Sunday, 30 October 2011

Beef Stew for Babies, Toddlers and the Whole Family

I like to think I am the kind of person who doesn't need meat for every meal and I like to think the vegetarian section of this site has the odd recipe or two but at this time of year, slow cooked beef just feels right.

There are adaptations in here for adults, toddlers and babies (baby led weaning or traditional approach) so read on!

What's more important though is, although it's possible to have a vegetarian diet for a toddler, iron is really important in a toddlers and babies diet and beef is a great and easily absorbed source of it.  Also by using a cheap cut of meat not only do you get flavour, you're using a less used part of the animal (which is important to use every part of an animal in my opinion) and you're saving money.

I did post a sketchy outline of a stew recipe a few months back but again, rather than going back and revising, it made more sense to post it with proper quantities.  That said, stews are a piece of cake.  I'd keep the veg / meat ratio similar (unless you're serving to a baby, see notes later) and you can pretty much do what you like within reason.  Keep the vegetables the 'root' kind, e.g. carrots, butternut squash, parsnip, swede, sweet potato, potato and you're onto a winner.  Each type of root vegetable will give it's own character; the sweeter ones balance out the earthy meaty flavours of the beef, the potato would thicken, if you chose new potatoes they'd hold their shape and be an extra vegetable.  It's all good.

Beef Stew for Babies, Toddlers and Adults (see adaptations).  Made 3 adult portions as a pie (see below) and 4-5 toddler portions.


1 Onion in a fine dice
1 Carrot cut into a fine dice
Approx the same amount of butternut squash, peeled and finely diced
650g (approx) stewing steak (you could use braising steak but honestly, stewing steak gives the best flavour and it's cheaper)
Small knob of unsalted butter
2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200ml of ale (also known as 'bitter', basically British Real Ale.  You could also use a stout or red wine. If cooking for babies, probably wise to replace it with a very low salt vegetable or beef stock.)
200g Mushrooms, thickly sliced
An additional small knob of unsalted butter
Rounded tbsp of cornflour
1 'normal' beef stock cube (I use oxo) - optional (not for babies or toddlers)

Adaptions for babies

Add in additional root vegetables, for example an extra carrot and chunk of swede, finely chopped.  This will ensure there's a good mixture of nutrients and it's not all meat!


In a non stick pan, dry fry the steak until browned on each side.  If it's in big bits, I don't cut it up because it will break a little on cooking and if you start with small pieces it will end up very small.

Put into a slow cooker.  (You could also cook this in a low oven or on a low hob but it needs more attention.  A slow cooker is great for stews and they're pretty cheap and very cheap to run.)

Heat the butter in the frying pan and put the onions and root vegetables in.  Saute until starting to brown slightly and soften, add the garlic, soften a bit more, then put into the slow cooker.  Deglaze the pan (i.e. use the ale, wine or stock to get any browned bits off the bottom.)  Bring this to the boil; this will help the slow cooking get started and drive off the alcohol.  Pour this into the slow cooker.

Cook for around 4 hours on high, or if you prefer, you can bring to the boil then turn down to low and cook for longer.  Slow cookers do vary slightly but what you're looking for is meat that's falling apart and vegetables which are lovely and soft.

If serving to a baby on pureed food, puree all of the meat and vegetables together with enough of the stock to form a puree of the texture your child likes.  The reason I suggest using more vegetables for babies is because they're less likely to have vegetables on the side, if they are having some then you can cut back a little.  If you want to serve some for yourself and some for your baby, just add a few more vegetables at the start then fish more of them out to puree.

As your baby gets older, you can adapt this recipe to make it suitable for kids on 'soft lumps'.  Do this by pureeing the beef with some of the vegetables but leaving the other vegetables whole.

Baby led weaners could also just serve this as is.  The soft meat will be particularly easy for gums to work on and the vegetables will be very easy to eat.

If serving to older kids or adults, fry the mushrooms then add into the slow cooker on a high heat and cook for approx 15 mins or until the mushrooms are cooked.  Add the beef stock cube if you would like (keep an eye on salt in your toddler's diet though) and mix the cornflour with a little cold water and add to the hot gravy to thicken.  Make sure the stew comes back to a simmer as the cornflour won't thicken without it.  Add a bit more cornflour mixed with water if it's a bit thin.



Steak and Ale Pie for Toddlers and Adults - serves 2 Adults and 1 Toddler

This is excellent made into a pie:

Shortcrust pastry
70g, 2.5 oz unsalted butter (can use salted if giving to adults)
100g, 3.5 oz plain flour
15g, 0.5 oz cornflour
2 dsp cold water


Take two adult portions of the beef mixture and put into a pie dish.  Preferably allow to cool prior to topping with pastry.

Preheat the oven to 200oC, 400oF.

Rub the butter into the plain flour and cornflour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  A food processor makes this a piece of cake.  Add the water in gradually until it starts to come together.  Bring the pastry together with your hands and at this point you can chill it until you're ready to use it.

Roll out with a floured rolling pin until approx 2-3mm thick.

Cover the top of the pie dish with the pastry and brush with a little full fat milk.  Decorate with some pastry shapes and bake for approx 50 minutes or until browned and the pastry is crisp.

Sorry, forgot to take a photo before we ate most of it....  Oooops!

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