The one hack you need to sneak extra veg into your family’s dinner

Lorna Cooper, author of Feed Your Family For £20 For A Week, shares her ultimate tip.

Turn to the ‘basics’ section of new cookbook Feed Your Family For £20 For A Week, and author Lorna Cooper will be very happy.

She calls the recipes in this section of the collection – which is based on her highly successful Facebook community, facebook.com/fyf20quid – the “most important ones to me”.

It features “how to make a white sauce, that then becomes a parsley sauce, a cheese sauce, a peppercorn sauce; and also I do a tomato base sauce, which is basically loads of veg grated and cooked with stock, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree,” she states.

It’s that tomato sauce that provides the key to getting veg-shy youngsters to consume far more of their five-a-day than they might realise. It’s amazing how swiftly a few carrots can disappear once they’ve been grated and mushed in with tomatoes.

“Once it’s ready, I blitz it down so it’s basically a passata, but it’s got loads and loads of hidden veg in it,” says Cooper, who explains it’s a great trick for when kids “go through their, ‘I don’t like that’ stage”.

As a mum of three and stepmum to another two, she realised her brood would basically “eat any recipe that calls for a tin of chopped tomatoes or passata”. So her homemade, veg-heavy tomato sauce “goes into everything now, chicken tikka masala, whatever – and the kids are there thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve not got any veg on our plate’. Yes, you do!”

After all, it’s far from unusual for kids to go through fussy phases with what they do and don’t ‘like’, especially where vegetables are concerned. Rather than battling, sometimes it’s about finding clever ways of keeping everyone happy – and healthy!

“I don’t really see the point in fighting constantly with kids over what they do and don’t eat,” adds Cooper. “I tend to find that if they’re involved in the planning and the preparation – even the cooking – they tend to try more things.

“[When ours] were younger, they’d get to pick a night each when they would decide what we were eating and helped to cook it, and they just seemed more engaged when they’ve had a say in it, than coming in and getting something put in front of them.

“And they tend to start thinking about other things as well, not just wanting the same thing all the time, asking, ‘What else could we have?’”

Feed Your Family For £20 A Week by Lorna Cooper, photography by Andrew Hayes-Watkins, is published by Seven Dials, priced £16.99.  Available now.