Finding a balance between delicious taste, good nutrition and simplicity can be a challenge. For Emily Rose Brott, the constant search for healthy treats to give her children lead to a mission to create her own.
With her kids as her taste-testers, she began experimenting with healthy recipes the whole family could enjoy – without added sugar, artificial sweeteners, butter and margarine or white flour. The results became her first cookbook, Have Your Cake, which was published in 2011, followed by Healthy Home Cooking for Kids in 2013 and My Secret Ingredient in 2016. Here, she shares a few tricks of the trade.
"I like to be able to taste the actual ingredients in the dish without overpowering it. By using fresh ingredients, and cooking from scratch you can make delicious dishes."
So tell us – what is your secret ingredient?
My secret ingredient is to pour lots of love into your cooking. It makes everything taste better.
The recipes in this book are a collection of my favourite dishes that I have created over the last three years. They cover every meal of the day – brekky, snacks, lunch, afternoon tea, soups, salads, sides, dinner and desserts.
It took eight months to put the book together, as I do most stages of the process myself, including the photography and styling and the layout and page design.
How do you find the balance between making dishes simple, and making them exciting and delicious?
I think it’s important to make sure that dishes are simple, with easy to follow instructions, using ingredients that are accessible and that people are familiar with. Lengthy ingredient lists are too overwhelming when you are trying to follow a recipe.
I also like to be able to taste the actual ingredients in the dish without overpowering it with too many herbs, spices and sauces. By using fresh ingredients, and cooking from scratch you can make delicious dishes.
What are some of your favourite healthy foods and ingredients to work with?
A lot of my ideas for my recipes are inspired when I’m at the fruit shop. Vegetables make so many delicious soups, salads and side dishes to go with a meal. Add a few different vegetables and a herb to a meal and you can create a delicious, creative dish.
What are your go-to dishes when you're short on time?
I make a vegetable and lentil soup nearly every week. It’s great for when the kids get home from school, to keep them going until dinnertime. We also love pan-fried John Dory with salsa – it’s so quick to make and looks gourmet!
Homemade baked beans are a weekend regular. I can serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and everyone’s happy. On the weekends, my kids also love to make rice paper rolls with tuna, avocado, cucumber and aioli, and pesto and tuna toasted parcels.
Can you share some secrets for getting kids involved in healthy cooking?
Including your kids in the cooking process is a great way to get them to try new foods. I always find if they’ve helped to prepare it, then they’ll try it.
I also give them a choice of some options – if it’s what they’ve chosen, then they eat it. Last weekend my son was fussing over what to have for brekky, so I handed him my cookbook, opened to the ‘What’s on the menu’ section and told him to pick something from the breakfast options and I’d make it for him. He picked the sautéed mushrooms and avocado on toast and the other kids then wanted it too. It was a great breakfast.
What would your perfect day on a plate look like?
I would start with sautéed mushrooms and avocado on toast. I would have a coconut ball for a mid morning snack. For lunch I would have a cannellini bean and tuna salad. A bowl of broccoli, potato and split pea soup when we get home from school. For dinner, eggplant and zucchini pasta and a pear and macadamia crumble for dessert. I think I would sleep pretty well!