Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bolognese for Adults and Babies

I have never been to Bologna so I can't claim this is in any way authentic but like Chicken Tikka Masala, Bolognese is a dish which has been taken on by the Brits and no doubt changed beyond all recognition.  All cultures do this to some degree and don't seem to feel as embarrassed about it as British people do.  

An American spaghetti and meatballs is nothing like you'd ever get in Italy but they don't seem to care, I've had a McAloo burger (a potato burger from McDonalds) in Delhi and no-one seems to think it's 'inauthentic'; it's just changing the recipe to match local beliefs, customs and ingredients.

So this is my inauthentic recipe.  There are some variations in it and tips for younger kids.  I know I have a bit of a kitchen crush on my slow cooker but with a child it's great as it doesn't need stirring more than once or twice in the whole cooking time, also the mince is softer which is useful when you're getting your baby used to more textures.  You can make it on the hob if you don't have a slow cooker (but they are very cheap to buy.)

Note that if your child is taking vitamin drops, it's probably a good idea to leave out the liver.  I've kind of given up with them as he eats so well and eats a wide variety of foods.  I also started to think it was pointless to avoid nutritious food like liver with him just so he could take some drops.  

Bolognese - Ok for Adults, children and babies who are on meat and soft lumps, e.g. 8/9 months plus (with the adaptations given)


500g lean beef mince - do buy lean, I have experimented with cheaper minces and not only do you tend to come across gristle, everything ends up too fatty
A small pot (approx 200g) of chicken livers defrosted and chopped finely (optional)
Splash of olive oil
One onion, peeled and finely diced
One carrot finely diced
5 or so Mushrooms, finely diced
1-2 tins chopped tomotoes or 1 small carton of passata
1 beef stock cube (over 1 year only or use a low salt stock cube like Heinz baby or Kallo very low salt)
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Handful of fresh mixed herbs including rosemary, oregano and thyme (or 1-2 tsp of dried)


Fry the mince in a dry pan (even lean mince has a lot of fat) until browned breaking it up with a wooden spatula.  Put this in the slow cooker with the chicken livers if using.  Soften the onion, carrot and garlic in the oil and add to the slow cooker.  Add the mushrooms to the slow cooker followed by the tomatoes or passata.  If using tinned tomatoes, you may want to drain off some of the juice if they're a bit watery.  Add the stock cube if using and bay leaf.  Cook on high until boiling then reduce the heat to low and cook for 6 hours.  If cooking on the hob it will take a much shorter amount of time.  Remove the bay leaf and add the chopped fresh or dried herbs and serve with the pasta of your choice.

For babies on the 'soft lumps' stage, mix with small pasta shapes (no need to use the tiny ones in the baby food section, you can use the small pasta shapes in the pasta aisle e.g. farfalline from tesco or asda have two types.)  If your baby is a bit iffy with lumps it's an idea to blend the sauce before mixing with the pasta until they get used to the coarser texture of mince.

Freezes fantastically.

Sorry about the poor quality photo, I'm resorting to my mobile phone at the mo!  The photo is of a batch without the chicken livers simply because I didn't have any but if you do have the opportunity, get some and try it.  Not only does it bulk out the batch and makes it go far further but at 43p for a pack of frozen chicken livers (from Asda or Tesco) it's a fantastic price, ups the iron content and it makes it taste much meatier.

If you want to bulk it out further, also try adding a courgette chopped into fine cubes.  It's surprising when you have a mince dish like this how much hidden veg you can sneak in which makes it cost effective and healthier. 

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