... Shikha Gill, founder of My Little Food Critic
When it comes to food and children there aren’t many parents who haven’t struggled at some point to get their kids eating a varied diet. From the common battle of getting little ones to eat their greens to the daily conundrum of what meals to offer for a balanced diet, cooking for a family can often become stressful and a chore. And no one knows more about this than Shikha Gill, founder of My Little Food Critic. A law graduate and former teacher with a Masters in Education, Shikha started her Instagram account @my.little.food.critic after the birth of her son Zora and as she began his weaning journey. Disappointed with the often bland recipes advised for babies and children, and with many of the supermarket food heavily processed, lacking in flavour and with lots of hidden sugar, Shikha was inspired to experiment and create her own recipes. Four years and 188k followers later and Shikha has created a go-to account and blog for parents looking to find tasty yet nutritional meal and snack ideas.
Having always had a passion for cooking, Shikha started My Little Food Critic with the aim of introducing her son to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and world flavours that would stay with him for life and this soon became the ethos behind her recipes. As a working mum, Shikha understands how busy life is for parents and always considers this when creating her recipes, which are simple and quick but always aim to encourage a love of real, home cooked food.
This month sees Shikha launching her very own My Little Food Critic app, aimed at parents who are looking for recipe inspiration for the whole family. From weaning babies to fussy toddlers and growing adults, Shikha has created an app that includes deliciously nutritious snacks and full meal ideas inspired by world cuisines, plus an exclusive lifestyle section which features tips from acclaimed experts. Her hope is that the app can help parents avoid having to cook separate meals all the time and instead give them a variety of recipes that are perfect for all the family to enjoy together.
Taking a moment out of the kitchen, Shikha sits down with Magnificent Marrow to reveal how she comes up with new recipes, discusses the launch of her new app and shares her top three tips for those parents struggling to get their children to eat anything other than fish fingers!
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I learnt to cook from my mother and grandmother, who were both exceptional cooks. Neither of them ever used any written recipes, just recipes remembered through experience and memory! It brings me so much joy to see others enjoying the food I’ve cooked and recreating my recipes.
I love experimenting and I’m often inspired by meals from my childhood or amazing meals we have eaten when travelling. I like to keep the ingredients simple but combine interesting flavours and use spices to create dimension and depth. Also my husband keeps me on my toes with his requests which challenge and inspire me when it comes to cooking up new recipes
Food plays such a pivotal role in our lives and picky eating is stressful, frustrating and can really take an emotional toll on parents. Are they eating enough? Is there enough variety in their diet? Will they ever expand their palate? Have I done something wrong? It’s certainly stressful. My top three tips are:
- Get your kids involved in the cooking process
I passionately believe in kids in the kitchen. Getting your little ones involved in the cooking process provides them with opportunity to learn to appreciate food and exposes them to a variety of food. By helping to prepare it they are able to learn about food and more likely to try new foods. I learnt this through experience. Every cooking opportunity is a learning experience, we talk about the food, where it comes from and why our bodies need it – this all sounds very serious, but we have so many laughs doing this!
- Offer options
Sometimes letting your child choose a meal can really help them to try new foods. For example, asking them to choose whether to have cucumber or broccoli with dinner can go a long way to making a child feel empowered and in control. Limited choices promote making better choices!
It’s so easy to serve the same meals on rotation without introducing new flavours/textures. One way around this is to serve foods they like but with different flavour profiles, for example, pasta with pesto as opposed to always with tomato sauce. Adding new veggies as a side dish is also a great way to add variety to a meal.
There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing little ones all around the world enjoying my recipes. It is an ongoing career highlight and one which inspires me so much.
I love cooking and feeding my family but I love meals out together as well. We love going out as a family and experiencing new cuisine cooked by someone else.
Lentil dahl was the first dish that I ever learned to cook. It is classic comfort food and so delicious. I love how versatile it is and so easy to mix up the flavours and spices!
My most memorable meal was my grandmother’s spinach curry. She used to make a huge batch every few weeks, loaded with greens and the flavour was just unreal.
Creamy and spicy pasta is my go-to comfort dish. Simple but oh so delicious.
Zora loves anything with lots of flavour and he is a huge fan of biryani and fajitas. Something that we are still working on is bell peppers, he isn’t a fan!
My favourite dining companion is my husband. We always have lots of laughs, I love his company and sometimes it’s the only time we get to talk without distractions!
My dream dinner party guests would be my late Nan and Gran. They were both incredible women and I wish they could have met my little Z. I would have loved to have had more time with them.
Generally, my drink of choice is water! Although some days a delicious cold glass of Chablis really hits the spot!
Broccoli is both mine and Zora’s favourite vegetable. I think it is really versatile to cook with and takes on flavours really well.
Without a doubt my death-row dinner would be a variety of Indian street food dishes. I just adore all the flavours.
After the first lockdown the first restaurant we visited was The Ivy. It’s actually Z’s favourite place to eat! I had the halloumi and couscous and it was divine. After months of non-stop cooking I really appreciated the experience!
The @my.little.food.critic app will be available from December 2020 and will be free to download with a monthly subscription fee of 99p, available on Apple App Store and Google Store