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.

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