It’s been an absolute age since I’ve written anything, I know, but it’s not without reason. There’s been a bit of change and upheaval in the Hamm household since the start of the year. I started a new job – totally unrelated to food but it’s fewer hours and better wages, so it gives me the chance to spend a bit more time on life outside of work, which is what it’s all about anyway, right? While settling in to the new job our apartment flooded so we had to move in with Granny and Grandpa Hamm for 3 weeks while that got sorted out. And Baba has just reached the Terrible Twos phase of her life, so it’s been turbulent. To say the least. But I’m glad, at last, to have the head space to sit down and write and re-absorb myself in the world of good food.
Amidst all the chaos I had one of my greatest victories as the mother and nourisher of a picky toddler. Generally, in Baba’s eyes, anything green is an alien invader and must be subjected to suspicious and thorough investigation. We have become masters of disguise and experts with the blender which, despite being apparently necessary, is not really the way I want to go. I would rather she learned to eat and enjoy vegetables, so that we don’t have to resort to sneaking them in at any available opportunity. The problem is that as soon as she realises there’s half a head of broccoli mixed into her pancake she rejects the whole meal, as if we’ve been trying to poison her. But it’s not just a question of getting good food into her, I want her to enjoy her meals and not approach them with suspicion, wondering what kind of trickery Mammy and Daddy have been up to this time. I can only hope that the key to this is perseverance and time. I will keep offering her vegetables, even if she doesn’t eat them, and I will keep doing it until one day I wear her down. At the very least, I can hope and pray that as an idealistic teenager she’ll announce one day that she wants to be a vegetarian and I can make up for lost time then.
But back to the matter at hand. On the rare occasions when we’re all in the house at the same time for dinner, I really try to cook something we can all eat so that we can eat together as a family. One Saturday I had a bit of a hankering for nachos so I started thinking about how I could make it family friendly.
I started with some wholemeal tortilla wraps (which were going a bit crispy round the edges, to be honest) and snipped them into triangles before placing them into the oven, totally nude, to toast for about 10 minutes. When they came out they were golden and crunchy. I put some aside for Baba and then sprinkled a little salt on the adult portions.
Next I used turkey mince, which was very lean, to make a spice-free “chilli”, with plenty of herbs and spices to liven things up. I feel that Mexican food is not complete without a little lime and plenty of coriander so I made a salsa with finely chopped tomatoes, scallions, chopped coriander, and the zest and juice of a lime.
When all the separate components were ready I put a plate together for everyone, sprinkled cheese on top and blitzed them in the microwave. To be honest, the cheese was my secret weapon as Baba cannot resist anything to do with cheese! Everybody got a plate of nachos with a separate bowl of salsa, mashed avocado, and chilli flakes for the adults. Our tactic is to put the food in front of Baba and then pretend to ignore her – taking an interest in her eating habits is a sure way to stop her from eating anything.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched her. At first she inspected it carefully. The salsa was instantly rejected on the basis of the extensive greenery. Then she looked up to see what Mammy and Daddy were doing. We were adding salsa to our plates liberally and I could see her look down at her own bowl of salsa to see if she had the same thing. I took the opportunity to jump in and offered to help her put her salsa on top of her nachos. She agreed so I went for it, and then picked up a loaded tortilla chip and offered her a bite.
I waited for the dreaded tongue flap, where food is rejected and ejected from her mouth in a rather messy manner, sometimes accompanied by screaming. But this time it didn’t happen. She said “mmm, nyummy” and went back for more. With raised eyebrows and wide eyes we went back to our own dinners and, happy days, she cleaned the plate, scallions and coriander and kidney beans and all!
I don’t know if it was a fluke. Maybe we just got her on a hungry day. Or it was that magic window in time when she was just the right amount of hungry, and relaxed but not tired. It’s a delicate balance of factors that contributes to optimal eating conditions. Nevertheless, I hold on to that moment as a triumph and nothing will tell me otherwise. I bought turkey mince this week with a plan to making nachos again, so time will tell, but I remain hopeful. If you give this recipe a go and it’s a winner, let me know. It’s always great to celebrate a moment of victory over our children!
Ingredients (for 2 adults and 1 toddler, but could be stretched out to 2 children)
6-8 flour tortilla wraps, any variety
For the chilli:
1 pack turkey mince
1 tin kidney beans
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tomato puree (optional)
For the salsa:
1 bunch of coriander
1 lime, zest and juice
Grated mature cheddar to serve, mashed avocado
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Using a knife or a scissors, cut the tortillas into triangles and spread on a baking tray. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp. You’ll need to do about 4 or 5 trays full to get them all done.
In the meantime, brown the turkey mince in a pot. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes while you make the salsa.
Chop the tomatoes, scallions and coriander finely. No need to remove the skin or seeds from the tomatoes. Now add the zest and juice of the lime and mix well. For the adults you might like to add some chilli flakes or salt and pepper.
To serve, place a handful of chips on a plate top with turkey chilli and grated cheese and microwave for 10-20 seconds until the cheese has melted. Serve with salsa and mashed avocado on the side.