You have probably all heard by now about the wonderful health benefits of eating kale. But how do we get kids to eat it happily? When I first introduced this soup to the kitchen garden kids a few years back I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been working with them long and knew that the general consensus amongst kids was that green things were to be avoided at all costs. It was to my delight then that I found them lined up across the room waiting for seconds. How did that happen?!
The obvious reason is that it tastes great, but there’s something else going on too. Part of the secret to creating an environment where kids are willing to try new foods is to remove all pressure of exactly that – trying new foods – and to engage the child’s natural sense of curiosity.
In my classes with kids, I do have some expectations. I expect that they participate in both the cooking and the cleaning up. At the table, I expect that they use basic good manners – passing plates around rather than leaning across the table, waiting until everyone is seated before we start eating, listening quietly when someone else is talking – but I never expect them to eat the food. I do ask, however, that they serve at least a tiny bit of everything onto their plate, out of respect for the people who made it. If they don’t want to eat it, I tell them, that’s no big deal, they can quietly scrape the food into the chooks’ bucket at the end of the meal. Once the pressure is taken away, you would be amazed how many kids will be unable to resist a teensy taste, once their curiosity gets the better of them. Sometimes they’ll even eat it all. Repeat this experience enough times and next thing you know, you have a room full of kids happily eating their greens.
Instead of actively trying to encourage our children to accept different foods, it’s so much more productive (and enjoyable!) to sit back and travel the journey of discovery with them. I can tell you from my own experience, and from the feedback from parents of the kids I teach, that it really does lead to acceptance of a wider range of healthy foods.
This recipe is by Deborah Madison, and uses loads of immune boosting garlic, creamy potatoes and a pinch of chilli to give a warm tingle at the back of the throat. Oh, and don’t leave the chilli out because you think the kids won’t like it. Try it first. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Kale & Potato Soup – Serves 4-6
- 1 bunch kale (you can use any variety, but I have to warn you, Red Russian will give you a pretty awful, swampy colour)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 small red chilli, or ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
- 1.75 litres water or unsalted stock
- Freshly ground black pepper
Using a sharp knife, remove the kale leaves from their stems and cut them into pieces roughly 5cm square. Wash well and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the onion, garlic, chilli, bay leaf and salt, and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the potatoes and 1 cup of the water or stock. Stir together, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the kale and the rest of the water, and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft.
Puree using the stick blender. Taste the soup, and add more salt if need, plus a generous grinding of black pepper (If you’re using water, a scant teaspoon of salt should be just about right).
Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, sour cream or natural yoghurt if desired.