Shake up your tea time repertoire with our go-to favourites for fresh, healthy and simple family food that grown-ups want to eat as much as kids. Some new, some old, but all brilliant family cookbooks that deserve a place on your shelf.
Wouldn’t we all love to be around that family table where the latest Ottolenghi lentil and yuzu creation is devoured by the children without a squabble? Reality, for most of us, is rather different. Bridging the gap between what parents really want to eat and what children will tolerate on their plate means that unless you surrender to perpetual double dinner duty, it’s easy to get stuck eating the same four things that keep everybody content.
A new cookbook is a great way to shake up your family food routine with some fresh inspiration. All of the books below are firm favourites at Mr Fox HQ – packed with simple, quick and nutritious recipes that really do appeal to kids and parents alike.
The Pollan Family Table
by Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollan
If healthy eating is your thing, you will probably already be aware of best-selling food writer and activist Michael Pollan. Now it’s time to meet the family. Written by his mother and his three sisters, this new book celebrates simple, real family food that makes it easy to put the now famous Pollan food philosophy – eat food, mostly plants, not too much – into practice. As well as over 100 recipes, the book features a great pantry list, cooking tips and other kitchen wisdom.
Mr Fox favourites: halibut with chimichurri sauce, tortellini with butternut hash, lamb with mint pesto and raspberry pudding cake.
Feed Me Now!
by Bill Granger
Bill Granger’s modern, easy-going style of cooking has made him a household name, both in his native Australia and here in the UK. Aimed specifically at busy parents looking for quick meal solutions, Feed Me Now! is a brilliant collection of recipes spanning sustaining breakfasts, family dinners, weekend food for friends and everything in between. Low-budget meals and freeze-ahead ideas also get their own chapters.
Mr Fox favourites: grilled coconut salmon, chicken & snake bean noodles, barbecued pork omelette and apricot & sesame muesli bars.
by Nigella Lawson
She’s back! And Simply Nigella just might be, dare we say it, her best book since How to Eat. This is a newer, lighter Nigella style (although it isn’t by any means a health food book, thankfully) and is packed with easy weekday dinners, original breakfast ideas, great inspiration for vegetarian meals and, of course, brilliant sweet treats. The flavours definitely feel more globally inspired than previous books, but everything is still very accessible and uncomplicated and comes with make-ahead and freezing tips. Nigella’s new-found love affair with her slow cooker means there’s a whole chapter of low-maintenance stews and casseroles too – perfect for the festive season and winter months.
With strategic adjustments for chilli there is little in here that kids won’t love either (and they probably won’t ever want to eat anything other than her crunchy chicken cutlets – coated in cornflakes and smoked paprika – ever again).
Mr Fox favourites: Oven-cooked chicken shawarma, breakfast bars 2.0, sprout and pineapple fried rice and pork buns.
Notes from My Kitchen Table
by Gywneth Paltrow
Less eye-rolling please. Gywneth’s first book was written before she made the leap to her much publicized gluten, dairy and fun-free lifestyle. It gets regular outings in the Mr Fox family kitchens and never fails to provide inspiration for healthy (but not overly healthy) family meals.
Like all great cookbooks written by keen amateurs, rather than professional chefs, it is a collection of tried and tested favourites, written with the normal family cook in mind. It is, like Gywneth, a red-meat free zone but is really no worse for it – there are lots of great fish ideas and chicken and duck features enough to keep committed carnivores content.
Mr Fox favourites: Grilled tuna rolls, miso dressing, roast chinese duck and Blythe’s blueberry muffins.
Fast, Fresh & Simple by Donna Hay
All of Donna Hay’s books are beautiful enough simply to leave on your coffee table but for busy mid-week cooking, this one will be firmly tied to your kitchen counter. Nearly all of the savoury recipes in the book can be on the table in 30 minutes but the real bonus here is the ‘Simple’ section packed with sweet and savoury recipes that combine fresh ingredients and shop-bought shortcuts. As you’d expect from Donna Hay, the photography and food-styling is so impeccable that you’ll want to cook it all immediately but there is definitely substance to match the style here.
Mr Fox favourites: orrechiette with Brussels sprouts and pancetta, crispy pan tacos, oven bake pumpkin risotto and Thai-inspired fish and chips.
The 5 O’Clock Apron
by Claire Thomson
It isn’t an overstatement to say that this is has become a permanent kitchen fixture for us since it was published in February 2015. ‘Feeding children a bit differently’ is Claire’s manifesto for family meals and it struck a chord with parents stuck in a teatime rut when she started to tweet her children’s tea at 5pm each day. A blog, a popular Guardian column and then the critically-acclaimed book swiftly followed. There are no smiley face pizzas or chicken nuggets to be found here – this is very much about getting kids to enjoy flavourful, real food – but equally nothing that is too daunting for children (or those cooking for them). It has a great balance of global influences and British favourites too. An essential title for the modern family kitchen.
Mr Fox favourites: Spanish baked rice, sausage and cauliflower bake, Sichuan sesame noodles and cherry yoghurt cake.
River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook
by Nikki Duffy
As you may guess from the name, this one is aimed at a younger age range, and around a third of the book is given over to (excellent) information and advice aimed at weaning and the early years. When it comes to the recipes, though, it’s a far cry from the hidden-veg pasta sauces and ‘funny face’ tuna muffins so often targeted at this age group. In fact, there is nothing here that wouldn’t equally please older children and adults, and there are notes on most recipes suggesting tweaks and changes for an older crowd.
Divided by season, the recipes are all quick and simple but encompass a wide range of vegetables, fruit, fish and meat to provide plenty of variety. Most of it is freezer-friendly too.
Mr Fox favourites: courgette polpette, beetroot coleslaw, fish pasta bake and steamed pumpkin pudding.
by Ghillie James
Singapore-based British food writer Ghillie James is in a quest to make Asian food ‘healthier’ and in the process has conjured up a brilliant resource for family-friendly Asian food. As a mother herself, she gives lots of suggestions for tweaking dishes for kids and the scaled-back approach to salt, sugar and deep-frying means you’d happily serve all of it to your kids. From soups and noodles to stir-fries and curries, it covers a vast range of Asian standards – all achievable in a home kitchen and with easy to source ingredients.
Mr Fox favourites: Chicken, Mango & Rice salad, Rainbow Slaw and Korean Sticky Chicken.
Ultimate Home Cooking
by Gordon Ramsay
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Gordon Ramsay’s cookbooks are all top notch. Large publishing budgets equal plenty of recipe testing and a Gordon recipe rarely lets you down. This 2013 book is one of Gordon’s best in our view – simple, scaled back family cooking covering everything from weekend brunch to lunch time soups and salads, kitchen suppers and food for friends.
Mr Fox favourites: pear and granola muffins, shepherd’s pie with cheese champ topping, smoky pulled pork and spiced banana tarte tatin.
(First published Feb 2015. Updated: November 2015)@katedh.