An interview with Annabel Karmel

We catch up with the queen of wean to discuss her new range and to find out if she is planning to open any new restaurants in the UAE

An interview with Annabel Karmel

Her name is synonymous with healthy eating for babies and toddlers and Annabel Karmel has a impressive list of credentials to back up her well-deserved reputation as the go-to when it comes to weaning your baby off milk and onto solids.

The London-born mother of three has pioneered the way families all over the world feed their babies and children and is credited with starting a food revolution with her trusty recipes and methods.

We catch up with Karmel to find out more about her latest healthy, organic range of bay and toddlers food and snacks that has just launched across the UAE and to

The launch of your new organic baby and toddler range is exciting news, how long have you been planning the recipes?
I’m so excited to launch into the UAE! My vision today is still the same as it was 30 years ago – I wanted to be somebody who held a mum or dad’s hand through the difficult time of feeding their child. I know how powerful food can be in bringing families together and this is what continues to drive me to develop more and more recipes to this day.

My new ranges are based on my most popular recipes from my cookery books over the years, so they are well and truly tried and tested! You’ll find me cooking in my kitchen every Tuesday developing recipes. It’s one of the best bits of my job and although I’m busy I’ll always make time for this. I like to look at recipes that have worked really well previously and adapt these to create nutritious ready-to-go options for parents.

Do you have any children food tasters and critics who help you get your recipes spot on?
Yes absolutely. The most fun part of the whole recipe and product development process is the tasting!
We have built up a large following of loyal, engaged mums and dads and they love to be involved in product development. The great thing about tapping into our followers is that they are honest; if they don’t like an idea, we’ll know about it!

My new purees and snacking range were taste tested by a pint-sized panel of babies and toddlers to help me to decide which products and flavour combinations to include. No matter how tasty I think the recipes are – they have to be a hit with my target audience!

Any tips on keeping kids meals healthy while they are mostly stuck inside with limited exercise?
It’s so important to stay healthy in these trying times. Eating nutritious meals can improve mood, keep our energy levels up and even help with encouraging regular sleep patterns.

Light but delicious and packed with goodness, foods such as veggie fritters or croquettes always go down well with kids and they are suitable for the whole family (baby included) so you only have to prepare the one meal.

It’s also important to point out that if it’s not possible to get the exact ingredients for a recipe then worry not – these times are about getting creative and using what we have to hand or what’s in season! You can simply swap in whatever veggies or herbs you have to hand!

You can quite easily give healthy foods a makeover to add extra child appeal to certain ingredients. For example, I love using a spiraliser – you can make courgette ‘spaghetti’ and serve with a tomato sauce or bake sweet potato curls in the oven with a little oil and seasoning to add oodles of child appeal to everyday vegetables. If you don’t have a spiraliser you can grate ribbons with a vegetable peeler instead!

The secret is to get children to take an active interest in what they’re eating. It’s a really great idea to get them involved in preparing their own dinner, plus it’s an activity to keep them occupied too. Why not try laying out tortillas or wraps along with bowls of brightly coloured veggies and salmon, chicken or cheese to make quesadillas. You can also create a salad bar with lots of different ingredients on offer. Children can help to make their own toppings too – add bowls of seeds, dried fruit, croutons and finely chopped nuts and get some jam jars at the ready to help them create their own dressing and then pop the lid on and shake shake!

We’ve heard from a lot of mums about their kids non-stop demands for snacks! What sorts of things should mums be offering that are healthy, but also appealing?
It’s all about striking that healthy balance. My top tip is to get little ones making their very own ‘sweet treats’ so they understand that they’re not readily available and something you have every day. Try some simple carrot and oat bars or mini energy balls which will have definite child appeal but remain healthy.

If possible, look to offer snacks that contain a nutritious boost such as homemade hummus with carrot and cucumber batons (kids love to dunk and dip) or try toast fingers topped with peanut butter or slices of avocado. Frozen yoghurt with berries or a homemade savoury mini muffin containing grated courgette, carrot or butternut squash are also some of my favourites.

What are your top three, easy and quick to make go-to family suppers?
Family cooking doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen. If in doubt, eggs are my staple ingredient. They are a fantastic food for the whole family and packed full of nutrients. The great thing is that you often have them to hand so you can always whip up a quick frittata in minutes.

If I’m cooking for a crowd there is nothing better (or more satisfying) than a one-pot recipe – just chuck all the ingredients in and leave it to do its thing while you get on with other jobs. My One-Pot Roast Chicken is a delicious, easy, all-in-one meal that feeds the whole family.

Spaghetti Bolognese is often a firm family favourite and I like to make mine with lots of hidden veggies such as carrot, red pepper, onion, and celery blended into the sauce.

Make a big batch and then freeze or use the next day to top jacket potatoes or tacos or use to make a lasagne or cottage pie base.

What would you suggest parents always have in their store cupboards?
A well-stocked store cupboard of cans and tins means you can still cook-up a healthy nutritious dinner for the whole family even if you haven’t been able to go to the shops. It takes no time at all to create a quick tinned tomato-based sauce for pasta or use a tin of chickpeas to make mini falafels or a quick hummus.

I also always like to have Panko breadcrumbs in my cupboard to coat goujons of fish or chicken or add to burgers. They are so handy when you don’t have fresh bread, plus they create more of a crispy crunch kids love.

And why is the UAE such an important place for you when it comes to your various ranges?
I love the UAE and I come two or three times a year to work and holiday. I have met some wonderful people and the food is always fantastic!

I’m very excited to partner with some of the UAE’s top retailers. Many of my best-selling books are available over here and parents already use my recipes to scratch-cook at home. It felt like a natural next step to help to further support parents with convenient mealtime solutions for those busy days when there isn’t time to cook.

White and the Bear was proving a huge hit with UAE parents before the pandemic. Are you surprised about how successful it’s been?
White and the Bear is more than a children’s restaurant its an incredible experience from the moment you walk through the door . The beautiful white stylish design , the way children are in charge of what they choose to eat and eat together , the interactive menu where they can create their own bear cookies or paint fruit using a paint brush dipped into fruit purees . I designed the menu to allow children to explore new flavours like my Chicken and Veggie Quesadillas or my Butter Chicken. Upstairs children can explore their artistic flair colouring in street scene murals which cover the tables and browse the story books , tableware and a selection of clothes and toys curated by Hannah the owner who has scoured the world for the best in class in each category. It’s a magical place where memories are made .

Is White and the Bear offering delivery at the moment?
At the moment, White and the Bear is not making deliveries but the team is taking this time to cook up even more fun experiences for when their doors reopen to the littles ones of Dubai.

Do you have any plans to open any more restaurants in the UAE once things get back to normal?
Never say never! I’d love to see healthier and more interesting options on restaurant menus to get children excited about different foods from all over the world so who knows, watch this space I have been approached by someone who is opening a stunning café with a beautiful kids zone in Jeddah !

You can find out more about the new organic range here

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