It all began with the publishing of Annabel Karmel’s The Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner in 1991, a cookbook born out of her own son’s fussy eating habits. From there, Annabel’s desire to help families around the world make better choices when it comes to feeding their loved little ones became unstoppable.
Credited with starting a food revolution with her tasty recipes and simple methods, this global feeding phenomenon has since gone on to sell more than 4 million copies worldwide, and people of all ages now rely on Britain’s original ‘mumprener’ for the best mealtimes. Scheduled to make an appearance at the upcoming Taste of Q8, we speak to Annabel Karmel about her collaboration with Costa Coffee and all the fun activities planned for the fun-filled weekend!
What inspired you to focus your culinary talents on children?
I actually started working life as a musician – I was a talented harpist. I studied classical music at the Conservatoire in The Hague, Holland and then continued at the Royal College of Music in London. In fact, my very first job was playing at the Savoy hotel in London!
It was the tragedy of losing my first child Natasha, who was born healthy but who died at 13 weeks old from a viral infection that led me to change direction into the field of nutrition.
It wasn’t a diet-related illness but I was understandably cautious when my second child, Nicholas, came along. I wanted to give him the very best foods. But I’d landed myself the world’s fussiest eater. I struggled to find enticing recipes to encourage him and so set about devising my own. I shared my recipes with other mums and soon I had everyone at my child’s playgroup queuing up for my recipes. So I decided to set about compiling a cookbook. After being rejected by over fifteen publishing houses, I finally secured a publishing deal. But never in my wildest dreams did I foresee that this cookbook would go on to sell more than 4 million copies, or that I’d go on to publish 42 more cookbooks. This book started a food revolution, and to this day it remains the 2nd bestselling hardback non-fiction book of all time. It is also a fitting legacy to Natasha that I’ve been able to help generations of babies develop healthy eating habits.
Can you give an example of a dish you’ve created that’s successful to the palates of children?
It’s often about preparing foods in different ways. Children also often like to eat with their fingers and my signature Chicken and Apple Balls recipe is where it all began and helped encourage my fussy eating son to eat chicken for the first time – the grated apple gives a delicious natural sweetness which makes them appealing to younger children.
What’s the most difficult thing about creating a menu that’s both suitable and enjoyable for children?
The important thing is to introduce plenty of flavor, but keep it simple. Some of my best love dishes, can be prepared in under half an hour but they are super tasty. Without going to unnecessary lengths, it’s also good to try to make sure your child’s food not only tastes good but looks good too. Try making mini portions of meals in ramekins, or serve up chicken and colorful veggies on straws.
Children love to be involved in the preparation of food, so you could even give them the cooked ingredients to thread onto the straw themselves. In fact, getting the kids having fun in the kitchen provides a great opportunity to teach them all kinds of invaluable skills – as well as the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Do you find that food trends have changed since the publishing of your first cookbook?
A lot has changed since my very first book was published. Parents are definitely more food savvy, but feeding can be a daunting task when faced with different advice and opinions from family and friends, on parenting forums and social media, websites and magazines. That’s why I ensure that all of my books, whether designed for babies, toddlers or families, contain straight forward advice. I also take on board new and emerging food trends, such as the rise of ‘superfoods’. It’s important to introduce babies and children to a world of flavor, and these on-trend ingredients are a hit with little ones if cooked in the right way.
How do you feel about your upcoming collaboration with Costa Coffee at The Taste of Q8?
I have some exciting food plans in the pipeline with Costa Coffee Kuwait, and being involved in Taste of Q8 kick-starts an exciting year ahead! What I love about this event is that it’s designed for the whole family – and I’m all about family cooking! I’ll be on stage and at the cooking school on 16th and 17th March rustling up some fantastic nutritious meals that the kids will love, as well as adults. It’s not to be missed! Plus, I’ll be signing copies of my most popular books, including my Family Cookbook, Busy Mums Cookbook and my world-famous Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. For me, this is also an opportunity to test out the amazing cuisine from Kuwait’s best restaurants. I love bringing new flavors into my meals, so I’ll be on the lookout for inspiration for my next culinary adventures!
The Taste of Q8 will be held on March 16, 17 and 18 at The Boulevard in Salmiya, off of 5th Ring Road. Email [email protected] or visit www.TheTasteofQ8.com Meet the UK’s No. 1 Children’s cookery author! for more information. Check out their Instagram at @TheTasteofQ8 for the latest updates.