See the slideshow for tricks that turn tomato compote into dinner

Photographs copyright Peter Knab

Tomato Compote

Practical Playtime / Jobs For The Kids

  • Measure the olive oil.
  • Peel the onion. Start your child off by cutting off the tops with a knife. Then peel the skin just enough to give them something to grip and then pull off. This is extremely satisfying at any age.
  • Peel the garlic. Jake and James love banging it to loosen the skin first.
  • Measure the tomato puree. Jake loves doing this – he calls it the tomato toothpaste.
  • Open the tin with as much supervision as they need. (Jake started doing this at 4 & 1/2.)  
  • Put the onions, garlic, orange peel and olive oil into a cold pan and stir them around.

My Cooking With Kids Recipe Diary

Jake 5 years 5 months, James 2 years 9 months 


Over the years I’ve introduced lots of different tastes to Jake and James in or alongside tomato sauce or compote. The sauce has a taste they love that can be familiar and fresh at the same time.  Sometimes it's 'daddy’s special sauce' for them to spoon onto or mix with their dinner. This always helps if they’re not keen on trying something.  I've mixed it with pasta, rice, semolina, cous cous and quinoa. In much earlier days I used the sauce as part of a puree with meat or fish and sweet potato or parsnip. 

I've always used the same compote or sauce that we eat but without the salt. I’m pretty sure this is why Jake now has no problem eating onions, garlic and every herb we like.   The only thing better than tomato compote is Ratatouille which gives him six vegetables in one hit. 

So use your tomato compote as an introduction to turnips, carrots, courgettes, leeks, aubergines (peel the skin), swedes, cabbage, mushrooms, celeriac, runner beans and every other vegetable in its season. Boil, steam or roast and add to tomato compote from your stash in the freezer. Or, if you’re making a fresh batch and the vegetable will cook in time just add it to the simmering sauce.  Never think of this as hiding the vegetables, just as slowly introducing tastes that aren’t familiar alongside some that are. Gradually mix them with less compote until it's just a binding. 

I've found dried orange zest to be an excellent seasoning for Jake's food. It delicately sweetens anything saucy or stewed without the need to add any sugar.  It also holds a touch of bitterness and acidity so has gotten him used to both tastes in a very gentle way. He will now ask for lemon whenever I give him grated carrots.  Getting him used to the taste gradually has a lot to do with this.