Fish for the kids

There are no rules for cooking for children. It’s as much a case of pulling out whatever they liked yesterday, adding two tablespoons of hope, a couple of wild jokes, and mixing it all together gently with patience; when they won’t take that, give them what they wanted in the first place.

Just persevere. Every now and again, you will find they’ll take what they are given and enjoy it; before you know it, they’ll be eating what you’re eating, liking what you like, asking for favourites, your favourites. Even then don’t expect them all to be the same, despite the same family structure, routines, emphases. They’ll be chalk and cheese. One might eat anything and plenty of it, from birth; the other will take favourites and little of them, from first taste, and nothing else; and the third will be a bit of this and a bit of that.

I learnt these things very early. Number one daughter loves Weet-Bix; she adores strawberries. So why not the two together, as a treat? Wrong. She threw the lot across the table, and screamed for 20 minutes.

They all love muesli bars. So let’s make our own. Wrong again. They look the same as the commercial, they taste pretty much the same, but they don’t come in wrappers. Not interested.

Then there was fish. For weeks I tried my son with fish. No way. Then by a miracle, he happened by when I was trying a batch of finger- sized mackerel in the deep frier. This is a richly flavoured, rather oily fish, as often as not eaten raw, smoked or pickled, rather than cooked. However, given a light batter and cooked very quickly in small pieces, it became something of joy. And he loved it. Now he eats fish of all shapes, sizes, flavours.

1 medium-sized mackerel, boned and skinned by your fishmonger — Remove any extra bones carefully. There is nothing worse than biting into fish in batter and discovering a surprise. This is doubly true when feeding children. Any firm, well-muscled, well-flavoured fish will be fine.

a little flour to coat the fish


black pepper

1 egg yolk

1 cup iced water

1 cup sifted flour for the batter

oil for deep frying


Slice the fish into bite-size pieces and rub them through a little flour. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the fish.


Lightly whisk the yolk and add the water, beating lightly together. Add the cup of flour all at once and mix gently with a fork, until it is just together. Don’t worry if it is lumpy.


Heat the oil to 170°C. Test with a little batter. It should sizzle and cook instantly.


Dip the floured fish into the batter, drop into the oil gently, and cook until the batter is golden — no more than 45 seconds. Drain on absorbent paper and serve simply with wedges of lemon, or mayonnaise, or tartare sauce…