A few weeks ago I wrote about the challenging fun of starting Scarlett on solid foods, and concluded that within a month or so we would be masters of eating and cooking, respectively. The good news is we are; there is nothing Scarlett can’t gnaw with her five tiny teeth and she loves all manner of sophisticated tastes, from olives and broccoli to watercress and pasta arrabiata. Plus, being an Islington baby she prefers her quinoa dressed with balsamic vinegar, and you should totally see her dip her flatbread into hummus. (These are not jokes, she really does both).
Experimenting in the kitchen is fun, but there are times when you just need a solid, dependable lunch or dinner recipe to make sure everyone’s nutritional needs are met. Here are some of my favourites.
Pasta e fagioli
A really dependable dinner standby. Boil your chosen pasta to fairly soft – little stars or shells if one or other of you is spoon feeding, easy-to-grip fusilli if baby is finger feeding. Serve with an Ella’s Full of Beans veggie feast and a side of halved cherry tomatoes – voila! Pasta e fagioli! We love it.
Another dead easy one. Either boil your own rice with a selection of chopped veggies (carrots, sweetcorn, green beans and squash are all good) or if you’re in a hurry get one of those Tilda Kids rice pouches. Those are great. Simply crack a nice fresh egg in while stirring in a pan and cook through. I guess this dish is sort of oriental-inspired, but without the MSG. You could add another protein if you liked, such as tofu cubes or fish flakes, special-fried-rice stylee.
Mummy’s summer salad
So named because mummy was trying to have lunch when Scarlett first decided she wanted to eat this instead of her own. Half-fill a bowl of a size corresponding to your hunger with salad leaves – I like spinach, Daddy prefers iceberg lettuce. Chop an avocado, some cherry tomatoes, a cooked beetroot, some feta cheese (mozzarella works well too) and some fresh button mushrooms and toss the lot in olive oil and a little vinegar. Put yours in a big bowl and baby’s in a small bowl, but don’t be surprised if she literally dives face-first into yours.
So-easy baked potatoes
Stick your potatoes in an oven (we like to give ours a light smear of oil first to make them crispy). When cooked, mash insides with butter and cottage cheese. Insert the fluffy insides into a young baby; when she gets some teeth, she’ll have the skin too. Also works with other favourite fillings. In a bit of a hurry? Boiled potatoes mashed with cottage cheese work just as well for baby (for me, not so much).
Leek and and potato stew/soup
ACTUAL RECIPE ALERT. Finely chop half an onion and sauté in butter. Thinly slice 3-4 leeks depending how hungry you are and how big the leeks are; leave off any tough leaves. Sweat the leeks in the pan with your onion. Dice enough potatoes to roughly match the quantity of leek you have in the pan and get those sweating in there too. Cover with a light vegetable stock and throw in a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a bouquet garnis (or a couple of bay leaves) Simmer until everything is soft then remove your bouquet or bay leaves. Mash for a chunky soup or purée for a smooth soup; serve with crusty bread and a dollop of creme fraiche. Remember to leave some for your baby #nom
ANOTHER ACTUAL RECIPE. Take 225g self raising flour, then rub in 55g butter and some cheddar or Gruyere, as much as you think looks tasty, and mix to a dough with 150ml whole milk. Then either cut rounds (this makes 12 little ones), or roll into a log and cut off slices, and bake for 12-15 mins at 220C until golden.
If you don’t want all those scones at once, freeze half the dough – you cut the rounds, freeze them on a sheet of greaseproof paper then bake in the same way for a bit longer. Scarlett cannot get enough of these cheesy wonders.
Grilled fish with new potatoes and spinach
More of a serving suggestion than a recipe, this, but an absolute crowd-pleaser in our house. Place your fish fillet (Scarlett loves salmon) skin-side down on a piece of cooking foil. Wrap the foil around and bake for 12-15 mins until the fillet flakes easily but isn’t too dry. Meanwhile, quarter some new potatoes and boil them. While that’s happening, pull the stalks off your spinach and roughly chop the leaves if they’re large. Put the spinach in a colander and drain the potatoes in the same colander to wilt the spinach. Return the veggies to the pan with a little butter to finish. Crush the tatties if you like, then make an attractive pile on your plate with potatoes then spinach then salmon on top. (We do this on Scarlett’s plate too ‘cos why shouldn’t your baby eat Michelin style?) No sauce necessary but you could top with a light lemon sauce.
Basically as above, but mash your potatoes and flake your chosen fish into some cheese sauce then put the whole thing in an ovenproof dish topped with more cheese then eat it in your face nom.
Do you have a foolproof recipe for a yearling? Send it on the back of a high-chair tray, or in the comments below!