, they can make it with apple juice instead of milk. You can also soak porridge oats overnight and add fruit.

Can you suggest some good snacks for independent self feeding munchkins that our Mumazine readers may not have thought of?

A: My coconut apple balls are great – they're in my Quick and Easy Weaning book. Sweet potato muffins are also good or the carrot and apple muffins that are on my app. Pin wheel sandwiches are great and easy to do. You can do fillings like cream cheese with mango chutney, or sweet chilli sauce and cream cheese. I also like to do wraps like mayonnaise, plum sauce and chicken pieces. Its a variation on a duck pancake!

A lot of Mumazine mums find travelling with their children difficult – especially long plane journeys and can find themselves resorting to giving bad snacks. Do you have any tips for them or recipe ideas for ideal travel food?

A: Any of the above sandwiches and snacks are good but I also like to bake a large flapjack and take pieces with. Mini muffins are good too.

It's very difficult to think about eating healthily when a new baby comes along – especially for tired mums up feeding in the night and wanting a snack. Any top tips to help?

A: I always say in the last few months of pregnancy to freeze some meals. My chicken and potato pie is good – I have a book called Eating for Two with great pregnancy meals in. You can also do pumpkin and sunflower seeds tossed in soy sauce and honey then roasted for about 10 minutes, its so easy and you can leave them next to the bed to snack on. Pasta salad with broccoli, sweetcorn, chicken pieces and honey and mustard vinaigrette is also great as you can pick it at instead of biscuits and cake. Or I also make a great couscous salad with dried cranberries, couscous, caramelised pecans, red pepper and cucumber.

What’s your go-to comfort recipe for cold Winter nights?

A: Fish pie, I love it. My fish pie recipes are legendary and they freeze well. I don't cook the fish first and I find salmon and pollock the best fish to use. So I sauté shallots, add vinegar, reduce it and add stock, double cream, the fish, parmesan and a potato and carrot mash cover. You can do mini ramekins for kids. Individual portions like this are great as they're more attractive than a dollop of fish pie.

You used to be a musician – what led you down the career path change?

A: Yes I still love music, I taught my kids to play the violin. I used to play the harp and the piano and I also sang.  Then I lost my daughter and it changed my entire life. My son Nicholas was born and he wouldn't eat. I felt vulnerable at the time when he wouldn't eat, so I started cooking. Mums in the playground loved my recipes and encouraged me to write a book, but friends told me to get a proper job! They said don't do it! But I started to write up recipes. I spoke to experts and everyone disagreed on different things, like when to give eggs and whether to hold back giving wheat or garlic. I realised how confusing it all was for Mums. So I did a tasting with 20 babies. I gave them bland food which they hated and they all liked the food with flavour, with garlic, onion etc.

There are a lot of misconceptions about when to give certain foods like peanuts. We've learnt it can actually desensitise a child and they can become allergic if you don't give it early enough. So give the whole egg at 6 months – obviously make sure its well cooked first. Scrambled egg is so great for babies. Give wheat – don't hold back.

I worked with Great Ormond Street Hospital on my book Annabel Karmel's Complete First Year Planner so it's all based on research and supported. We have blown away a lot of things people originally thought about food for babies. Iron runs out at 6 months so protein is so important.

Of course you have all these new ways to wean like the baby-led weaning phenomena. I believe in giving finger foods and purees. Hand-eye coordination is not developed enough at 6 months for only finger food to be given.

Tell us about what else is going on for you at the moment

A: I'm also doing a kids cooking programme called Annabel's Kitchen on CiTV. I cook with a penguin and each show is 15 minutes long and its great fun. The recipes also appear on my app – like bread and butter pudding and chicken nuggets. I'm also really into Instagram right now. I post recipes every day – its my new baby! I post about my family too and my 3 dogs. (Annabel has 3 children and 3 dogs)

Wow, with so much going on how do you stay centred?

A: Sometimes you have to drop things and prioritise. You have to say no to some things in order to do other things well. Its so important to also know that failure is a stepping stone to success. Sometimes projects don't work out but it will lead me to the next thing I do. I also take risks, I think someone who is an entrepreneur will take those steps and those risks. It's not for everyone, but I'm really passionate about what I do and therefore I enjoy taking the risks that I do.

I have a new book coming out next year called Mumpreneur: The Complete Guide to Starting and Running a Successful Business from Scratch. It's being edited at the moment. I've interviewed 30 female entrepreneurs like Chrissie Rucker who founded the White Company. It's full of tips from them and how they got started.

See Annabel Karmel speak at The Baby Show Olympia London 24-26 October 2014

Baby Show Competition

For a chance to win one of five pairs of tickets to the Baby Show see our competition page


For more of Annabel's Recipes go to

 Annabel Karmels Goldfish Cupcakes

 Annabel Karmels Mini Fish Pie


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