Inspired by their Italian heritage, Welsh TV cooks the Chiappa Sisters specialise in colourful family food. Here we speak to mother-of-two Michela, who lives between South Wales and Dorset, UK, and her sister Emanuela Chiappa, who lives North Carolina and is pregnant with her second child. Plus, they share a very special recipe…
How did you get to where you are today?
Michela was working in Sports Marketing and was publishing Tom Daley’s book with Penguin ahead of the Olympics when she met some producers from Jamie Oliver World who said that C4 were looking for female Welsh talent and would we mind being filmed cooking in our home for a pilot…
We had done nothing like this before but they came and filmed a pilot and two months later we had a TV series on Channel 4. We were not chefs, just girls who had learnt to cook from a young age. Food for us was part of growing up and not something we trained in.We started twisting our grandmother’s recipes so that they fitted around our busy lifestyles. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. All our recipes are simple and something anyone can try.
Italians live and breathe food and this is exactly how we were brought up, and how we are raising our own children. As newborns our kids learnt to be in the kitchen whilst we got on with the cooking so even in the early months, they would be surrounded by smells, sounds from our cooking. As soon as they could toddle, they were encouraged to touch and taste new foods and flavours. Our own earliest memories of food were always in the kitchen helping our mum and grandmother.
What are your go-to meals when you’re in a hurry?
Family frittata is always a great one as we always have plenty of eggs in the house and you can add into it any leftovers or cheese you might have in the fridge. Plus it is one pot that feeds the whole family and is super quick to prepare, too.
We will often make a batch of our speedy cheat bolognese on the weekend which gives us at least 3-4 meals….over rice, over pasta, over a jacket potato, lasagne….. It’s really simple to make and so versatile.
What do you cook with your kids and how do you get kids interested in cooking?
Generally children love helping out making anything dough-like, so biscuit dough, fresh pasta, gnocchi, or pizza. If they are really little, we tend to tear off a piece of dough, give them a few child-friendly tools (like a plastic knife or fork and a rolling pin) and leave them to it, so they think they are helping.
When they are a little older, we let them really help us prepare the gnocchi or pizza. We haven’t yet found a child who doesn’t like helping in the kitchen. In our book we have a section which talks about recipes you can get the kids to help you make… pesto is another great one. Get the kids to pick off all the basil leaves!
Any top tips for getting kids to try new foods?
Try not to make an issue of it – we tend to leave little bowls of new foods/snacks where the kids are playing. You’ll be surprised how curious they can be when you’re not watching over their shoulder. Also, try to enourage to taste new things at the dinner table and again, don’t make a fuss if they don’t want to. But give a reward/positive reinforcement if they do try it. They will soon learn that trying new things is a good thing even if they don’t like the end result.
Frozen Yoghurt Berry Bark
This Frozen Yoghurt Berry Bark is super easy to make, and as it’s frozen you can always have it to hand.
Preparation time is 10 minutes, plus allow freezing time of overnight. Serves: Many
150g full fat thick Greek yoghurt
2 tbs freeze-dried or fresh strawberries
2 tbs chopped pistachios or other nut of your choice
Line a baking tray or small freezer-safe pan with greaseproof paper.
Roughly chop the pistachios.
Spread yoghurt thinly, about 1cm tick, on the greaseproof paper.
Sprinkle the pistachios and strawberries evenly over the yoghurt.
Freeze uncovered overnight.
Remove from the baking sheet once frozen.
Break into small pieces and serve immediately as it defrosts quickly
Store extra pieces in a freezer-safe container.
Tip: Wrap baking paper around the pieces of bark when serving to help little ones eat it – to can be cold to hold and melts quickly.
Taken from the Chippas Sisters new book Baby at the Table, A 3-step guide to weaning the Italian way.