Recently the father of two – with another on the way – published his first book How To Grow Your Family. Eileen Leahy caught up with Adam to find out why it’s a recipe for success.
So Adam, for those not familiar with your Instagram account can you briefly sum it up for us please?
I run @At_Dads_Table where I share food-positive, fun and easy to make pregnancy, weaning and family recipes with my 48k+ followers. My debut cookbook How to Grow your Family is based on my page and was published in March.
When and why did you get into running At Dad’s Table?
When my wife first became pregnant we were both surprised at how official food advice focused so much on what you can’t have, not what you can. We both felt like we’d failed as parents before we’d even started! So instead I started designing food-positive recipes for each trimester to make my wife and baby feel good and it grew from there….
You have two toddlers now; would you say getting them to eat the good stuff is getting easier – or is it still a challenge?
And we have a third on the way any day now! Like all aspects of parenting, it’s still a challenge and we have our ups and downs…However as my eldest (4) is getting older he’s able to tell me more about what he wants to eat and I think it’s important to give him that independence (within reason).
What are your top tips for getting kids to eat more fruit and veg – and do you believe in ‘hiding’ them in other foods or are you more transparent?
I try to be transparent with my kids when it comes to food. I’ll chop and blend veg into sauces to improve taste and texture but I’ll never lie to them about what they’re eating. I’m not really a fan of carving fruit into animal shapes or hiding strong tasting food in something sweeter, I don’t see the point!
What’s your USP as a kids’ food blogger and author?
I firmly believe in giving your children the confidence to try new foods and that comes from involving them in all aspects, be it going around a supermarket together, prepping food, talking about what you’re eating and making the dinner table a safe, enjoyable place to be.
How did the book deal for How To Grow Your Family come about?
It’s with Nourish Books who are an imprint of Watkins Publishing. I’d always wanted to publish a book – and with Covid wreaking havoc on the conference and events industry which I had worked in for over a decade, I decided to put all of my effort in the first lockdown into making At Dad’s Table a success with the goal of securing a book deal.
Can you tell us what readers can expect to find in it?
I like to call it a ‘cookery bible’ taking you from pregnancy through to new parents one dish at a time. There are six chapters, 20 recipes in each covering the first three trimesters of pregnancy, the fog of new parenthood, weaning and finger food and finally family meals. As well as the recipes there’s information on the best foods to eat at different times, in-depth food hacks, a guide to the nutritional make up of the best foods to eat and lots more!
Did you find it easy to write or was it more of a challenge given you have your hands full with toddlers?
Well my publishers asked me to also photograph the food too as it all took place over lockdown, which was quite a challenge! I could write the recipes in the evening when the kids were in bed, but obviously you need natural light for the best food pictures so I’d have to make and photograph the food with a then 1 and 3-year-old around, which was quite testing! My wife helped me enormously in trying to keep them out of the way – but there are some funny outtakes on my Instagram feed!
Where did you get inspiration from for the recipes?
I’m not much of a meal planner. I tend to make sure my fridge is full of fresh fruit and vegetables and then go from there, always thinking about what extra twists I can add to a dish to get more nutrients in.
What do you think parents (and their children) will enjoy most about your new book?
I hope they’ll appreciate the positive nature of it. I can’t stand how during these first few years of parenting we are expected to totally change our view of food. Be it strict, unnecessarily boring diets in pregnancy or labelling a baby as a ‘fussy eater’ when they’re not even a year old, it’s all wrong in my opinion. Food is a pleasure, it’s fun and should be enjoyed. I hope people will see this book as a gateway to making them feel good (and reassured!).
Will you be doing any local promotion for it such as book signings people can come along to?
As we get closer to summer I’ll be doing a few local appearances around town so keep an eye on my @At_Dads_Table on Instagram account for details.
And finally, which cooks inspire you and why?
From a food mentality perspective, it has always been Jamie Oliver. I love how he makes delicious dishes with simple ingredients and I think my food-positive outlook as probably kickstarted by him when I was a teenager. Closer to home I love the food prepared by the Tanner Brothers at The Kentish Hare and Will Devlin at The Small Holding and I’m really looking forward to Atul Kochhar opening up on The Pantiles.
NOW TRY ONE OF ADAM’S TASTY TREATS FOR ALL THE FAMILY: SALMON BIRYANI
You can pack lots of spices and veg into this dish. It’s a delicious and easy-to-make fakeaway to reward yourself at the end of a long day.
Prep time: 15 minutes – Cook time: 30 minutes
A knob of butter (or a vegan alternative)
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5cm/2in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 aubergine/eggplant, diced
1 carrot, diced
A few cauliflower florets
300g/10½oz/1½ cups long grain brown rice
600ml/21fl oz/2½ cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon tomato purée/paste
12 new potatoes
100g/3½oz/½ cup frozen peas
2 salmon fillets, about 150g/5½oz each
Large handful of spinach, chopped
1 spring onion/scallion, chopped
A few coriander/cilantro sprigs, leaves chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and spices, then stir well so they coat the diced onion.
- Add the aubergine/eggplant, carrot and cauliflower florets. Pour the rice into the pan along with the stock and stir in the tomato purée/paste. Bring to the boil, mix well, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the potatoes and stir in the peas. Cover the pan and cook for around 20 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add some more stock.
- While the biryani is cooking, place the salmon fillets in an ovenproof dish, season and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
- When almost all of the liquid has been absorbed in the biryani pan and the rice is cooked, add the spinach and stir it in, allowing it to wilt.
- Flake the salmon into chunks and place on top of the biryani. Finally, sprinkle over the chopped spring onion/scallion and coriander/cilantro and serve.
MIX IT UP
- Try crumbling some paneer on top of the biryani while it’s cooking for extra calcium.
- Combine half a teaspoon of each of the spices with a splash of oil and use it as a marinade for the salmon, or alternatively use chicken or lamb, or an entire roasted cauliflower for a vegan option.