Anyone who says they’re an expert on everything and has nothing to learn is both a liar and a fool. One of my favourite sayings is, “every day’s a school day.” With this in mind I thought it would be good to feature some guest writers on here, in particular writers who were going to speak about something I know little about.
I’m the proud Auntie to five gorgeous nieces. I’m more than happy to cook with and feed the three older ones, in fact this is something I adore doing, but I wouldn’t really know where to start with the two babies in our family. Babies can chew on a ribeye steak can’t they? The only experience I have of weaning babies is reading the chapter dedicated to it in How To Eat by Nigella Lawson, (Chatto & Windus, 1999). Whilst that makes for very interesting reading, I thought it might be fun to hear some real life experiences of this from my sister Hayley who had her first baby, (niece number 5), last year. Here my sister talks about her, her husband and her daughter’s first tentative steps into the world of ‘real food’. What my sister doesn’t know is, I’m hoping she might do some updates on here every few months so me, and any readers who may be interested, can follow this food journey as it progresses…
When my sister asked me if I’d like to write a guest post on Blow Your Own Crumpet I’ve got to say I was somewhat shocked. It’s well known amongst my family and friends that I’m no cook. My idea of being a good hostess is showing you where the kettle is and handing over a take-away menu!
But something happened on the 2nd December 2012 that was to change my attitude, (although I’ll still show you the kettle!) My beautiful daughter, Elsie, was born. Like all new mums, you start your journey wanting the best for your child, wanting them to have what you didn’t and wanting them to eat well and healthily. I didn’t have any hands-on experience of weaning before being a mum so it was a whole new world to me but from the very start I knew I wanted my child to have fresh, homemade, tasty food. I’m not criticising anyone who decides to feed their children jars of pureed food but I knew it wasn’t for me. I did a lot of research into weaning. The Health Visitor provided an NHS leaflet and plenty of information face to face. After embarking on this research I was ready to start when Elsie was.
The weaning started when Elsie was 5 and a half months old. Starting weaning before 6 months is not recommended and there are a lot of restrictions to food types babies can have, but we knew she was ready so we went ahead giving her what we could. She started with baby rice, followed closely by pureed banana. We started small and before we knew it Elsie was eating 3 times a day!
The day Elsie turned 6 months was the day her wonderful journey with food really started. If there’s any advice I could give, it’s make sure you start giving the lumpy food on their ‘half birthday’. It is so easy to continue giving your baby pureed foods as more solid food can be messy, time consuming, there’s the fear of chocking and many times babies will point blank refuse to take it! But keep going. You’ll reap the rewards before you know it!
I’m no Annabel Karmel and would never claim to be, but I know I want the best for my child and if that means standing in a kitchen cooking a few evenings a month to make sure she’s getting the best I can give her, then I will. I’m a big believer in bulk cooking and freezing meals, especially as I’ll be returning to work in September. I’m certainly not one to deprive her of sweet, sugary things. Elsie enjoyed her first bit of chocolate at 8 months old in Cadbury World and I couldn’t have been more excited to see her face as she experienced that taste for the first time. Of course she doesnt get things like that every day, but once in a while I don’t have a problem with. I don’t think it’s fair to stop a child enjoying a treat now and again.
Elsie is now 9 months old and so far has loved all the different foods she’s been introduced to, from moussaka to a custard cream! We’ve been very lucky that Elsie isn’t a fussy eater, (so far!), and took to solids very well but I also believe that persistance and variety in textures has helped. She loves fruit and many of the recipes I make are full of vegetables so she’s healthy, happy and satisfied.
I’m proud of the fact she’s tasted things I never have. She’s opened my eyes to foods I would never have even noticed before and I thank her for giving me the opportunity to become a better, healthier person… and learning to cook!
Below are a couple of recipes I’ve cooked from Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book (The Red One) by Ella’s Kitchen (Hamlyn, 2013). I really enjoy the recipes in this book and they’re enjoyed by all the family.
Magical Moroccan-Style Chicken
I love this recipe as it’s easy and full of flavour. It’s a great recipe to introduce babies to spices and many different textures. This recipe makes around 12 ice-cube portions if you’re freezing.
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
2 chicken breasts (about 300g, diced)
1 large carrot, diced
1 leek, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
400g chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon tomato puree
600ml/1 pint vegetable stock
100g dried apricots
50g dried prunes
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces for 4 minutes until golden on all sides. Add the vegetables and spices and fry for a further 2-3 minutes
2. Add the chickpeas, tomato puree, vegetable stock, apricots and prunes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the ingredients are tender.
3. Serve on a bed of couscous.
Squishy Salmon/Cod Fishcakes
Fish is a very important part of the weaning diet. I have made these fishcakes with both salmon and cod; the cod was the more favoured fish. I tend to mash the green beans into the mixture rather than chop which seems to be better for younger childen. This recipe makes around 9 fishcakes. Great for freezing!
400g potatoes, cut in to large pieces
1 carrot, cut in to small pieces
200g salmon/cod fillets, skin removed
3 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 small leek, thinly sliced
25g green beans, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Cook the potato and carrot in boiing water for 15 minutes until tender. Drain and mash them together, and set the mash aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, poach the salmon/cod in simmering water for 5 minutes until cooked through, then allow to cool. Break up the fish into flakes, taking care to ensure there are no bones.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the leek and beans for 5 minutes until tender. Stir them into the carrot and potato mash, (mashing the beans if you prefer), then add the cooked salmon and the parsley to the mixture and stir again.
4. Using your hands mould the mixture into fishcakes.
5*. Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and cook the fishcakes for 5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and warm through. Serve immediately with some peas.
*If you are freezing the fishcakes do not do step 5 until you have defrosted and are ready to eat the fishcakes.
Recipes courtesy of Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book (The Red One) by Ella’s Kitchen (Hamlyn, 2013)
I hope you enjoyed Blow Your Own Crumpet’s first guest post. If you fancy writing one please just let me know.
What I find great about these recipes is they’re not ‘baby’ food. I regularly make fish cakes and the Moroccan chicken sounds exactly like something I’d cook. I’m no expert, but I would imagine that feeding your baby the same food as you from the get-go would help to introduce the idea of family mealtimes, people eating the same foods at the same time, not a continuous conveyor belt of different dishes being served up by a harassed cook. Surely that has to be a good thing?