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Getting kids to eat vegetables

If you’re a parent, you will know that getting kids to eat their vegetables can be somewhat anxiety-inducing… My daugther, who is three and a half, is just like your typical pre-schooler, and before that she was a typical toddler and baby. We’ve had some food fights, don’t get me wrong, but I would like to think that she is growing up to have a fairly balanced palate. As a nutritionist, it’s important to me that she has a healthy diet, so I have given this a lot of thought, and some research… Here’s my personal experience from being a mum, and previous to that a nanny, when it comes to getting young people to eat their vegetables.
Emma, Kenzie and a box of food
  1. Chill out
If the mama’s and daddy’s of the household are super tense about something, then of course the tiny people will sense that and instantly feel the need to rebel. If we approach vegetables with an air of “it doesn’t worry me if you eat your veges or not” then kids will be more likely to eventually experiment or give them a try. Remembering that kids are natural born scientists – they want to experience new things, it’s in their nature – if we just make the veges available to them then at some point the curiosity will take over. Sadly, you can’t fake this…. You need to genuinely work on your own attitude to your kids’ eating habits and know that you can’t control everything, and trust that everything will be ok in the end.

  1. Be a role model
If you don’t eat vegetables, try new foods and keep an open mind to new flavours, then why would you expect your kids to? Again, this can’t be faked. If you’re not excited about certain vegetables, and you’re not keen on passing on your own limitations to your children, then be brave and try some new ways of cooking them. You might still not like them but at least you tried. Have an honest and open chat to your kids about how you never used to like this food but now you’re trying some new recipes. Our kids are watching our every move, even when we think we’re being super sneaky…
 
  1. Hide them in plain sight
Sometimes I don’t want to fight, but I know she needs vegetables in her body. That’s when I start to get creative with hiding vegetables in the foods I know she will eat. Or blend them in a smoothie. But I will also (almost always) put whole unadulterated vegetables on the side. Just to keep her exposed to them…  I’ll also casually display vegetables and fruits where she can see them, like on the kitchen bench, so that if she comes into the kitchen looking for a snack, she might see a glass with a celery stalk in it and feel the need to chomp on that. That’s when I go outside and practice my evil-master-genius-laugh…
In spite of my best efforts, these were Kenzie’s least favourite. She refused carrots in any way, shape or from until very recently.
  1. Offer, offer, offer
Here’s a radical idea. If you don’t put a food in front of someone, then they can’t possibly try them. I remember the fist time I offered mushrooms to Kenzie. I thought, of well, she won’t eat them but at least she will see them (I based this assumption on what other people had told me “kids don’t like mushrooms”). She ate them all up and begged for more! Still to this day mushrooms are one of faves, and she almost always eats them. Imagine if I hadn’t put them in front of her on that day? Another important aspect of offering up foods is when they don’t seem to like a particular vegetable. My recommendation would be to still offer it. For the first three years of her life Kenzie wouldn’t eat lettuce or carrots. We kept putting them on her plate from time to time, just to normalise them and now she eats them (sometimes)
 
  1. Get them involved
I don’t know about your kids but once I started getting Kenzie involved in the kitchen, she became more and more excited about learning the names of vegetables and trying them (sometimes only by licking them, but hey…) When she first started asking to help cook dinner I was aware that I needed to allow the extra time and mess that it would mean to have her there… I didn’t want to discourage her even though I knew that it was going to slow the dinner making process down. Now I quite often set aside a simple task for her to do, but I make sure that it’s a meaningful one so that she really feels like shes contributed to the family dinner. Growing vegetables at home is another great way to do this. I feel like some days Kenzie gets 2-3 of her 5-a-day in the garden – cape gooseberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, apple cucumber and even kale…
In case you needed proof of that, here’s Kenzie at the age of 2… Eating kale with gusto.
And here’s the bonus tip: Make it fun! Everyone loves to have a good time, right? So why should eating vegetables be any different? The bonus there is that if you are relaxed and allowing some laughter into the kitchen or dinner table, then kids will sense that there is nothing to be worried about and instantly relax as well.
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Free recipe Friday – Hot, sweet and sour pork chops with vegetable stir-fried rice

The title says hot, but you can make it as spicy or mild as you like by adding chilli flakes or fresh chilli. So why not skip the take away and finish off the week in style with this take on a takeout.

 

Hot, sweet and sour pork chops with vegetable stir-fried rice Serves 4

For the pork:

½ cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp orange juice (1 orange)
2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 pork chops

For the stir-fried rice:

300 g long grain rice
1½ cups water
4 tbsp rice bran oil, for frying
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
4 eggs
4 cups green cabbage , shredded (½ small head)
4 small carrots, diced
4 spring onions, sliced
2 green capsicum, diced
4-6 tbsp soy sauce, to taste

Method:

Prepare in advance: For best results marinate pork chops in the fridge overnight. For an authentic fried rice dish, cook the rice the night before and store in the fridge, which will remove the moisture.

For the marinade, combine ingredients in a zip lock bag or bowl. Add pork and coat well in the mixture, set aside.

To cook the rice, place in a medium pot with the water and salt. Bring to a boil, stir once, then cover with a lid and reduce to a low, yet steady simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes, resisting the urge to lift the lid. Remove from the heat and rest with the lid on for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat the grill to high and line an oven tray with tin foil.

Prepare the vegetables while the rice is cooking. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Shred the cabbage finely. Peel and finely dice the carrot. Dice the capsicum very finely, discarding the core. Slice the spring onion on the diagonal, including most of the green part.

Place the marinated pork chops on a rack over the foil-lined oven tray and place under the grill. Grill on each side for 4-5 minutes, then remove from the oven and rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Handy hint: Don’t be tempted to remove the fat from the chops before cooking, as it will add flavour. Cut off fat just prior to serving if you don’t wish to eat it .

Stir-fry the rice once the pork chops are cooking. Heat a large pan or wok over a medium-high heat and add some of the rice bran oil. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds without burning. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, discard, and add the eggs. Beat the eggs in the pan as they scramble, then remove from the pan. Keep heat at medium-high and add more rice bran oil. Once hot, add the cabbage, carrot and capsicum and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes until vegetables are just tender. Bring heat up to high and stir in the rice. Let the rice heat through for 2-3 minutes, then place the scrambled eggs back in and stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes. Add half the spring onion (the white ends) and reserve the rest for garnish. Add soy sauce and cook out for another minute. Add more to taste if desired. Once the soy sauce is cooked out and the rice begins to dry out, remove the pan from the heat and serve immediately.

To serve, heap vegetable rice onto plates and top with pork chops. Garnish with the remaining spring onion.

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Quinoa – magical, wonderful super-seed

I love quinoa, don’t you?! If you don’t, chances are that you’ve done something wrong… no offence… My love for this superfood was recently re-ignited when we discovered a new quinoa grower, based right here in the North Island of New Zealand. With food miles of just over 200 km, it doesn’t quite qualify for our local badge (who is lovingly nicknamed Farmer Joe by team EFB) but it’s far more local than the previous supply, which was from South America. What’s more, the cool kids over at the Kiwi Quinoa Company grow their seeds without excess pesticides and sprays – far gentler on the environment. According to their website, Dan and Jacqui had the idea to grow quinoa in the Rangitikei after travelling through South America and noting the quinoa-growing regions of Peru bore quite a resemblance to home. And boy, am I glad they did! Thanks for the hard work team! It also makes me so happy to see that we can be part of making their family business a success, so I tell everyone about this! As a nutritionist, quinoa ticks so many boxes for me and as a foodie, just the same. There is just so much to love about this tiny power-house. So let me share with you:

My top four fun facts about quinoa:

It’s not a grain – it’s in fact a seed

You know the tiny spiral that appears when you cook quinoa? That’s the germ – i.e. the very inner of the seed. Although people often refer to quina as a grain  it’s botanically a seed of a plant that is closely related to spinach. This also means that quinoa is gluten free, making it a great alternative for couscous for coeliacs.

The year 2013 was officially the year of quinoa

That’s right. In 2013 the UN deemed that quinoa would solve so many of the world’s economic, cultural nutritional and food supply related issues that it gave the super food it’s very own year of distinction. The UN regognised quinoa as a potential tool for empowering farmers in underdeveloped areas, primarily in South America, to produce this adaptable crop for the local community, providing empowerment and good nutrition.

It’s a complete protein

Not many vegetarian proteins can boast this fact. Without boring you all with a full biochemistry lesson, it basically means that the protein is complete with all nine essential amino acids. Essential means that the human body can’t make them for themselves, so we need them from the foods we eat. Incomplete proteins need to be consumed alongside other foods (within a 24 hour period) that have the particular amino acids that are absent in that food – these are known as the limiting amino acids. Foods such as quinoa that have a complete set of essential amino acids will act as a valid protein component of a meal and don’t need to be combined with other grains or pulses.

If it’s bitter, it’s your own fault

Each quinoa seed is coated with a bitter, waxy substance called saponin, which needs to be rinsed off before cooking. Simply place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under a cold tap for a minute, then place ain in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.

We have featured many quinoa recipes on our menus in the last five years and most of them have been delicious! I’d love to hear which one you loved the most!
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How to assemble spring rolls

1. Place filling in middle of the wrap and brush all edges with a bit of water.
2-4. Pick up the corner of wrap closest to you, fold over filling, and tuck in.
5-6. Fold over left side and right side of wrap tightly.
7. Roll up spring roll; make sure it’s relatively tight.
8. Your spring roll is ready to be fried!
 
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From Italy to Hawaii, with a quick stop in Sweden

Love fusing various nationalities together on a plate? Come here then….

This week we feature Hawaiian pizzas on wholemeal base with Swedish pizza salad on the Express and Family Menu (5 meals).
Hawaiian pizzas are a classic, a real favourite for the little kids in the house especially. You might not find it in your most authentic Italian restaurant though. My foodie father informs me that it was invented by a man of Greek origin, who lived in Ontario, Canada! There’s a fun foodie fact for you! Traditionally it’s made with tinned pineapple, but we like to freshen things up, so we use a real fresh pineapple.

On the side of this hammy, cheesy fruity-liciousness we provide our customers with the ingredients and recipe for a Swedish classic side dish. Where ever you go in Sweden – order a pizza and you get a pizza salad on the side. You would just never eat pizza without it. (Well, perhaps in the most authentic Italian restaurant.) I remember going to Italy as a child and being appalled at the lack of pizza salad on the side of my pizza. It’s basically cabbage and onion in a vinaigrette, with some local variations of course. I would recommend making it earlier in the day or even the night before, because the flavours develop as time goes.
For the Swedish pizza salad:
3 cups cabbage, shredded ½ cabbage
1 spring onion, sliced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pizzas:
4 wholemeal pizza bases
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
150 g champagne ham, sliced
100 g cheese, grated
1 crown pineapple, sliced
Pinch of dried oregano (optional)
Method: 
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
Slice ham into thin strips. Grate the cheese, removing the rind; trim, core and slice the pineapple into rings.
Spread tomato paste onto the pizza bases then place the bases in the oven and pre-bake for 5-6 minutes until a little golden and crisped up.
While the bases are in the oven, fry the pineapple rings. Add oil to a large frying pan or griddle pan and once the oil is shimmering, add the pineapple rings and char for 2 minutes per side. Meanwhile make the Swedish pizza salad. Slice the spring onion and finely shred the cabbage using a sharp knife, mandolin or cheese slicer. Place in a large salad bowl and mix in vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pre-baked pizza bases from the oven and top with the cheese, ham and charred pineapple rings in that order.  Pop the bases back into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned a little.
To serve, place pizzas onto a large board and cut into slices. Sprinkle with dried oregano to taste. Serve at the table with the pizza salad. I hope you give this a go, and enjoy the culinary trip around the world.
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Free recipe Friday: Pork schnitzel with celeriac slaw and apple and walnut sauce

mmm…. Friday. How sweet is that?
It’s been a busy week here at Emma’s Food Bag HQ, with preparations for Auckland Food Show next week and a big batch of new delicious recipes to trial (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it).
We are featuring this stunner on the dinner table tonight for our Inspiration and Original Menu foodies. If you like a crunchy slaw with a difference and a delicious crumbed piece of somethin’ somethin’, with a side of tart, sweet and bite, I urge you to give this a try. And I feel like that that should sum up pretty much the entire population of the world.
I know some of our customers have already enjoyed this dish, and can you blame them? (No you can’t and I am one of them). The feedback we’ve had has been great, unsurprisingly.
Celeriac is a fun vegetable to play with too. It looks fun, it tastes fun and it’s quite uncommon, which I personally think is the funnest.

Pork schnitzel with celeriac slaw and apple and walnut sauce.

Serves 4

For the schnitzel:
4 pork schnitzel
3 tbsp flour
2 eggs, beaten
120 g breadcrumbs
3 tbsp olive oil for frying
For the apple and walnut sauce:
4 green apples, sliced
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp water
40 g chopped walnuts
For the celeriac slaw:
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 pots natural yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
600 g celeriac, julienned
2 carrots, grated
½ cup curly parsley, chopped


Method:
To prepare the schnitzel, place between layers of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin or mallet to tenderise and flatten. Sprinkle both sides of the schnitzel with flour then season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs in a bowl and place breadcrumbs in another bowl. Dip meat in egg mix, drain off excess and then coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
For the apple sauce, peel, core and slice the apples and put in a saucepan with honey and water. Cover and cook over a medium heat until apple is just cooked through – you don’t want the apples to end up too soft. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Stir in chopped walnuts and season with a pinch of salt, then set aside covered until the rest of the meal is ready.
Prepare the celeriac slaw while the apple sauce is cooking. Firstly, mix lemon juice and yoghurt in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Peel the celeriac, remove any brown bits, and cut into paper-thin slices (a mandolin or slicing attachment on a food processor is handy for this). Stack a few slices and cut into thin matchsticks then add into the bowl with the lemon yoghurt dressing. Alternatively, you can coarsely grate the celeriac to save time, but the salad will not have quite the same crunchy texture. Peel and grate the carrot and stir into celeriac salad. Chop the parsley and stir through the slaw.
Heat olive oil for the schnitzel in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once shimmering, add crumbed schnitzels and cook on each side about 1-3 minutes until golden. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.
To serve, spoon celeriac slaw onto plates, place schnitzel on the side and top with apple and walnut sauce.

L
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Chicken tikka spice mix recipe

Featured in this weeks’ Original and Inspiration Menus is the Chicken tikka masala with fresh coriander and poppadums. For our customers we provide a handy recipe sachet, but if you’re wanting to recreate this stunning dish, here’s the spice mix recipe!
To take this meal to the next level, I would highly recommend toasting whole coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then grinding them down with a pestle and mortar. Toasting your own spices honestly makes your dishes extra flavourful!

Serves 4 (enough for 600g chicken breast or tenders):
4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
Combine spices in a bowl and store in an airtight container – it will keep for several months – so why not make a double batch to have on hand.
Below is the recipe in full, for those of you who missed out.
For the spice paste:
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tsp ginger, grated
3 tbsp chicken tikka spice mix
3 tbsp rice bran oil

For the chicken:
600 g chicken breast, sliced
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
½ tsp salt

For the tikka:
4 tbsp butter
1 brown onion, sliced
4 tbsp tomato paste
½-1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
2 cartons coconut cream
2 tins chickpeas, drained
6 tbsp coriander, chopped

To serve:
16 poppadums
Rice bran oil for frying
2 heads fancy lettuce, wedged

Prepare in advance: For best results, marinate the chicken in the fridge for 4-6 hours or overnight. 
Pre-heat the grill.
Prepare the aromatics first. Peel and crush the garlic, peel and grate the ginger, peel and finely slice the onion top to bottom into petal shapes and keep separate.
To make the spice paste, combine garlic, ginger, half the spice mix and oil in a small bowl. To marinate the chicken, combine yogurt with salt and half of the spice paste in a separate bowl. Slice the chicken lengthways into 2-3 cm long strips and add to the yoghurt marinade, coat in the mixture and set aside.
For the tikka, heat butter in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until slightly browned and caramelised. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring continuously for a minute until tomato paste releases its sugars and oil, causing it to darken. Add remainder of the spice paste (not used for the chicken marinade) and the chilli flakes and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
Roughly chop the coriander leaves and stalks. Add coconut cream, chickpeas and coriander to the pan, reserving some coriander for garnish, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes until sauce thickens.
Place the marinated chicken in a single layer on an oven rack with an oven tray underneath to catch the juices. Pop under the grill and cook for 10-12 minutes, turning once. By the end the chicken should be cooked through and a little browned.
For the poppadum, heat 1-2 cm oil in a small frying pan and cook poppadum for 4-5 seconds, one at a time until puffed up. Drain vertically on paper towel before serving.
To serve, cut the lettuce into wedges and place onto plates. Spoon the sauce onto the plate next to the lettuce. Place the chicken on the sauce and garnish with remaining fresh coriander. Serve the poppadum on a side plate.

 
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Free Recipe Friday: Emma’s Berbere spice mix

Oh yes. Friday, you sweet thang!

I’m sure many of you out there have had an interesting week – it’s school holidays after all. From what I can gather from parents of school-age kids, that’s a thing.

We had our own version of a school holiday kinda vibe at out house this week, even though young Kenzie is only 3. She got sick. The kind of sick that meant she was contagious enough to have to stay at home, but not sick enough to stay still. Conjunctivitis – you’re a special kinda hell raiser….

But I’m gonna be honest – I kinda loved being home with her for three whole days. It felt like a holiday (even though I was working most of the time – but you know what they say: “love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life”) A couple of yeas ago, when the business was still so young and we were still finding our feet, there is just no way I could have had three whole days out of the office, regardless of the staff we had. There is just no way, it would have been so overwhelming! But now, I can proudly say that the business is systematic enough to “run it self” in a way. I can take time out with a sick child, and the world doesn’t end. I am proud of that. So proud.

So we hung out. We played around with some slow cooked meals, because as you might know, there might maybe, possibly, hopefully be a slow cooker menu on the cards for this winter. yay 🙂 We ate lots of food. It was good. In the evening time, we enjoyed out “regular meals” from the Inspiration Menu, much like many of our customers. One of the absolute highlights was the “Crispy Berbere spiced chicken thighs served on puy lentil and vegetable medley “.

You might not know this, but this meal first appeared when the business was only 4 months old. I was just finding my feet in the recipe creation gig, and I fell in love with this spice mix! Then, somehow, this meal went into hibernation for a few years, until one day when I was flicking through the archive, reminiscing about the good old days (haha). I stumbled upon it and thought I have to cook this again! So i did. Here it is.

Berbere spice mix. In all its glory.

Emma’s Berbere Spice Mix


Serves 4


1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1  tsp ground fenugreek
1  tsp ground all spice
1  tsp cardamom powder
1  tsp salt
1  tsp pepper

It’s a beautiful, fragrant (not hot spicy) spice mix originating from Ethiopia, featuring ground fenugreek, paprika and cardamom, just to name a few. It’s commonly used in meat dishes and vegetarian stews alike, to add a depth of flavour and richness to a meal.

So go ahead, get your creative hat out and start making dinner magic. Or, if you prefer the tried and tested recipe, here’s what we did with the Berbere spice mix.

Crispy Berbere spiced chicken thighs served on puy lentil and vegetable medley


Serves 4
Gluten free
Dairy Free

Ingredients:


For the lentil medley:
240 g puy lentils, rinsed
2 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Berbere spice mix
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:
800 g chicken thigh, skin on
2 tbsp Berbere spice mix
Drizzle of olive oil

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

For the lentil medley, rinse the lentils in a sieve, then drain. Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom frying pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the spice mix (reserving some for the chicken), tomato paste and then pour in the stock. Add the lentils, cover the pan partially with a lid and cook for 30-35 minutes, until lentils are tender yet firm. Check the liquid in the pan towards the end and adjust as needed – the goal is a saucy lentil medley, but not a soup.

Handy hint: If your pan does not have a lid simply cover it tightly with a double layer of tinfoil.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place into an oven dish, skin side up. Sprinkle with the remaining Berbere spice mix, ensuring even coverage all over the chicken. Place in the oven with the skin side up, and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.

To serve, slice the chicken with a sharp knife and serve on top of the vegetable and lentil medley.

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Steps for making homemade roti

AH roti! We love these on the side of any Inidan inspired dinner! Easy to make, once you know how, so here’s a step-by step guide for you.

Ingredients: 2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp rice bran or neutral oil
For the roti, combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Whisk with a fork to combine into a dough, preventing lumps from forming. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured bench and knead until it forms into a soft elastic dough. Place dough back into mixing bowl, cover with cling film and rest for 15-20 minutes.

Once rested, soften or melt the butter in a small pan or microwave. Flour your bench top (allow yourself space!). Remove dough from the bowl and split into two equal portions per person. Roll out a portion with a floured rolling pin to roughly 15 cm in diameter. Spread butter on the flattened dough. Using a knife, make a cut that goes from the centre of the dough to the edge (radius cut). Lift one of the edges and fold dough over to make a layered cone. Do the same for the remaining balls of dough. Stand the pointy end of cones against the kitchen bench and with the other hand, flatten the cone. Flatten roti to circles with a thickness of about 2-3 mm using a floured rolling pin.

1. Brush rolled out portioned dough with butter.
2. Make a cut from center to edge (radius cut) and fold over several times to roll up.
3. End result is a cone.
4. Stand cone up on its pointy end and flatten with your hand.
5. Roll out dough again and cook in a pan.
6. Flaky roti ready to go with your dinner!

To cook, place a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat and brush with a little oil. Cook the roti one at a time for 2-3 minutes each side or until puffed and golden. Transfer to a serving platter and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

You can place cooked rotis wrapped in dampened tea towel and in heated 50C oven to keep warm.
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How to quinelle – making your food look fancy!

Once in awhile you just have the extra bit of time and you want to wow your guests with top notch presentation! So, here’s a trick up your sleeves that you can use, with both savoury and sweet items! All you need is two spoons!
  1. Top left image: hold a spoon in each hand, with concave side facing each other.
  2. Top right image: scoop up mince/falafel/ice cream etc. with one spoon, the mash it on to the other spoon so the ingredients are packed down.
  3. Bottom left image: using the empty spoon, scoop content – always scoop content with empty spoon towards you. Do this a few times.
  4. Bottom right image: end result – a very presentable rugby-shaped ‘meatball’/falafel/ice cream!