Dad Paul Lindley is very much a man after my own heart. Several years ago, when his kids were very young, he became passionate about making sure his children ate nothing but the best.
Healthy, tasty food that his youngsters would devour.
It became such an obsession that he gave up his job as deputy managing director at Nickleodeon and with his wife Alison they set up Ella's Kitchen – the company they named after their now 13-year-old daughter – to produce food for babies, toddlers and young children.
He said: "I passionately believe that Ella, my daughter, along with her generation, should have the opportunity to eat better food and also to discover that healthy food can be fun, tasty and cool.
"From my experience with Ella and her younger brother Paddy, we think it's important to always approach things from a child's point of view. So, we took simple, natural ingredients that ooze goodness and created baby foods, and packaging, that really connects with little ones – with flavours, colours, textures and even names that will appeal to all of their senses.
"We try really hard to be good in every sense – not just through the good food we make, but also by doing good stuff for our environment and giving stuff back to our local communities. We've done research with parents, little ones, psychologists and supermarkets to understand the very important role that all five of the senses play in developing healthy eating habits that last a lifetime."
Since I received the book, I've tried and tested half a dozen recipes, including Mmmmmmoussaka and Squishy salmon fishcakes, but this one is the winner...
MARVELLOUS MEATBALLS WITH CLEVER TOMATO SAUCE
3 tbsp apple puree
2 tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
500g lean minced pork
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1. To make the apple puree, peel, core and chop 2 eating apples. Steam until soft, then mash with a fork.
2. Place the breadcrumbs and sage in a large bowl and add 50ml boiling water. Allow the mixture to soak for 2-3 mins, until the water has been absorbed and the mixture is cool enough to handle.
3. Add the pork, apple puree and nutmeg and use your hands to mix together until fully combined. Mould the mixture into 24 mini meatballs.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs over a low heat for 15 mins, turning occasionally, until cooked through.
5. Serve the meatballs on a mound of spaghetti topped with Clever Tomato Sauce. (If you aren't using all the meatballs at once, you can freeze them – uncooked or cooked and then cooled completely – for up to a month).
CLEVER TOMATO SAUCE
This sauce is clever for two reasons. First, there are lots of ways to use it – poured over pasta, or over meatballs, or stirred into couscous, or as a healthy alternative to ketchup. Second, it's packed to brim with veggie goodness. It's also perfect for freezing into handy portions.
1 carrot, peeled diced
200g butternut squash, peeled and diced
50g frozen peas, defrosted
415g can baked beans
400g can chopped tomatoes
3 tomatoes, chopped
1. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook the carrot, squash and peas for 7-8 mins, until tender. Drain in a sieve, then return to the pan.
2. Add the baked beans and puree with a hand blender until smooth.
3. Return the pan to the heat. Add both the canned and fresh tomatoes and bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 mins until the fresh tomatoes are soft and pulpy.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and puree again until you have a beautifully smooth sauce.
• Ella's Kitchen Foundation is a charity which funds innovative academic research to improve knowledge of young children's relationships with food and their attitudes to a healthy diet. Ten per cent of the profits from the book go to the Foundation.
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