Paprika salmon with fennel & balsamic tomato dressing (page 56)

Switch & Mix

The salmon can be substituted for the chicken breast on page 41, the aubergine on page 69, the pork chop on page 83 or the burger/mince steak on page 111. Season them with paprika as per this recipe and then cook them for the time that I give you on their recipes. No other changes are necessary.


Practical Playtime / Jobs For The Kids

  • Put the salmon filets on the tray. (Be careful if you get them to brush the paprika on, keep it away from their hands and eyes.) 
  • Grate the lemon zest with as much supervision as they need.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice. 
  • Measure the olive oil. 
  • Take the olive stones out. Teach them to do it by first pinching the tips, then squeezing out the stones. (This is a great job to teach them.) 
  • Measure the balsamic vinegar. 
  • Measure the tomato juice. 
  • Peel the garlic. Jake and James love banging it to loosen the skin first.

My Cooking With Kids Recipe Diary

Jake 4 years 8 months, James 2 years

I cooked three portions of this for the four of us. The third I cut into 2/3 and 1/3 for the kids and I served it with soft polenta on the side and it was polenta to the rescue.


At this stage I'm still keeping everything separate for James. He was starving and he went for the polenta in a frenzy, eating really fast, far too fast really, but we won’t interrupt his rhythm at the moment. Instead, Jess and I mixed the polenta with his salmon and sauce as he ate. We even tried him with a spoonful of the fennel salad that I’d chopped up. He ate everything except my optimistic second spoonful of the fennel salad that he got rid of, then gave me that look to suggest I’d tried to pull a fast one again. He loves feeding me the salads though. He pushes them into my mouth. Jess and I talked about the polenta as we ate, because we’d had a similar situation with the salmon and mango when we served it with orzo to get him to start eating. We think he wants something plain, easy and familiar to get him started. He is very used to polenta after I introduced it to him during a fortnight when I was testing recipes for a video. And because it's such a speedy and accommodating accompaniment we eat it often now. 


I cut the fennel about as thick as a pound coin so that it was more crunchy than chewy and Jake loved it, which I’m delighted about as he only started eating raw fennel about six months ago. 


When I'm testing recipes, I try not to make the whole dinner conversation analytical, as a vital part of the recipe is how much we all enjoy just eating it together. But we talk about the food a lot as we eat. Jake joins the conversation and his observations are often moving, evocative and very helpful. 'Do you remember when I didn’t like polenta when we were staying at Great Granddad's?' he asks. 'I remember, Jake.' 'I really like soaking up my sauce with it,' he says, 'and I like it when you make it into chips.'


I’d given Jake very little spice on the salmon and put the full amount on my and Jess’ portions. He wanted to taste ours, so I gave him a forkful.  'I really like it when I eat it, but then after it makes my mouth feel really spicy.' 'Do you like that?' I ask. 'Does it feel funny?' 'I think so.' I watch him eat and proudly listen to his progress and the way food and eating together is holidays and birthdays and everyday and it reassures me. It makes me realise that all we need to do with James is keep trying and to do all we can to keep mealtimes fun.