Children come with a reputation for being fussy eaters, so I knew even before the birth of my first daughter nearly seven years ago that the journey towards a sophisticated palette may be a long and frustrating one. For all three of my children, I lovingly prepared freshly-made fruit purées and a wide range of seasonal vegetables and meats, blended to exactly the right consistency and lumpiness for their developing eating skills. They experienced a true variety of culinary tastes so that, when they were ready to graduate from their highchairs, they would be able to take their places at the tables of fine dining establishments with pride and gustatory anticipation.
I didn’t expect to get motherhood 100% correct. I’m not even holding out for 50% really – the goalposts seem to keep moving! I would really, really like it though if I could persuade my two youngest children to eat a few more of the things that their older sister now devours with relish. I’d be ecstatically happy if I could even just persuade them to taste the teeniest, tiniest nibble of things that aren’t fish fingers or potato smiles.
“I don’t like that,” M says, pointing her finger and looking dubiously at a spoonful of bolognaise sauce that I had the effrontery to sneak onto her plate beside the pasta shells. T doesn’t even bother to look twice at his own dish and rejects his dinner with an imperious sweep of his little arm. At least L is happy – she now has triple helpings of one of her favourite meals.
The thing is, I know the theory, I’ve read the literature, I have a first-class honours degree in Psychology and several years’ experience in behaviour management techniques with young children before my own came along … and it all counts for nothing when my two youngest offspring flatly refuse to co-operate. Even the Food Dudes would struggle to rescue the recalcitrants in my household, I’m sure. The principle of taste exposure (that you learn to like new foods by tasting them more often) just doesn’t stand a chance of success if the child in question won’t actually taste the food in the first place. And whilst behaviour modelling may be key to the solution offered by the heroic superpowers, I can’t think of anyone who is more admired by M and T than their big sister … and they’ve so far failed to be swayed into any imitation of her eating habits.
All of which explains why I’m sitting here, cock-a-hoop because M has just tried a bit of boiled potato and realised that it tastes even better than potato smiles! Not only did she savour a tiny piece of potato however, she went back for more and then declared, “Yummy!”
If I didn’t think I’d lose your company, I’d post a picture of a potato. But I do understand that not everyone is looking at potatoes in such a new light this evening. So I thought I’d tell you about something else that I have absolutely no trouble at all in persuading any of my fussy eaters to munch, funnily enough – chocolate pear brownies.
It all started when L and M asked for pears at breakfast-time. Somewhere in between finding shoes and plaiting hair, the peeled and diced pears were forgotten, only to be found again when I returned home from the morning school drop-off. I rolled them in some lemon juice and stored them in the fridge while I wondered about what to do with them. Later that day, these chocolate pear brownies were born.
It’s probably best to cut them into fairly small squares – about 1 1/2″ square – as they are quite rich and gooey. But then again, my children seem to need to eat at least two of these in one go, so perhaps I could have offered larger slices, after all. Don’t expect them to rise too much – their appeal is in their dark, dense texture with flavours of sweet pear and chocolate fudge.
Chocolate Pear Brownies
4 oz butter
3 oz plain chocolate
5 1/2 oz caster sugar
4 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 oz pear purée
3 1/2 oz milk
9 oz plain flour
2 oz cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and base-line an 11″ x 15″ baking pan.
Melt together the butter and the plain chocolate. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the sugars and eggs. Beat to combine.
Beat in the vanilla, pear and milk.
Sift together, then stir in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Cut into squares and store in an airtight box (or eat greedily).