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Annabel Karmel speaks to HELLO! Online about meeting the Queen and family values

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We spoke to the queen of children's cuisine about how she got started in the business, and now HELLO! Online catches up with Annabel Karmel about her own family and meeting the Queen herself...

You are a proud mum of three, did your children act as guinea pigs for your recipes, and how did they feel about that?

Yes, my children were and luckily they always loved trying new things. But I don't think they were happy about me experimenting on their friends – I am always looking for new guinea pigs! There was nothing that they didn't like and a few things they particularly did. I made a salad dressing, which is in the Complete Family Meal Planner, and they eat this every single day – they used to take it to school with them. They just can't have a meal without this salad dressing, it's the most popular thing I've ever made. One day I should market this salad dressing!

annabel karmel

Have any of your children shown an interest in food and nutrition? Can you see any of them picking up the mantel? 

My daughter is - my elder daughter would probably like to come and work with me eventually. She's 22 now, and I've also got a 23-year-old son who is already working and a 20-year-old daughter.

In 2006 you were awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Would you say that has been your greatest professional achievement to date? 

Yes, I would say so. I got this letter from the Prime Minister and they say you can't tell anybody, so I just thought it was a practical joke from my friends! It just came completely out of the blue and was totally unexpected; I never even imagined I would be given something like that. But then when I got the letter saying when I should be at the Palace, I realised it was actually real. So I obviously got a new outfit and I met the Queen and we had a little chat - it's just such a big honour. It's not about commercial things, it's about making a difference to people's lives and that is what I set out to do. I took my mother and my daughter and it was just lovely.

Do you think parents nowadays are more conscious of nutrition? And why do you think that is?

Food scares in the newspapers have a lot to do with it, obesity in children, and also the spotlight put on nutrition thanks to people like Jamie Oliver. People are more aware now of reading labels and exactly what they are giving their families. But I am not a purist. I don't believe that children should ever have cake, or chips or crisps. I think they can, provided their main diet is good. Otherwise, you are setting them apart from other children, and children don't like to be different - and they have got to have some treats!

How important do you think it is for the family to sit down at meal times? Do you think it helps instil good habits in children?

I think it's very important to eat together whenever you can, although it's not always possible. What I used to do when my children were a bit older, say five, six and seven, I would make them cook the family supper on a Friday. So we would choose a recipe, I would help them chop and help them with the oven, but the rest of it they would do themselves and that's how they learnt to cook. 

Next Annabel gives advice to parents of fussy eaters and explains why variety is the spice of life!

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