Monday, 7 November 2011

The Great Baby Food Swap

My baby girl, Bess, is just seven months old. She's started eating, and pretty much likes everything I have spooned into her mouth so far (with the exception of broccoli, which makes her shudder). However, I found that her diet was getting monotonous as one pot of food cooked up ended up serving her for lunch and dinner for weeks on end.

So, I proposed to my group of mums'n'bubs the idea of the Great Baby Food Swap, which took place yesterday.

The rules:
- each participant must bring a pot of appropriate food - enough to send each other participant home with a container of food.
- the food must not contain sugar, salt, chilli or anything else that is baby-unfriendly.
- ideally, each pot should contain protein, two vegetables and a carbohydrate (in other words, a complete baby meal).

Six of us got together yesterday, and I brought with me a huge pot of pork and lentil stew. In return, I received:
- fish pie
- venison stew
- chicken casserole
- bolognese
- date syrup biscuits, banana cake and pumpkin bread.

Wow! Little Bess is going to be eating better than me this month.

Recipe for baby pork and lentil stew:
I won't include the amounts as I made such a huge pot. Just add as much as you want to end up with.

Diced pork shoulder
Red lentils
Sweet potato
Marrow / courgette
Chicken stock (I used real chicken stock, from a simmered chicken. Real stock is packed with salt)
Natural greek yoghurt

Gently brown the pork in a frying pan with paprika, then chuck into a slow cooker. I added half my marrow as a pre-cooked puree to the pork. Reserve the other half, chopped into small pieces. Cover with chicken stock and cook on low until the pork is cooked. Place lentils and sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until soft (you might need to keep adding water - the lentils absorb a huge amount). Add the marrow to the pork for the last hour or so.

Pulse the pork (and marrow if the baby is not yet eating chunks) in a blender. Mash the sweet potato into the lentils, but otherwise leave the lentils holding their shape (or blend if the baby is not yet eating chunks, again). Mix everything together, adding the yoghurt at the very end.

Freeze in small containers and reheat as needed.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sweet Dessert Lasagna

With more than just the one sweet tooth, I thought I'd have a go at making sweet lasagna. I chucked a few bits and bobs together, et voila, a delicious sweet dessert lasagna.

Lasagna sheets (I used ready made this time, but next time might make my own, perhaps adding cinnamon or even cocoa directly into the dough)

"meat sauce"
One tin of peaches
Two containers of ricotta (about 500g)
75 g almonds
75 g hazelnuts
1 tbl honey

"bechamel sauce"
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar

Roast the nuts in the oven until crisp (about 180 degrees for about fifteen minutes, shaking every few minutes). Rub off the hazelnut skins and pulse in a blender. Reserve about half of the nut mixture for the topping. Chop the peaches into biteable chunks. Mix together the rest of the ingredients for the "meat sauce", and set aside. Whisk together the ingredients for the bechamel sauce.

Using a loaf tin (or whatever you use for lasagna), put a little bit of the bechamel sauce in the bottom, then place a lasagna sheet down. Layer "meat sauce", then a little bechamel, then lasagna sheets until the top layer. Finish with a lasagna sheet covered with meat sauce, then fill the dish with the rest of the bechamel. This should pretty much cover the whole thing. Top it off with the remaining crushed nuts.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes, or until the lasagna sheets are cooked.

For a nice addition, pour over a shot of cointreau or other orange-based liqueur.