Helen Farmer on food, family and her Dubai favourites

This month we sat down with the freelance journalist and mother to get the goss on what's on her hit (and miss) list

What sort of cook are you?

I’d describe myself as more of a heater-upper of sauces and soups. I do have a few dishes in my repertoire that I bring out time and time again: casseroles, stews, lasagne, things like that.

I think the main issue is that I’m not very ambitious and I actually find cooking quite stressful unless I’ve got lots of time and all the ingredients to hand. I’m lucky, though, as my husband Nick is a good cook.

Who does the cooking in your house?

There’s a pretty even split. Nick and I take it in turns. But we don’t always cook: we’ll often go out one night then order in another.

Do you plan your weekly shop?

I would love to be one of those people who writes a shopping list once a week and then sticks to it, but I’m not. I tend to do two or three shops a week and buy things as and when I need them.

I’d like to be a bit more organised, but, then again, it’s nice to be able to choose what you fancy on the day. I do think if you overplan things it can take some of the joy out of eating.

What kind of eater is Phoebe?

Phoebe’s almost two now and she is probably on the pickier side. I wish she was a little more adventurous but, that said, she certainly gets everything she needs nutritionally. I want her to grow up to be an adventurous eater and I do think that starts with the parents. I haven’t been brave enough to try big flavours out on her yet, but I’m going to start soon.

What’s her favourite food?

Pasta is very popular at the moment. She also loves scrambled eggs, cheese, toast, grapes and nibbly bits.

Can you share some parenting advice with us?

In terms of general advice, you’re going to be judged from the very beginning – as soon as you tell someone you’re pregnant, they have an opinion on your body and then later your baby – so the best thing you can do is be confident in your own decisions.

When it comes to food, it’s very easy to get worried about what your child is and isn’t eating. I think it’s sensible to look at their diet over the course of a week, rather than a day; you’ll often be surprised about how much they’ve eaten. As long as your doctor is happy with their weight gain try not to worry too much.

What's your top Spinneys product?

I buy the ready-to-cook meatballs a lot. They’re great for Phoebe – it’s like they’re already portioned. Another favourite is the feta and quinoa salad from the deli; I have that for lunch if I’m working from home.

What do you really enjoy eating?

I’m currently pregnant, so of course I want all the food I can’t have: blue cheese, cured meats, things like that. At the moment a really good cheeseboard would be wonderful.

What's your least favourite food?

I hate bananas but Phoebe loves them, so I’ve had to face my fear and try to not look disgusted when I peel them.

Tell us a life hack you swear by?

I’m into batch cooking. If I have a quiet afternoon or a few hours at the weekend I fill my freezer full of food for Phoebe. It’s very satisfying to see all the Tupperware boxes in there.

What would you consider a hidden gem in Dubai?

We recently went to the dinosaur park in Dubai Garden Glow. Super-kitsch and cheesy but so much fun and a really family-friendly way to spend a few hours. All the rules went out the window: Phoebe had popcorn for dinner and we had ice cream.

Describe your perfect Dubai day?

In the cooler months I love being outside. We’ll often pick up breakfast and head to the beach for a picnic. In the afternoon we’ll play in the garden, perhaps go swimming, then friends will come over later for a barbecue – my husband loves to grill.

For more on Helen Farmer – including two family-friendly meals we created specially for her – click here, or here to visit her blog, the themothershipdxb.com.