Sunday, October 27, 2013

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How to Get Kids to Eat Local Food on Vacation (plus a Conejo al Salmorejo Recipe)

Conejo al Salmorejo - Photo from Flicker
All parents would probably agree that children hate change – especially when it comes to food. Whenever we go out to eat, our little ones always pick the exact same things: one chooses plain tomato and cheese pizza and the other has chicken nuggets, both of which are topped with an abundance of ketchup.

We recently snapped up a cheap flight to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. There are loads of great deals going at the minute if you know where to look – Jet2holidays in the UK and Air Berlin in Germany are both great places to begin. Our hotel advertised a buffet restaurant and I was looking forward to encouraging the kids to try all sorts of different things, but my dreams were dashed after they were still gobbling up plates of chicken nuggets and pizza on day six of our holiday.

Even though we were staying at an all-inclusive hotel, I decided to take them out to a restaurant – preferably one which didn’t serve chicken nuggets or pizza. I’d asked around at the hotel and heard great things about El Cordero, so on the final night of our vacation I packed everyone into the car and headed to the restaurant.

After a short drive we arrived at the eatery and the children were instantly mesmerized by the giant lamb-shaped bush in front of the restaurant. It took a few seconds to click, but the bush made a bit more sense when I remembered that El Cordero is Spanish for The Lamb. I hustled everyone up the stairs and a few minutes later we were all sat at our table waiting for our server to bring us our drinks.

Looking at other diners, I couldn’t help but notice that no one seemed to have a menu. Everything fell into place when the server returned with our drinks and began reeling off a list of everything that was available this evening in a mixture of Spanish and English. After a blank stare or two on my part, the server suggested a mixed platter to share which I happily accepted.

I asked the kids if they were hungry and the answer was a resounding no – something which I was sure would change the minute they smelled the delicious barbecue aroma of grilled meat. When our servers brought dishes laden with all sorts of cuts accompanied by generous portions of Canarian potatoes and salad the children’s eyes grew like saucers.
Canarian potatoes - Photo from Flicker
I offered to serve the children and – as expected – they turned me down so I filled my plate up and began enjoying my dinner. I casually chatted to the little ones whilst they kept looking at each other, almost as if they were challenging the other one to give in first.

No more than two minutes went by before my little girl piped up with: “Chicken leg is like chicken nuggets. Please can I have one?” I gave her a chicken leg, whilst slipping a few other things on her plate, too. I asked her brother if he wanted any chicken and he just shrugged so I filled his plate up as well.

Even though they were remarkably skeptical to start off with, both the kids were soon devouring everything on their plate and going for more, something which I was absolutely thrilled about. At the end of the meal I asked them what they’re favorite dish was and I was shocked. They both pointed at the same thing – the rabbit. Granted, I hadn’t told them it was rabbit but even after I did it hadn’t fazed them. Not wanting to miss out on this huge opportunity, I persuaded the server to give me the recipe for the rabbit so I could make it at home.

Rabbit can often be difficult to get a hold of. If you can’t find it in the store, or simply don’t like the idea of eating it, this dish is just as good when made with chicken. If you’d like to have a go at making Canarian rabbit (Conejo al Salmorejo) at home, here’s my adaptation of the recipe given to me by the server at El Cordero. It will make enough to serve four people. Whilst the traditional way to cook this dish is in a frying pan, I cooked it on the grill over the summer and it turned out wonderfully.

RECIPE:  Conejo al Salmorejo

1 whole rabbit or ½ a chicken
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 chilli
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons vinegar

1. Cut the rabbit or chicken into chunks. Rub in a little salt and place the meat in a shallow baking dish.

2. Finely slice the chilli and remove the seeds if you don’t like your food too hot. Peel and chop the garlic.

3. Place the chilli, garlic, paprika, rosemary, thyme, white wine and vinegar into the food processor and pulse a few times until everything is finely chopped – this is your marinade.

4. Pour the marinade over the meat and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

5. When you’re ready to cook, add the olive oil into the frying pan and set the heat to medium. Remove the meat from the baking dish and fry for 8 minutes on each side or until each piece is golden all over. When all the meat is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces and leave to one side on a plate.

6. Drain the last of the oil out of the pan and pour in the marinade. Turn the heat down to low and put the meat back in the pan. Leave to simmer for ten minutes or until most of the liquid has been reduced.

7. Serve the rabbit or chicken with the sauce spooned on top and alongside Canarian potatoes.

If you’re having a tough job of getting your little ones to eat local food when on vacation, try doing what I did. Order a large platter for everyone to share so the kids don’t feel like the spotlight is on them. If your kids don’t dive in straight away, just let them get familiar with the food and carry on with your own meal. Within a few minutes curiosity will without a doubt get the better of them and they’ll be very keen to try whatever you’re eating.

Katie is the aspiring food and travel blogger behind Now that she’s started to learn how to cook Canarian food, she loves researching authentic Spanish recipes so she can reproduce the delicious food she discovered during her travels.