Annabel Karmel Interview

Taste of Dubai is always a highlight of my calender so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out Annabel Karmel was going to be one of the headline chefs this year. When I got the chance to interview her I wasn’t about to turn it down, so here we go….

You have spoken in the past about the fact your son was a fussy eater, but what was the most unexpected challenge when it came to feeding your other two children?
I think what surprised me the most was quite how stubborn such young children could be. As a parent, it can be very upsetting and frustrating to lovingly prepare a meal for your child, only to have it rejected without them trying even a mouthful. You come to dread those words ‘It’s yucky, I’m not eating it’.
Children can get very worked up over things like visible onions or green bits in their tomato sauce. They also don’t like too many things mixed together so separation of food is important.
When my children were little, I found that trying to ignore bad eating behaviour and not reacting when they made a fuss worked well. Instead I piled on the praise when they tried something new or developed a good eating habit. Other good tactics I used that I would recommend to other parents are making sure you don’t give snacks too close to mealtimes and using a reward chart system. Put the chart somewhere visible like the fridge or a kitchen noticeboard and award your child a star every time they try a new food. They can then look forward to a special treat when they collect an agreed number of stars.

There are so many pre-made meals and snacks available to parents these days; do you feel it has somewhat taken away the importance of cooking homemade food for children?
Not at all. Parents still absolutely think it is very important to prepare home-cooked food for their children. For the last 12 weeks, my Baby and Toddler Recipe App has been the number one paid food and drink app in the UK and many other countries, outselling the likes of Jamie Oliver. The recipe pages on my website www.annabelkarmel.com are among the most popular and my recipe books – all 42 of them! – continue to sell incredibly well.
Parents are today very concerned and more aware than ever about making sure that their children’s diet is healthy. They don’t want them to grow up eating junk food, which is high in saturated fat and salt.
Some children do have a very narrow diet of foods like chicken nuggets, pizza and burgers, however you can steer them away from unhealthy fast food by making your own healthy versions. For example, I make delicious burgers with lean minced beef, grated carrot and apple.
Parents do ask a lot of themselves though and while it is admirable to want to prepare homemade meals three times a day, seven days a week, sometimes everyone needs a bit of help. This is why I have my own range of ready meals in the UK and also Australia. These meals are low in salt, contain at least one of your child’s five a day and introduce children to new recipes like Fish Pie with Salmon and a Potato and Carrot Topping and a Mild Chicken Tikka Masala.

What’s the most important thing for new parents to think about when weaning and cooking for their kids?
It’s important to understand that while an adult’s healthy diet is low in fat and high in fibre, a healthy baby’s diet is quite different. Babies grow more rapidly in their first year than at any other time in their life and, as such, they need nutrient-dense foods. Dairy foods should be full fat and too much fibre is not good as it can deplete their body of vital nutrients.
Iron is also crucial for the normal development of baby’s brain. The iron a baby inherits from his mother runs out at six months, so it is very important to give iron-rich foods from six months. These might include iron-enriched cereal, red meat, egg yolk and lentils.
A lot of parents carry on giving only fruit and vegetables for too long, without introducing nutrient-dense protein foods like chicken, red meat or salmon. These foods are very important for you baby’s development.

What are your top tips for busy parents who want to cook homemade meals for their children?
Plan ahead! It’s the only way to make sure that you have the right ingredients in and that you are using what you’ve bought to avoid unnecessary waste. I thoroughly recommend batch cooking, you can make mini Cottage Pies for example in little ramekins. Almost all of my baby puree recipes can be frozen, so you don’t have to cook every day. Just remember to freeze items in single portions and label them carefully with the ingredients and the date by which they should be consumed. Otherwise you could end up with a freezer full of UFOs – Unidentified Frozen Objects.

If you could only choose one of your recipes as your favourite, which would it be?
I am making one of my all-time favourite recipes at Taste of Dubai – Chicken and Apple Balls. My son wouldn’t eat chicken when he was a baby, but he liked apple, so I made up this recipe to try and tempt him and he loved them! The chicken balls are made with breast and thigh chicken meat, diced onion, egg yolk, parsley and sage, breadcrumbs, crumbled chicken stock and my special ingredient… grated apple. Everything is whizzed in a food processor and then rolled into balls

You have been to Dubai a number of times now, but this is your first time participating in Taste of Dubai, what are you most looking forward to about the event?
I am really looking forward to the interactive cookery sessions, during which children are going to be cooking along with me. When my three were young I used to get them to cook once a week for the family. They were only 4, 6 and 7 when we started this tradition (which still goes on today) and I think it’s really important that children learn to cook at home. Most children love to cook, it’s an important life skill that will help them make healthy choices. As a bonus, they are also learning maths through measuring and timing, and following a recipe helps with their reading.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Annabel, I will be back in a day or two with a new original recipe for your Tiny Tums.

Enjoy Em xx

12m +, hidden veg, Lunchbox Idea, Nut Free, Snack, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Popeye Brownies

  • 12m +
  • Nut free
  • Lunchbox idea
  • Can be frozen
  • Vegetarian

These fudgy little morsels pack a secret nutritional punch. Not only do they have no refined sugar, they also contain banana, avocado and (the reason for their name) spinach! And the little ones have no idea, I tested them on The Monster and his friends at our playdate and they were happily eaten by all.

Super easy to make, as usual they can also be frozen, wrap individually in parchment paper before freezing. They are also nut free so they’re safe for lunch boxes too.


  • 1 banana
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coco powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. In a food processor or blender blitz all the wet ingredients including the fruit and veg until as smooth as possible. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and combine. Pour over the wet mixture and stir well o create and thick batter.

Line a square brownie baking tray with baking powder and pour the batter in. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the tray and allow to cool before slicing into squares.


Em xx

8m +, Egg Free, Lunchbox Idea, Nut Free, Savory, Uncategorized

Minty Lamb and Hummus Pitas

  • 8M +
  • Dairy free
  • Egg free
  • Nut free
  • Can be frozen
  • Lunchbox idea

The Monster is not a massive fan of meat unless it’s in mince form so I try to make sure that I come up with a good variety of recipes that use mince. These Minty Lamb and Hummus Pitas are great for the whole family,  full of flavour, tender and just as good for lunch as they are for dinner . The best bit,  they can be made in around 15 minutes. 

I make them using mini wholemeal pita but you can easily use full sized ones. We can get some really great fresh hummus here (what with it being the Middle East and all) so I tend to buy it in rather than make it but there are loads of simple recipes online if you did want to make your own. 

Tip: if you want to freeze these, it’s best to freeze the lamb patties before cooking,  this helps to prevent them from drying out. 


  • 250g lamb mince
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 of a onion, grated
  • 1 cup hummus
  • Packet of wholemeal pita breads


Heat a frying pan over a medium heat hob (don’t add any oil) in a bowl put the lamb,  garlic powder,  mint and onion and mix thoroughly using your hands.  Take golf ball sized pieces of the mixture and flatten into oval patties. Fry for 5 minutes each side

Slice the pitas down the side to create pockets,  and pop in a good dollop of hummus,  add a lamb Pattie and any extras you want (I love adding tomatoes) and devour. 

Em xx

7m +, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Savory, Uncategorized

Sheppards Pie with Sneaky Veg

  • 7M +
  • Egg Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Nut Free

We had a few cloudy days in Dubai this week and grey skies always make me want warming comfort food. One of my favorites is Sheppard’s Pie. Since weaning The Monster I have discovered that he loves it too. With juicy minced lamb and creamy mash,  I have adapted my old recipe to incorporate extra veggies and a rich gravy made without my old glass of red wine.

I make them in individual pie dishes but you can make one large one as well. If you want to batch cook them for the freezer make single kiddie portions in a silicone muffin tray,  once cooled, freeze and then remover from the tray and pop in a freezer bag for up-to 3 months.

I finely dice my veggies but if you have a very fussy little one,  cook the sauce separately from the meat and blend it prior to adding the lamb so all the veg is hidden.  You don’t have to use the same veggies that I have listed, I often chuck in whatever I have in my fridge.


  • 250g minced lamb
  • 2 very large potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons no sugar tomato puree
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large carrot diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 small head of broccoli finely chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 150ml beef or lamb stock
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Dash of worschestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of grated cheddar


Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. 

Peel and chop the potatoes and boiled in a lidded pan until soft. While they are cooking heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the onions and carrots until tender but not brown. Add the mince, garlic, and rosemary, stir until cooked. Pour in the stock, Worcestershire sauce and add the flour to thicken. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms and broccoli and allow to simmer while you prep your mash. Once the potatoes are cooked through drain, add the butter and mash until creamy and smooth (I actually push mine through a sieve rather than using a traditional masher, they come out so good. I stole this trick from an old chef friend, it makes the best mash ever).

Divide the lamb mix into your chosen cooking dishes and top with the mash potato. Sprinkle with cheese and place in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and crunchy on top. 


Em xx

6m +, Breakfast, Uncategorized

Review: Eggspectation – JBR Dubai

Don’t let the name fool you, this popular JBR cafe does more than eggs (although they do, do them very well). My friend,  The Monster and I decided to check it out for a late breakfast during the week. The clouds were rolling in so we opted for a seat inside rather than on the terrace. 

Let’s start with the downsides (only a few,  I promise) It was freezing in there! Seriously I was so glad we had jumpers with us. While they have bathrooms on the premises it was just one per gender (so we had a queue as the cafe was packed)  and no changing table for babies! Not an issue now the monster is a toddler but still a shame and off putting for those with little one’s. 

The positives, OK here we go,  the good stuff…. So many highchairs! And all of them were clean. The staff are super friendly to both the adults and kids,  always near by but never hovering. They supply kids plastic plates as well as kids cutlery,  which is a breath of fresh air,  so many place’s need to follow suit! The kids menu has a good range of option’s and no nuggets and chips. The main menu is massive (the downside is it takes ages to decide what to have). 

As soon as we were all seated our waiter Tasleem brought The Monster some crayons and a colouring-in placemat, which was promptly discarded so he could draw on a napkin (blooming kids, lol) He also offered to get us our drinks while we looked at the menu,  which was good as the decision making process took some time. We finally ordered,  high rise pancakes (pancakes layered with sausage,  bacon,  potatoes and topped with an egg)  for me, lobster benny (which was mind blowing, so I stole it)  for my friend and a kids banana waffle for The Monster. The food was fresh and really tasty although the portion sizes were massive, and could easily have been shared. Kids drinks come in a plastic cup with a straw which is fab and meant I wasn’t juggling glass. Service was prompt and friendly. 

The cafe doesn’t have a play area,  although to be fair it is right by the beach at JBR so there is plenty of room for the kids to have a run about and entertainment for before and after you have eaten. 

So would I go back,  yes totally.  Our three meals, drinks and coffee come to about 250dhs, so it wouldn’t be a regular haunt for breakfast but great every now and then. They have also recently opened a new branch in City Walk as well,  so are now easily accessible from both ends of town. 

Hope this helps.


Em xx