Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spanish Pork Stew for Babies (9 months plus)

I came up with this recipe because I was starting to feel that I feed a lot of milk and cheese based sauces to my son.  I also wanted to start making him food that more closely reflects the kind of food I like to eat (not that I mind cheese.)

So this is what I came up with.  The flavours are probably a bit full on for babies under 6 months but if you have an adventurous baby, it might be worth a try.  After all, if you think about it, this isn't a million miles away from baked beans, without all the sugar and salt of course and with a few more interesting flavours added in.

A word of warning about smoked paprika.  I wouldn't cook this recipe if you don't use smoked paprika normally, this is because I've been burned (literally?!) by a pot which turned out to be very, very hot.  I'm still suspicious that it was actually chilli powder.  I'd rather you made this mistake on adults than a baby!  But of course if you have a pot in the cupboard you've already used and it has that delicious sweet, smokey combination then you know already it will be fine.

Spanish Pork Stew (made 5 portions for my son)


100 - 150g Pork Belly (rind removed and cut into 2-3cm pieces)
1 carrot, chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of haricot beans (check there's no salt added)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tsp smoked paprika depending on how much your little one likes their spices.  Make sure it's dulce or sweet smoked paprika or you've used it before and know it not to be a hot one (not all shops label this annoyingly.)


Fry the pork quickly in a frying pan until browned; this adds flavour through the Maillard Reaction.  (All that bumfph about 'sealing' meat is just rubbish.  You fry meat for stews to improve the overall flavour.)

Put all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for a couple of hours, then reduce to low for 2-4 hours more or until the pork is very soft.  Add some water if needed.

If you don't have a slow cooker, you could simmer on a hob or put in the oven at a low temperature with a tightly fitting lid.  I've not tested this out though and the joy of slow cookers is it's easier to leave them unattended for long periods of time.

If you're bravely giving this to a 6 month old, puree the lot, with extra boiling water if necessary.  If your baby is 9 months plus then puree the pork with some of the tomatoes and haricot beans leaving some of the beans and carrots whole.  The older your baby gets and the better they're able to cope with lumps, the less you puree.  If your baby can't cope with lumps, mash the beans with a fork so it's not completely smooth (but I found at 10 and a half months my baby 'chewed' the beans on his gums no problem.)

Like this recipe?  Why don't you try the recipe for Goulash.  Very popular with my little man.

As you may have gathered, I'm fond of a budget recipe.  Using pork belly is a way of keeping costs down.  I would love to say I buy rare bread organic but considering my only pay this month was the £80 child benefit, things are a bit tight, so it was a value range pork belly all the way.  The remainder of the pack was used for a thai chilli and basil dish.  I used to make my own sauce for this from scratch but found a brilliant paste in my local chinese supermarket made by a company called Maesri.  Because I'm not Thai, I also use far less of it than they recommend (a rounded dsp for two is plenty) so it's far more economical than buying basil every time I want to eat it.

So I made two meals, one for my baby and one for my husband and I from less than £2 of meat.  This got me thinking of several famous chefs telling you how you should use free range, organic, rare breed, ya-de-ya-de-ya.  If you look in your average supermarket, there isn't much of that stuff for sale so I'm not the only person buying cheaper meat.  I don't exactly like the fact I do, I would prefer to buy more expensive meat but as I heard on the radio today, the average family has lost £500 a year due to tax rises and cuts and that's without factoring in maternity pay (for how long it lasts.)  I think the famous chef approach is honourable but I would prefer it if more people just made their own food.  In general the meat used in preprepared meals for adults or babies is not going to be any better breed nor any more ethically kept animals than the value range pork belly I used (unless it states otherwise.)  

I remember watching a programme where the chef was trying to get people to up the quality of chicken that was being used by people, some of whom where ready meal or takeaway addicts.  One of the women said that she did buy cheap chicken but she used every scrap of it.  Had it roasted, then used up the leftovers the next night then used the bones for soup.  To be honest I thought there is nothing really you can say to that woman.  Yes, cheap chickens are not raised in a way that most people would be happy with if they knew the facts but that was what she could afford and she was using it in the way that made the most use of that chicken, she wasn't wasteful.  I think step 1 is cook yourself, step 2 is not being wasteful and step 3 is buying free range.  If you only make steps 1 and 2, you're not doing too badly in my opinion.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Just had to share this - breastfeeding on TV in the 70s

This made me so pleased to see.  Why don't we see this now?

I'm shocked that nowadays when I read a baby book to my son, whenever feeding is mentioned (and frequently bedtime or bathtime) a picture is shown of a bottle.  Yes, it might be expressed breastmilk but why not show breastfeeding?  As the above link shows, you don't see anything, it's just a nice cuddle with food included.

Sorry, some failures and an improvised hummus

Apologies for my recent lack of posts.  Unfortunately recent meals I've been less than successful with my little one.  Things I've tried this week include an (adult) meal from a food website (which he decided was too bland) and stir fried vegetables with noodles, garlic, ginger and a tiny bit of soy (fine with the peppers but the noodles just confused and frustrated him).  Not a result.

The one success we've had over the past week has been with an improvised hummus.  I had some haricot beans waiting to be used up in the fridge and so made this up to put in a sandwich for him.  The reason I've avoided commercial hummus is because it contains tahini (as he has eczema I'm being very cautious about introducing nuts or sesame yet) and it also contains salt.

'Hummus' style haricot dip

Half a tin of haricot beans
Half a clove of garlic, crushed until smooth
Squeeze of lemon juice
A small splash of water
Olive oil


Puree all of the above ingredients until you have the texture you like.

I also made some soft cheese sandwiches but they went straight on the floor whereas he seemed to like this and was chewing and licking away at them.

I know this isn't traditional because it's not made with chickpeas but haricot beans was what I had and it kinda worked.  Might be worth trying with other pulses.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Pear and Vanilla puree and Relationships

Facebook has changed the way we interact with friends and acquaintances.  Do I really have over 100 friends in my life?  Probably not.  In that list of "friends" are people I would have (and in some cases had) lost touch with had social networking sites not existed.  So why am I friends with as many people on there as I am?  I suppose I feel like it keeps people updated on what's going on in our lives without having to update each person in turn.  But what does this say of me as a person and of my friendships?

One thing that has surprised me though is, taken in a different format, communicating through emails, instant messaging, posts and photographs has changed some of these relationships.  People who I spoke to infrequently now know (and care) more about what's going on with me than people I previously talked to a lot.  Also having that step removed, being reduced to text makes people braver somehow.  Like being hidden behind a screen enables a display of vulnerability which would have been more difficult to show in person or on the phone and I think a degree of vulnerability only strengthens relationships.  People who say everything is tickedy-boo all the time are just better liars.

So, anyway, I've come up with a new fruit puree combination.

Pear and Vanilla Puree

4 Pears
1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence).


Peel and core the pears.  Add a tiny amount of water and put on a hob with a lid on the top.  Cook until softened.  Add a tsp of the vanilla extract and mix.  Puree with as little amount of water as needed to puree them (you may find none is needed, pears are quite juicy.)  Freezes well and mixes well with yoghurt as a pudding.

Pears were less than 70p a bag in my local supermarket last week so it makes the above recipe really economical.

Oh, by the way, despite my lofty reasoning above, the real reason I joined facebook was for the scrabble.  

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Salmon with Herb Butter and Household Laundry Hints

I was thinking about general household ideas.  As today has been so glorious weather wise, I did a couple of loads of washing.  I had a top with a couple of chicken fat splashes on it (ew) which hadn't come out even after washing three times.  I didn't have any stain remover in the house and vaguely remembered my mum using washing up liquid in the past.  It was a cheap top so I was prepared to give it a go, dabbed some on the stains straight before washing and they've come out!  (Obviously beware this could damage delicate clothes people!)  

My aunt used to have a job helping elderly people out in their homes.  She gave me a tip once because she used to have to dry sheets very quickly on the line.  If you hang them up by their corners rather than folding them over the line, it acts like a sail and dries much more quickly even in light winds (obviously in high winds this might not be the best idea!)

I also use laundry tablets in my wash and at risk of sounding like a 1950's housewifery magazine, I'd like to add a thrifty tip.  It's recommended on the pack to use two tablets but I've never had any issue only using one.  Obviously that then doubles the number of washes from a pack saving a good few £'s!

Anyway, onto the recipe.  I have been worrying that due to my son's love of cheese, he might be getting too much salt.  I don't add any salt to his meals, nor does he have processed meals but when you start adding up what he gets from cheese, bread, a crumpet I gave him.  Blimey, it soon adds up considering 1g is the maximum he should have.  So this recipe is an adaptation in a way from the fish pie recipe but you could imagine serving it in its constituent parts when he's onto using cutlery properly (see adaptations below).  The herb choice I used just happened to be what's looking good in my garden right now.  Sorrel has been a real surprise and a winner for it's ability to overwinter and it's already sent up loads of fresh green leaves.

Salmon with vegetables and herb butter - for babies with adult adaptations


Salmon - can use fresh or frozen.  Look out in supermarkets for packs of frozen salmon you can microwave from frozen.  It comes out far too overcooked for my taste but that's fine for a baby and better if you cook it as I've indicated below with the butter on top.
Green vegetables, chopped (your choice, I used green beans, mange tout and broccoli.  The beans and mange tout were chopped to be around 2-3mm in size, the broccoli was in small florets)
A potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
Unsalted butter
Your choice of fresh soft herbs (I used parsley, sorrel and garlic chives)


Cook the potato until soft and mash through a ricer.  Boil the green vegetables until cooked.  Microwave the salmon as per pack instructions with a tbsp water and the herbs and butter on top until fully cooked.

Mash the broccoli and flake the salmon.  Mix together with the butter and any juices from the salmon.  The sorrel gives a gentle zing; sorrel used to be used to give a sour flavour before citrus fruits were available in this country.  Although after cooking this for my baby, I've since found out that the flavour is from oxalic acid (which is rather poisonous.  Oops!)  However, you have to eat a huge amount of it to cause any problems and the toxicity is reduced by cooking.

You could use other vegetables if wanted but I think green vegetables go best with salmon.  Possibly serve new potatoes separately as finger food rather than mashed potato if you want and your child is good with finger food.


You could make this recipe by poaching or baking the salmon for adults or older children and making the herb butter by mashing together the herbs with softened butter then chilling.  Either add the herb butter on top of the salmon before wrapping in foil and baking or add to the top after cooking and allow to melt.  For younger babies than my 10 month old (certainly under 7 months or babies who aren't on soft lumps yet), it would be a good idea to puree the salmon and vegetables with the butter and juices, adding more water if needed.  Also perhaps miss out the sorrel.  Hmm.

Anyway, toxicity aside, (ahem) I think it's a good idea to get your baby used to eating a wide variety of different herbs and spices (possibly leaving chilli for a while).  I certainly cook with a lot of herbs and spices anddon't want to be making separate milder dishes for my child for years.  I also hope my child will have varied tastes.  I remember hearing of a distant relative's partner who was nicknamed "bread roll" as that's all she would eat when she was at a restaurant.  That's just sad.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Musings on school and bullying

I recently found a photograph of myself when I was about 12 on facebook.  It had been posted by someone I used to go to school with.  I find it amazing how your memory tricks you.  If you'd asked me before what I thought of my school life, I probably would have said it was uneventful but this photo took me back to a time I'd forgotten.

I changed schools when I was 14 from a comprehensive to a grammar school (because I moved to a grammar school area) and it was probably the best thing which could have happened to me.  In my first school I was mostly unhappy.  I was an outsider, a "boff" (short for boffin which was used as an insult).  I was teased, bullied and it hurt me. 

It made me think a lot about what schooling systems we have in the UK.  I'm not saying the grammar school was perfect, the focus on results has made me more of a perfectionist than it's healthy to be but at least I was with kids who were intelligent and weren't ashamed of it.  I went to university expecting to be pushed by my peers and so it wasn't a shock.  If I'd stayed in the school I was in, it would have been a lot more difficult making that transition.

That all said, the grammar school had a resolutely middle class intake.  Most of my friends at my first school came from homes with single mothers or stepfathers.  This was not the case in the grammar school. 

Now it makes me wonder whether the effect on education is to do with the school, the parents or the affluence?  Which came first?  Which has the biggest effect?

It does seem sad that there was so little variety in the background of the people who attended the grammar school as I'm sure I'm not the only one out of the people in that photograph who could have benefited from learning in a different environment.  I wonder what they're all doing now?   It seems sad that others didn't get that opportunity.  It also seems sad that a 34 year old can be ambushed by the hurt that bullying caused 22 years before.  I'm grown up now but there would be some people in that photo I would chose not to get back in touch with.

I had a think about this overnight.  I don't want to sound like some kind of victim.  In fact, I'm anything but.  Finding that photo made me think of all of the times I was mean to other kids when I was a child.  Kids find reasons to pick on other kids.  I certainly don't think it's right and I am ashamed about the times I was not so innocent.  It's sad though that intelligence is used as a reason, (not that I'm some kind of genius either.)  When did it become good to be stupid?

Monday, 14 March 2011


I came up with a pancake recipe the other day which is adapted from some others to make pancakes for my little one which are free from added salt or sugar.  Not completely healthy (they contain butter) but hey, kids need fat and they're very handy for breakfasts, snacks and freeze well.  There is also an adult adaptation at the end.