Piccolo Plates deliver nutritious, child friendly and homemade dishes straight to your door. Bella Arkwright, who masterminds Piccolo Plates with Eleanor Sampson, shares some of her favourites with us.
What did you study and what was your favourite class?
I did my undergrad at St Andrews University in International Relations and then went on do to my postgraduate degree in Nutritional Therapy - two very different degrees! Within my nutritional degree I loved learning about Longevity; it was fascinating to study in depth the process of healthy ageing and the impact nutritional strategies can have on life span.
Tell us a little about your journey to setting up Piccolo Plates?
Having decided that I was going to do a complete 360, and go back to studying two years after leaving university, I had to find a way to make ends meet. It was then that I started baby sitting for families around London, and I subsequently became (and still am) extremely close to them. Most of all, I loved cooking for the little ones.
Cooking for multitudes of kids, who have - to put it mildly - differing concepts of taste, all whilst not burning down the kitchen, was a job in itself. And after work I could jump on my bike and head home, with the knowledge that I had made the children's parents lives just a little bit easier that day. It wasn’t long until I put two and two together and combined my studies with the fact that I was cooking for loads of children every day.
I found myself taking a keen interest in what they were eating: were they getting enough Omega3s? Enough protein? How was the food they were eating affecting their energy levels? Their health more generally? The list goes on and on, but I began to see that nutrition and eating the right things has been given a gross disservice in the context of children.
I also saw that the current easy meal options for children are full of preservatives, salt, and sugar, with some of the worst culprits being the ones that claim to be ‘healthy’. When I dug a little deeper, I was astonished at how bad some of it really was.
Eleanor my housemate was also keen to leave her job at Groupon and so together we decided to embark on a project to make feeding your children nutritious, homemade and veggie packed as well as being as easy as possible and Piccolo Plates was born!
What do you love most about running Piccolo Plates?
The variety, and the feedback from Mums and Dads. We have had such a positive response that what we are doing is actually making a difference and it makes the early starts and long hours completely worth it. I also quite like being my own boss!
Funniest thing that has happened so far?
When I was greeted by Harry from McFly on a delivery, the look on my face had Els in hysterics for some reason... !
3 tips for cooking for children?
1. Don't over complicate.
3. Wherever possible always try to sit down and eat with them from an early age. If they see you eating and enjoying your food then it is far more likely that they will too; I wish eating was still a family occasion!
Favourite food shop?
HG Walter, it is the best butcher in London.
Favourite place to eat out?
There is a small retaurant close to where I live called Tosa, I love it there. It's a Japanese restaurant without fuss but exceptionally good authentic food.
I recently met Diana Henry and loved her down to earth approach and love of food.
What are you drinking?
In the summer I am at my happiest having a glass of rosé outside ideally with some crisps (pringles!).
What are you listening / dancing too?
You mean apart from McFly!? (Joking!) I can listen to any Imagine Dragons album on repeat.
What are you reading?
I have just started the new Philip Pullman La Bella Sauvage, it's brilliant.
Town or countryside?
Thats a difficult one; I've lived in London all my life but my Mum lives in Wiltshire and I try and go down to the countryside at every possible weekend. If I had to choose though it would probably have to be Town.
Dog or cat?
Easy - dog. Cats aren't anywhere near needy enough for me.
Favourite place in London?
Walking along the stretch of river between Hammersmith and Barnes.
Favourite place in the world?
Anywhere with my family to be honest! My mum has 7 brothers so there are a huge amount of cousins, aunts and uncles; any family get together is always brilliant.
If you could have 3 people to dinner dead or alive who would they be and what would you cook for them?
My granny who we used to call Gosh, who died 10 years ago, Barack Obama and Jane Garvey (Els and I religiously tune in for womens hour whilst cooking!). I would probably cook lots of marinated chicken thighs and serve it with some of Ottolenghi delicious salads. Eleanor collects cook books and our house is completely over run with them so I would probably change my mind and cook something completely different last minute!
Favourite Piccolo dish?
I am really enjoying the curry we have on our menu at the moment. Very shamefacedly I am not very good with spice so this mild butternut squash and chicken curry suits me (and the little ones very well!). Its also very easy to make so definitely give it a try!
Recipe for Gluten and Dairy free Chicken and Butternut Squash Curry
Serves 4 adults
6 chicken thighs, bite sized pieces
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 thumb of grated fresh ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
1/2 a butternut squash cubed
fresh coriander for serve
basmati rice to serve
Add a lug of oil to your pan, on a medium heat gently brown your chicken thighs until golden all over, once golden remove from the pan and place on a plate.
Add more oil if needed and to the same pan add the finely chopped onions and soften gently for 6 minutes, stir in your garlic and ginger, garam masla, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric and cook on a low heat for a further two minutes.
Next add the tin of tomatoes and coconut milk and stir thoroughly. Add your butternut squash and bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and allow the pan to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
The sauce should have reduced and the butternut squash be soft. You want the coconut milk to reduce down to a lovely thick 'coating the back of your spoon' consistency. Add the golden chicken back into the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes and until the chicken is completely cooked through. Add a splash of water to loosen if you think it needs it.
Season to taste, garnish with chopped coriander and serve alongside freshly cooked basmati rice.