The celebrity chef and mama-of-three, Thomasina “Tommi” Miers, shares how she’s encouraging her kids to be healthy, happy little eaters
Words Katy Gillett
Recipes Thomasina Miers
Photography Tara Fisher
For Thomasina “Tommi” Miers, eating is about togetherness and she always encourages her children to get involved in cooking at home. The MasterChef winner is a cook, writer, TV presenter, and the co-founder of Wahaca, a chain of Mexican street food restaurants across the UK. And the reason she’s so inspired by Mexican cuisine in particular is because, in Mexico, food is central to life, she tells Absolutely Mama. “Living is about eating together, never alone, about making time to sit down with friends and family over lunch, dinner, breakfast,” she says. “It is not considered an indulgence like over here, but an indispensable way of life, crucial to how they interact with each other and spend their time.”
That’s why her three daughters love taco nights at home… “when they are masters of their own destiny and can fill their tortillas with what they want from what is on the table”. This kind of interaction is just one way Tommi manages to get her kids to have an interest in food. She also urges them to flavour and taste everything as they cook. “I think it makes them feel in control and grown up. They seem to love it.”
When it comes to what her children eat, Tommi takes a rather hardline approach. “The main thing is not to give a choice,” she explains. “If you just matter-of-factly put supper down and don’t ever question whether or not they will eat it you will save yourself much strife down the line.
“My children know they only get one supper, they must always try things, and they know I will never make them alternative dinners if they don’t like the first one.” If they behave badly and refuse to eat, Tommi doesn’t worry too much, as they’ll never go hungry and can always have a giant breakfast the next day. “It sounds a bit hardcore, but it’s much simpler and gives them clear boundaries… And, clearly, if one of them really loathes fried eggs, or another pickled cucumbers, I won’t make them eat them!”
Her recipe book, Home Cook, features more than 300 fuss-free recipes and a children’s chapter that’s full of food grown-ups would want to eat as well. Here, she shares with us two of her favourites, which are perfect for whipping up with the kids…
For the Tacos:
• 600g line-caught cod, monkfish or other firm fish
• 100g mayonnaise
• 100g crème fraîche • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 limes, quartered
• 8-12 corn or corn and flour tortillas (2-3 per child)
• 150g grated cheddar • fresh tomato salsa (recipe in the book)
• Apple Slaw (recipe in the book) or shredded lettuce
For the Guacamole
• 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped, depending on your children’s taste
• 1/2 red onion, very finely chopped
• 1 small garlic clove
• 1 tsp salt, or to taste
• 3 ripe Hass avocados
• juice of 1-2 limes, or to taste
• small handful of coriander leaves, chopped, or to taste
• 1 very ripe tomato, deseeded and chopped
First make the guacamole. Check the heat of the chilli by nibbling the tip furthest from the stem. Most generic supermarket chillies are quite mild, but, if it is hot, remove the seeds, or leave it out entirely if your children are totally heat-averse. Put one-quarter of the onion, the garlic, the chilli and salt in a pestle and mortar and mash to a rough paste. Cut open the avocados, remove the stones and scoop the flesh into a large bowl, adding the onion, garlic and chilli paste. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, adding half the lime juice as you go. When you have a rough guacamole, stir in the remaining lime juice and onion with the coriander and tomato. Season with plenty of black pepper. If it doesn’t taste delicious at this stage, think whether it might need seasoning with more salt, lime juice or coriander. When you are happy put it in a bowl on the table.
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Mix the mayonnaise and crème fraîche together and put in a bowl on the table. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for a few minutes each side until cooked through. Season with a squeeze of lime juice. Heat the tortillas in a microwave or a dry frying pan and put them on the table in a basket, wrapped in a tea towel to keep them warm. Place the grated cheese and salsa in separate bowls and add to the table with bowls of Apple Slaw or lettuce. Invite your children to fill their tortillas with whatever they want, roll them up and tuck in.
Grilled Tandoori Chicken
For the chicken:
• 6-8 chicken thighs, deboned (or skinless and boneless chicken thighs, if you can find them)
• 4 seeded crusty bread rolls or small baguettes
• 1 jar of good-quality mango chutney butter, for the rolls
• 2-3 heads of baby gem, leaves separated
• juice of 1 lemon, plus more to serve (optional)
• handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 1/2 cucumber, finely chopped (optional)
For the tandoori marinade:
• 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
• 1/2 small thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
• 1 small red chilli, finely chopped (deseeded if feeding chilli-averse children)
• 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
• 2 tsp garam masala
• 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
• 250g natural yoghurt
First make the marinade. Mix the garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne and half the yoghurt in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Flatten the chicken thighs between sheets of cling film by bashing with a rolling pin until roughly 1cm thick. Transfer to the bowl and rub the marinade into the chicken so that it is thoroughly covered.
Preheat the grill to high. Season both sides of the chicken, then place on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tray and place under the hot grill for 10-12 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway. When it’s brown on the edges and cooked though (check by cutting into a piece) remove from the oven to rest.
Split the rolls and spread a side of each with 1 tbsp of mango chutney; butter the other sides.
Slice the thighs into thick fingers and cram into each roll, along with the lettuce, any leftover cooking juices and an extra dollop of mango chutney. Squeeze over the lemon juice, season to taste, then top with coriander. Serve at once with the extra yoghurt in a bowl on the side, seasoned with some salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and, if you like, the cucumber.