Cold weather just calls for nourishing comfort food and delicious baked goods. Wintry seasonal vegetables such as turnips, potatoes and pumpkins and fruits such as apples, blueberries and blackberries spring to mind. As the temperature drops in Qatar, there’s an air of excitement that the cooler season brings. Clear blue skies and chilly days make it perfect to venture outside for barbecues, picnics and play dates.
When people think of spice, it usually conjures up images of hot and feisty curries that can bring tears to your eyes.
But spices do not have to pack a heated punch! Think of sweet and fragrant spices—such as nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla—that add a comforting flavour and aroma to food.
Fussy eaters can be tricky to feed. It’s not easy getting children to try new food. But if you and your child are bored of the same meals, simply adding a little spice could be just what you need. Mild spices are a great way to introduce new and subtle flavours in your food that help to expand your little one’s palate.
Curries, casseroles, stews and soups are a fantastic way to add a variety of vegetables, grains, pulses and spice to your meals. Plus they’re perfect for busy families—all cooked in one pot! Winter fruit compotes, cobblers and crumbles full of berries and fruit are delicious made with cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg. Use your family mealtimes as an opportunity to encourage your fussy eater to try new foods.
With so many spices available to buy in Qatar, we’re spoilt for choice. A visit to the bustling Souq Waqif shows a glorious range of spices imported from around the world. What’s more, it’s a great morning out with the kids in the winter sun plus a chance to visit the spice merchants that line the alleyways. With so many options on offer, here’s a list of the common spices I’ve used;
- Cinnamon: a wonderfully versatile spice. Classically used in dessert recipes, it can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes.
- Cumin: warm and earthy and a popular ingredient for curries. Cumin is especially popular in North African, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.
- Garlic: Is it a spice or an herb? While the jury is out, there’s no denying that garlic has immune-boosting qualities that are beneficial to fight off colds and flu—perfect for this time of the year. With a pungent flavour—a little bit goes a long way.
- Nutmeg: slightly sweet with a woody flavour. Nutmeg is wonderful in cookies, cakes and dairy dishes such as quiche.
- Turmeric: has a mild earthy. flavour. Its vibrant, golden hue is wonderful to use as a natural colouring in cooking. It also has many healing and medicinal properties.
The recipes I have created are mild enough for children and the whole family to enjoy. Plus you can easily adjust the amount of spice to suit your family’s taste. So if you want to expand your child’s culinary taste buds, say goodbye to boring, bland food and spice up your life.
Wholemeal fruity cinnamon waffles
Every family home should have a waffle maker! Waffles are fun, easy to make and a great alternative to toast. Nothing like a warm waffle drizzled with honey and slices of fruit to start the chilly morning. Makes approximately six waffles.
- 3 medium eggs
- 375 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 350 g wholemeal self-raising flour
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- Honey or maple syrup
- Non-stick waffle maker
- Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl until fully blended.
- Put the flour and cinnamon into a second large bowl, make a well and pour the liquid into it, whisking until fully combined.
- Pour required amount (based on your waffle maker’s instructions) into each waffle maker section and cook for approximately 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.
- Slice the fruit and add to top of the waffles. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup
Wholemeal cinnamon French toast
With just a hint of spice, this is another great way to make toast more interesting. Serve with your child’s favourite winter berries, sliced banana and a spoonful of honey or maple syrup.
- 2 slices of wholemeal bread
- 2 medium egg whites
- ¼ cup semi-skimmed milk
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- ½ cup sliced banana
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- Honey or maple syrup
- In a bowl mix the egg whites with milk and cinnamon until well blended.
- Add oil to frying pan and heat.
- Soak bread in the mixture, trying to get all liquid. Place bread in frying pan and pour excess mixture onto each slice. Cook on both sides.
- Cut the toast in half. Serve with fruit and a spoonful of honey or maple syrup.
Golden butternut squash and nutmeg soup
Fussy eaters and the whole family will love this silky smooth and comforting soup. Serve it for lunch or pour it into a mug for an after-school snack. It can even be frozen in small portion-sized containers to save for later. Recipe makes approximately six cups.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 4 cups peeled, deseeded and diced butternut squash
- 1 cup peeled and diced potato
- Approximately 750 ml low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock with extra if needed (750 ml of plain water with half a low-sodium stock cube will work too)
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- Plain yoghurt for garnish
- Warm a sauce pan and add the oil. Toss in the chopped onion and fry gently until translucent.
- Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds or until the aroma has been released. Then add the butternut squash, potato and stock and stir.
- Cover with a lid and gently simmer until soft and fully cooked. Add the nutmeg and stir through.
- Remove from heat and with a handheld blender, blend the mixture until fully smooth. Serve into bowls with a dollop of yoghurtvand a warm, crusty roll.
Creamy coconut chicken and veggie curry
This simple, mild and creamy chicken curry is spot-on for those chilly winter nights! The addition of coconut milk dilutes the flavour making this a perfect first curry for fussy kids. Serve with fluffy rice and sliced banana dipped in unsweetened desiccated coconut. As another option, you can substitute the turmeric and cumin with mild korma powder or make your own spice blend.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small carrot, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup chopped baby sweetcorn
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- 2 uncooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
- ½ tbsp plain mango chutney (optional)
- 200 ml coconut milk
- 100 g frozen peas
- Water to add if needed
- Your favourite veggies—pieces of cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper
- Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sauté the carrot and baby sweet corn for 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin powder and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 4 minutes.
- Stir in the mango chutney, coconut milk, peas and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If needed, add some water to thin the mixture. Serve with fluffy rice.
“Posh spice” vanilla apple and oaty cinnamon crumble
Your kids will love this “posh” crumble made with fresh vanilla bean and cinnamon. These aromatic spices pair well with desserts. Use crispy, sweet apples such as the Gala variety. We don’t want mushy apples! Makes a great treat for school lunch boxes served with a pot of yoghurt.
Vanilla apple filling
- 3 cups peeled, deseeded and diced apples
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1 vanilla pod with seeds scraped out
Cinnamon crumble topping
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3 tbsp wholemeal flour (or plain flour)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (or soft unsalted butter)
- ¼ cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1 – 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- In a saucepan, add the filling ingredients—diced apples, raisins, apple juice and vanilla seeds. Stir thoroughly.
- Cover with a lid and cook gently until apples soften slightly. Remove from heat. Drain excess liquid into a small bowl and set aside. Spoon the apple mixture into an oblong ceramic or glass baking dish (approximately 20cm x 13cm). If needed, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of the excess liquid over the apple mixture.
- In a separate bowl, add the crumble ingredients—oats, wholemeal flour, coconut oil (or butter), apple juice, honey and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly.
- Spread the crumble mixture thinly and evenly onto the apples and place into a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees Celsius. Cook until the crumble is golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. (Please note, oven temperatures may vary according to manufacturer.)
- Serve warm from the oven with a scoop of yoghurt.