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How To Introduce Your Kids To Seafood

We asked gourmet farmer and dad Matthew Evans how to make fresh seafood appeal to kids.

Kids can be picky eaters and often want to stick with fish fingers, but for parents who want their children to enjoy fresh seafood, what’s a good dish to start with?

Rather than having your kids go through ‘seafood shock’, it’s best to migrate them over to fresh fish gently. Start with some home-crumbed, pan-fried latchet – a white-fleshed, light-flavoured sweet fish – or similar.

It’s kind of like fish fingers with no nasties, and it’s hard not to love, even for picky eaters.

What kind of seafood should kids be eating?

Anything and everything! Most kids won’t go for oysters or strong fish like sardines or pilchards when they’re young, but you have to start somewhere. Give them tastes of your fish or shellfish when you eat it. Incorporate a bit of seafood into a pasta marinara, or dip a prawn in cocktail sauce to make it more palatable.

Children under five have a less developed immune system, so I’d tend to avoid raw seafood.

Do you talk about sustainable farming with your son? How do you explain this idea?

My son is five and we talk about sustainability a bit, but the concept has to be simplified. We talk about where his food comes from (he’s no stranger to death due to his farm upbringing) and that we need to respect the land and the sea that allows us to eat so well.

We try to honour the life of the animals that have lived and died for us, and we try to explain that everything has a cost – some things cost the earth more than others, however these are big concepts that will take years to fully form in kids’ minds.

How can parents get kids involved in the cooking and preparation of seafood?

It’s like all cooking – show them the raw ingredients, get them to help with simple things like flouring a piece of fish or stirring. I have a crinkle cutter for potatoes, so we can make crinkle-cut chips. My boy will do almost anything for a chip and he knows that for every chip, he has to eat just as much fish – it’s a bribe, but it’s fun to make the chips and it gets him to eat more seafood.

How do you make seafood look more appetising for children who may not like the appearance?

I haven’t found a kid who’s afraid of fish. Oysters, mussels and clams, yes, but usually a fairly white-fleshed fish is fine. I think it’s important for all of us, adults as well as children, to know that food comes from somewhere, so occasionally seeing a whole leatherjacket on the BBQ or a whole trout poaching in a pan is a good thing.

The thing is not to try shock treatment, so start in the shallows with innocuous white fish fillets and build from there.

Do you have a fail-safe dish that most kids love?

In the book (The Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing) we have a recipe for pot sticker dumplings with crab. Everybody loves a dumpling, and in these you can use prawns if you don’t have crab – there’s not a person in the family who won’t want to clean their plate.

Words by Bron Bates

Guest Contributor