When we think of foods high in calcium, we automatically think of milk and cheese. Not fish. Yet sardines are a fabulous source of calcium; of all fish they contain the most. But much of the calcium in fish is found in the bones. Unsurprisingly, it’s a serious challenge to get children to eat them. We've never managed it. Until now. This powerhouse sauce is packed full of calcium, protein and, of course, Omega 3. The sardines dissolve into the sauce, so the bones seem to disappear… magically. The children have no idea they are eating such a nourishing meal. Everybody wins.
Everyone knows we need calcium to grow healthy bones and teeth. But fewer
Children need lots of protein, particularly if they’re active. Upping protein may make school and homework just that little bit easier too. As well as providing the building blocks for growing, protein helps keep energy levels steady, which is critical for better concentration. It also helps keep children (adults too) feel fuller for longer - no more begging for snacks an hour after eating.
Harriet’s tip: cooking tomatoes increases the availability of antioxidants.
But of course, we couldn’t share this recipe without boasting about its Omega 3. We’re passionate about Omega 3. We can’t make it, so we have to eat it. Sardines are great sources of the most important types: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). They’re particularly important for children. They keep their skin healthy, nervous system ticking over and brains powered. They also help them to fight infections. To keep the Omega 3s in super condition, we’ve cooked the fish in tomato sauce. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene that keeps the Omega 3s fresh.
What you need
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 tin sardines in oil (about 130g), drained
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
- 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
- 200ml water
- 25g fresh basil
- Pasta, ideally
wholemealwheat, spelt or brown rice
Serves 6 - 8 children
Inspired by Nicola Moore and Belinda Blake.
Warm the olive oil on a low heat and cook the onion and garlic for about five minutes, until they start to soften.
Add the sardines to the pan, mashing them with a wooden spoon as they cook. Leave for another five minutes or so on a gentle heat until the onions become translucent and the fish has broken right down.
Add the tomatoes, paste and water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Season to taste and add the basil – no need to chop or tear. Blend to a smooth sauce, and combine with the cooked pasta.
Harriet’s tip: Though this isn’t a strong tasting sauce, a dollop of cream stirred in at the end may be useful for particularly sensitive palates.
Harriet Bindloss has always loved cooking and feeding family and friends. She trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, worked as a private cook, then went on to produce the food pages at House & Garden magazine for five years. Now she uses her experiences and passion for nutrition to feed her most difficult critics, her two young children.