Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Baby Bites Lightly Spiced Salmon Fishcakes

These salmon fishcakes are delicately spiced with a little turmeric - almost like an introduction to bolder flavours to come. The soft, fluffy middle with the crunchy breadcrumb exterior make for a fun two-textured finger food.

The amounts below make 7-8 small fishcakes and I give Bridget two with some cucumber or red pepper battons for a meal. One is probably enough if this is one of the first finger foods or you are just starting on solid food.

These freeze well too - just pop into sealable food bags once made and before frying and defrost fully before using next time.

  • 1 large jacket potato or two smaller ones
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 small salmon fillet
  • 1-2 slices granary bread
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • 1 egg

Firstly bake the potato in the oven for 30 minutes until the centre is soft and fluffy. You could of course boil or steam the potatoes but I prefer to bake as they can go straight into the oven and it's one less piece of equipment for the dishwasher!

For the last ten minutes of the potato cooking, place the salmon into the oven in a small ovenproof dish with a little foil over.

Meanwhile finely chop the spring onion and crush the garlic clove into a small frying pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and just soften then remove from the heat.

Remove both and firstly scoop out the potato, discarding the skin and with a fork mash it up. It should still have some texture and not be too smooth.

Flake the salmon into the potato and mix through, also adding the spring onion and garlic. Add the turmeric and evenly stir through.

In a food processor blitz the bread into breadcrumbs and place into a bowl.

Crack the egg into another bowl and beat.

Next, with your hands, shape the salmon and potato mixture into small rounds until you have 7-8.

Drizzle a little more oil into the pan and place on a medium heat.

Meanwhile take each fishcake, place into the egg, turning over to ensure it's fully coated then place into the breadcrumbs, doing the same to ensure each fishcake has an even coating.

Next fry each fishcake for around 4-5 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown.

Remove from the heat and place onto a plate with some kitchen roll to draw out any excess oil.

Then allow to cool, break into halves and serve with some vegetable batons and let little one enjoy this tasty fishy supper.

Baby Bites Creamy Mushroom Soup Without Cream

I got the idea for making this soup whilst watching an episode of Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Minute Meals. Whilst he does use some cream in his recipe he makes it look, taste and feel creamy by cooking in some rice in the soup and so I've used this method here.

Despite being without salt, it makes a delicious soup with plenty of flavour from the garlic and mushrooms - I had a bowl myself, minus any seasoning so this is one the whole family can enjoy. I give to Bridget with a few soldiers of granary toast and she absolutely loves it.

The below makes enough for approximately 8-10 baby portions or six with a bowl for the chef! It freezes perfectly also and you just need to remove on the morning you wish to use to defrost fully before re-heating.

  • 4 large flat or Portobello mushrooms
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp basmati rice
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 pt Baby vegetable stock (can just use water as Jamie does) 

Firstly place the oil into a non-stick saucepan and place on a low heat.

Finely dice the onion and crush the garlic and add to the pan to gently soften.

Roughly chop the mushrooms and add to the pan with the rice, using a wooden spoon to stir through and ensure all gets a coating in the oil.

Pour over the stock and allow to cook on a low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Either use a hand soup blender or pour into a liquidiser and blitz to a smooth soupy consistency. Serve with some wholemeal or granary toast and portion up accordingly. If freezing, allow to cool completely before popping into the freezer.

Baby Bites Vegetable Stock

Many recipes call for some liquid or a stock when cooking for baby, and whilst a lot of the time plain old water will suffice perfectly, often a stock will transform from bland to flavourful.

This is a simple salt-less stock method which costs very little and makes enough for a casserole, soup, risotto or any other dish you might need a pint or so of stock for.
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2-4 celery sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of black pepper

Roughly chop the onion, carrot and celery, there is no need to peel or remove the stalk of the onion.

Add to the pan with the bay leaf and pepper and cover with 1.5 pints water and place on a low heat.

Bring to the boil and then simmer slowly for 30-45 minutes. The stock should take on some of the colour of the vegetables by now.

Remove from the heat and allow to stand for five minutes.

Pour through a fine strainer over a large bowl or jug and leave standing over there for a few minutes.

Use a large spoon to press down onto the vegetables in the strainer to get out all of the flavoured stock.

This is now ready to use. If not using right away, allow to cool completely, cover and this will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

5:2 Honey, Ginger and Chilli Prawn Stir Fry

I've been doing the 5:2 diet on and off since January with some success on the weight loss front.

I've found that on fast days of only 500 calories, it's important to make friends with the best flavour-giving ingredients, such as citrus fruits, garlic, ginger, chilli, spices and fresh herbs, spices, oils and vinegars. They help to keep food tasting interesting and vibrant and avoid you getting bored of 'rabbit food'. 

This stir fry of prawns is absolutely delicious even when I've stripped off some of the quantities I would usually use to lower the calorie count. 

The frying of garlic, ginger and chilli in a tiny bit of sesame oil in a wok before adding the rest, gives the oil an amazing base flavour with a fiery heat running through and then the addition of honey towards the end gives a natural sweetness. The final flourishes of lime juice and some scattered coriander leaves just gives it a wonderful freshness and there's no way you could find this boring - fast day or otherwise. 

The below makes a dinner for two and each portion contains 297 calories which I've calculated using MyFitnessPal. (On the 5:2 diet, on two non-consecutive days per week your calorie intake cannot exceed 500).

  • 140g raw prawns
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1 small yellow pepper
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 50g carrot
  • 50g lettuce leaves
  • 50g mushrooms
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • Few coriander leaves

Firstly crush the garlic and finely slice the ginger and chilli. 

Add the sesame oil to a wok and place on a low heat, adding the garlic, ginger and chilli to slowly soften and give the oil plenty of flavour whilst you get everything else chopped.

Slice the peppers. Peel and slice or grate the carrot and add these to the wok.

Slice the mushrooms and lettuce leaves and leave to one side. 

Roll the lime around a bit pressing down with the palm of your hand to release as much juice as possible and cut in half ready for squeezing over at the end.

Once the peppers and carrot have softened a bit add the mushrooms and prawns. Prawns literally take a few minutes to cook and please don't overdo it or you'll be left with horrible rubbery things as they are useless once overdone. They are easy to gauge anyway as they turn pink on each side once cooked through. 

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to turn the prawns over once cooked and keep everything moving in the wok. 

Once almost cooked add the honey and mix through, then add the beansprouts and lettuce and cook for a further minute and then remove the wok from the heat.

Squeeze over the lime juice and scatter over some coriander leaves and you're ready to dish up.
If you're making this just for yourself, simply half the quantities and if for two, and your dining companion isn't on the 5:2, serve with some rice or noodles.

Monday, 27 April 2015

A London Lunch: Tom's Kitchen

This is a belated A London Lunch post and it was in fact a brunch, but on a Saturday or, in this case Sunday morning, the lines are incredibly blurred.

One of my best friends, Jenni turned 30 way back in July last year, whilst I was 7 months pregnant, and as well as a full afternoon of drinking which I was sadly unable to participate in, we started the day in style, brunching at Canary Wharf’s Tom’s Kitchen.

Tom’s Kitchen is part of the Tom Aitkens group and its’ style and ethos is around modern British comfort food in a laid back setting, which I’m happy to note it absolutely nails if our brunch is anything to go by.

The birthday girl had the Seasonal Berry Pancake which was absolutely huge – the classic American style and served with maple syrup. I had a try and it was delicious.

Our other friend, Larni opted for a cream cheese bagel which again, was enjoyed. I have to note, as regular readers may remember these two are my vegetarian friends so hence the lack of meat so far.

Personally I opted for the crisp Belgian waffle with seasonal berries and maple syrup and it was exquisite! It came with a quenelle of vanilla Chantilly cream and as an extra I ordered a portion of delicious smoky, crisp bacon on the side. I am of the camp that believes pretty much everything tastes better with bacon and this definitely did. The salty, smoky, savoury addition offset the sweetness perfectly – I love that combination of both, especially over brunch. The waffle was perfect too – fluffy and soft centred with a crisp exterior.  The ultimate brunch comfort food.

Tom’s Kitchen is definitely up there with one of my favourite brunch experiences in London – the only thing lacking for me was the chance to drink plenty of cocktails – there’s always next time.
Here’s some of my other favourite London brunch spots:

1.       The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell
2.       Caravan, Exmouth Market

3.       The Albion, Shoreditch

Tom's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Baby Bites Tomato and Basil Pasta

Once past the six month mark and baby is able to digest gluten, you can introduce pasta to their meal repertoire which is very handy as again, you can make meals that the whole family can enjoy together.
The below recipe makes enough of this very basic tomato and basil sauce for about ten mini portions of pasta and you can freeze the sauce individually and just cook the pasta to go with when needed. I have tried freezing the pasta in the sauce too and it is edible but becomes a little claggy so I think just freezing the sauce is the best option here.
Tin of tomatoes
Handful fresh cherry tomatoes
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
Handful fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
Pasta shapes of your choice - I use baby pasta shells

Firstly very finely dice the onion and crush the garlic. Halve the cherry tomatoes too.
Pop the olive oil into a saucepan on a low heat and gently sweat down the onion and garlic until nicely softened
Add the tomatoes and allow to soften a little before adding the tinned tomatoes.
Finely chop the basil, retaining some for the end and stir into the sauce
Allow to cook on a low heat for a good 20-30 minutes and it will reduce down a little in this time too
In the meantime cook the pasta to instructions, then drain retaining a a tablespoon of the cooking water and stirring through the sauce with the remaining basil
Portion up the sauce and stir through a couple of tablespoons to the pasta you are serving little one in a small bowl
Depending on how far along the weaning road you are this part is optional, but I tend to use a potato masher to ensure there are no choking incidents here and just break up the pasta to even smaller pieces

Gemistes - Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

I adore Greek food and this is a dish I first tried on the island of Crete, in a lovely little village called Gouves about six or seven years ago. I've since experimented and made my own versions of 'Gemistes' (stuffed vegetables) and I think this version is the definitive one. 

It goes down well with veggies and meat-lovers alike and you could of course adapt it to include some minced beef, pork or lamb or make it slightly more indulgent by including some feta cheese which will melt and make it unctuously delicious. 

You can also use bell peppers instead, but I prefer the texture that the tomatoes take on once baked. 

This is one of the many dishes I make for 'Greek night' at my house and my girlfriends love it - it transports us to sunny holiday memories.

This makes enough for six people and is best served with some 'horta' or salad leaves and some Tzatziki.

Gemistes Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

Gemistes as part of a Greek feast
  • 6 beef tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Handful of fresh mint
  • Enough rice to fill the tomatoes (will depend on the size - I used about 100g dried rice here) 
  • Fresh vegetable stock (optional)
  1. Firstly place the rice on to cook - preferably in some fresh vegetable stock for added flavour but in salted water is also fine.
  2. Next carefully slice off the tops of the tomatoes, retaining the green part as it just looks nicer at the end. Use a sharp knife to gently score around the inside of the tomatoes to loosen up the inside, then scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon and discard. Add a tiny amount of salt to the inside of each tomato then turn upside down on a plate to allow some of the moisture to trickle away.
  3. Next dice the onion, courgette and peppers and crush the garlic and add to a pan on a low heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Gently saute for about five minutes until just softened
  4. Chop the fresh mint finely.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, drain away any remaining water, place into a bowl and use a fork to fluff up a little. Add the mint and the sauteed vegetables, the pinch of salt and black pepper and stir thoroughly so everything is evenly distributed. 
  6. Place the tomatoes into a baking dish or tray, the right way up now, and scoop even amounts of the rice mixture into each, right up to the top. Use a spoon to tap firmly down so the tomato is completely full of delicious rice. 
  7. Place the lids of each tomato on top and then loosely cover the whole dish with tinfoil to protect the skins from charring. 
  8. Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes when they come out of the oven as they will be piping hot, and then serve with your accompaniments and preferably a crisp glass of white wine or a bottle of Mythos Greek beer and allow yourself to be transported to holidays gone by. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Baby Bites Herby Courgette and Feta Fritter Cakes

I experimented with making these like 'cakes' in the oven rather than frying as I thought they would be less calorific and greasy than the usual tupe of fritter and they came out rather well. 

As well as being a great and unusual finger food for your little one they can be enjoyed by the whole family too. They certainly went down well with my girlfriends on Saturday night who were over for a Greek feast night.

These are very easy to prepare and the below makes a good 12 cakes, they keep well in the fridge for a couple of days and are great with the below yoghurty dip or with some classic Greek Tzatziki

2 medium sized courgettes
1 pack of feta
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 egg
Pinch of black pepper
2 tbsp Greek natural yoghurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pop the oven on at around 180.

Cut the ends off of the courgettes then grate them both into a bowl, discarding only when the floppy, middle part is left.

Squeeze out any excess moisture from the grated courgette with some kitchen towel.

Crumble in the cheese - this is a completely 'rustic' affair, so don't spend time cutting into equal shapes and sizes, just crumble in as it falls. 

Chop the mint and dill and add the bowl with the black pepper and give a good stir. 

Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add to the courgette mixture to bind and again stir.

Use a pastry brush and a little olive oil to brush the cavities of a cupcake baking tray to prevent sticking. 

Spoon the mixture evenly into each hole and once all distributed, use the back of the spoon to press down on them to ensure the 'cakes' keep their shape during cooking.

Finally place in the oven and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes or until nicely golden brown.

Whilst cooling enough for little one to handle - combine the yoghurt and lemon juice and place a teaspoon full onto a child-friendly plate with two of the cakes broken into bite sized pieces. 

Baby Bites Avocado On Toast

Ok so this isn't strictly a recipe, but it is a great idea for a healthy breakfast or lunch idea for your little one, and one that you can have at the same time.

Avocado is filled with nutrients and particularly high in vitamin E, potassium and iron - all important components in our diets. Also whilst they are quite 'fatty' they contain mainly all 'good' fats.

The below makes enough for two slices of Avocado on Toast, one cut up into small pieces will be more than sufficient for your baby, so enjoy the other half yourself - I add fresh chopped red chilli to mine!

1 avocado
1 slice of wholemeal or granary bread
Squeeze of lime or lemon juice

Firstly pop the bread under the grill or into the toaster and lightly toast.

In the meantime, cut the avocado in half, remove the stone (you can do this by pressing into the stone with a sharp knife, then simply lifting the stone out whilst holding onto the half of avocado).

Scoop the flesh of the avocado out into a small bowl and gently mash with a fork, leaving some small lumps so it still has some texture and isn't completely pureed.

Add a squeeze of either lime or lemon juice, which as well as helping the avocado to keep its’ trademark green colour for a while, also adds a lovely zingy freshness to it. Give another stir through to ensure it all has a citrussy zing running through.

Once the toast has cooled for a few moments, spoon on half of the avocado and spread over the toast evenly. There's no need to use butter as well.

Cut into bite-sized pieces and allow baby to feed him or herself one at a time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Feta and Spinach Open Filo Tart

This is a lovely open tart based on the classic Greek ‘spanakopita’ comprising feta cheese and spinach. It’s very easy to prepare, looks great and is a crowd pleaser.

200g spinach
1 clove garlic
20g salted butter
200g feta
2 eggs
4-5 sheets of filo pastry
Bunch of spring onions
Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt & pepper
1 tsp oregano (dried is best)

Pre-heat the oven to about 180⁰.

Firstly use a pastry brush and completely oil up your tart dish. You can use a tart or flan dish, mine broke recently so I instead used a 20cm deep baking sandwich tin (what you’d use for a Victoria Sandwich cake), which is perfectly sufficient.

Next place one layer of filo over the tin, pressing down so it moulds to the tin and scrunching over the sides so you get the lovely crunchy exterior. Brush with oil and repeat until there are 4-5 layers. And brush each layer with a little oil too.

Crush your garlic and chop the spring onions and add to a frying pan with the butter on a low heat and allow to soften.

Wash the spinach then dry off with a tea towel or kitchen roll and try and remove as much moisture as possible to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. Once dry add to the pan and wilt down in the garlicy butter.

Pop the spinach into a bowl or jug and add the two eggs (beaten first), dice the feta and add to the mix. Add the grating of nutmeg and a good pinch of salt and black pepper plus teaspoon of dried oregano and mix well.

Pour into the tart base and allow to stand for ten minutes.

Place into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt.

Allow to cool a little and serve – preferably with a simple salad. 

Baby Bites Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes

These are lovely, soft and fluffy potato based pancakes that go great with a squeeze of lemon and some natural yoghurt. Perfect as a weekend lunch for baby but with the addition of a big pinch of salt, these work as a great brunch dish for the grown-ups too.
Once cooked, allow to cool, and cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces and they make a great finger food for little one. The below makes approximately 5-6 pancakes.

Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes with Lemon Yoghurt

1 large potato
1 fillet of salmon
1 egg
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped spring onions
1 tbsp Greek natural yoghurt
1/2 lemon

Pop the oven on at 180⁰C (ish), prick the potato all over and place into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes or until the inside is soft and fluffy.

For the last ten minutes of cooking, wrap the salmon fillet in some tinfoil, pop into an oven proof dish and cook in the oven.

Chop the dill and spring onions whilst everything else is cooking.

Once the potato and salmon are removed from the oven and have cooled slightly, scoop out the soft potato filling into a bowl and gently mash with a fork, allowing some texture to remain.

Flake in the salmon and mix in with the spring onion and dill until nicely combined.

Beat an egg in a separate bowl and add to potato and salmon mixture stirring with a wooden spoon.

Add a little bit of the flour at a time, mixing in, until the mixture resembles a dough.

Drizzle a little oil into a frying pan and place on a medium heat.

Using a large tablespoon, scoop out equal amounts to make each pancake, and place into a hot pan in a round shape.

Fry on each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and completely warmed through.

Remove from the pan and remove excess grease/oil by patting with some kitchen towel.

Squeeze a little drizzle of lemon juice over each pancake.

Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into the yoghurt and serve alongside the pancakes.

Allow to cool slightly, break into pieces your baby can handle, dip into the yoghurt then pass to baby to feed him or herself and let the fun begin.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Baby Bites Broccoli Cheese

Sometimes for this I use cauliflower, sometimes broccoli and sometimes both in one for a variation - either way this is an absolute favourite. 

The great thing with it is that you can prepare a large portion of Broccoli Cheese and serve as a side dish to the rest of the family too.

This amount makes 4 portions - but if your little one is just starting out or has a smaller appetite will make about six. 

Whole head of broccoli
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1/2 pint of milk
30g of Red Leicester (can also use Cheddar or other mild, hard cheeses) 

Firstly cut the broccoli into small florets and boil until cooked but still firm. Drain and then return to the heat for 10 seconds to remove any excess moisture then place into an oven proof dish.

Turn the oven on to about 180⁰. 

Next you need to make your cheese sauce which is in the form of a roux, which may seem daunting but is actually really easy. Firstly place a small pan on a low-medium heat and add the butter. 

Allow to slowly melt, and then once all of the butter has melted, add the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir through and combine into what will be the 'thickening' part of your sauce. 

Next slowly add a little milk at a time, stirring through each time until combined, and without lumps. 

Once all of the milk has been added and the sauce is without lumps, grate in 30g of Red Leicester (or cheese of your choice), and continue to stir. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce has begun to thicken. 

Then remove from the heat and pour over the broccoli. Use a spoon to turm over the florets and ensure they are all coated in the cheese sauce.

Grate over some nutmeg or use a pinch of ground nutmeg and this can go into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. 

Once cooled for a few moments, use a potato masher to mash up and get to a lumpy texture or if you are still giving pureed food blitz in the food processor for a smooth consistency.

Baby Bites Nourishing Vegetable Soup

This is a lovely nutritious soup recipe with plenty of flavour despite using just water to make rather than stock – thus removing any salt element immediately. It is particularly good if little one has a cold too as the garlic and ginger are both incredibly restorative.

I serve this with some toast dunked in the soup and allow Bridget to feed herself these while spoon-feeding the rest but this would work equally well with pitta bread or rice cakes.

Equally the beauty of a vegetable soup is that you can use any vegetables you might have lurking in the fridge, parsnips, swede, sweet potato, spinach and cauliflower all work well in this soup.

This makes six portions and this freezes really well too. Just pop out of the freezer in the morning and the small portion will be defrosted in time for lunch or dinner.

1 garlic clove
1 thumb nail size piece of ginger
2 sticks of celery
5 cherry tomatoes
1 carrot
¼ head of broccoli
2 tbsp frozen peas
Drizzle of olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 pint water

Firstly crush the garlic and chop the ginger up. Add a drizzle of oil to a saucepan and add both to the pan on a low heat to soften.

Meanwhile peel and dice the carrot and slice the celery (make sure it’s thoroughly washed first) and then add both to the saucepan with the tomatoes.

Allow all to soften and then pour over the half pint of water.

Chop the broccoli into small florrets and add to the soup mixture with the bay leaf and frozen peas and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes, then either use a hand blitzer or place into a blender and liquidise to a thin soup. 

Baby Bites Eggy Bread

Once past the six month mark, babies are able to eat well-cooked eggs (they can't be runny until they reach 1). This was the first egg-based dish I introduced to Bridget and she absolutely loves it. Once cooked & cooled enough for her to handle, I cut into bite-sized pieces and she feeds herself. I usually serve with some soft fruit such as banana, strawberries, mango or peach. Obviously you can do a whole slice but I like to cut into fun shapes for Bridget.

1 slice granary bread
1 free range & organic egg
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch icing sugar
Fruit of your choice
Drizzle of olive oil

If making the bread into shapes, use a cookie cutter to do so first.

Add your drizzle of olive oil to a pan and place on a medium heat.

Crack the egg into a bowl and beat.

Take your bread shapes and place into the egg mixture and turn over until fully coated.

Put a smidge of dusted cinnamon onto each side of the bread and place into the hot pan.

Fry for one-two minutes on each side until nicely toasted and golden brown

Remove from the pan and place onto some kitchen roll to drain off some of the excess oil, turning over so both sides get drained.

Then pop onto a plate with some chopped fruit, dust with a tiny bit of icing sugar and serve.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Baby Bites - Salmon and Broccoli

Once you've started to introduce proteins to your baby, oily fish such as salmon is a great choice as it is filled with nutrients such as Omega-3, vitamin B12, potassium and selenium and is known to be a great ‘brain-boosting’ food, so Bridget has salmon once or twice a week in my bid to nurture her into the little genius that I suspect she will be become.

This dish is very simple and with the addition of broccoli, which is a fabulous source of Vitamin C, this is a well-balanced nutritious meal.
You can steam, poach or bake your salmon just ensure it is cooked through as little stomachs can't tolerate the rarer salmon that I would eat myself.

Personally, I steam salmon for Bridget in a little steamer saucepan and cook the broccoli underneath.

This makes 2-3 portions.

1 salmon fillet
Quarter head of broccoli

Firstly check the salmon fillet for any bones and discard.

Wash the broccoli quarter and chop up into small florrets. Pop into the bottom part of the saucepan section with boiled water, place the steamer part on top with the salmon fillet on and place the lid on top and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Check the salmon is cooked through and again make sure there aren't any bones. Flake the salmon with a fork and gently mash, still keeping some shape to the flakes.

Drain the broccoli then return to the pan and place back on the heat for 5-10 seconds just to absorb any retained moisture. Remove from the heat then mash, add a little drizzle of olive oil if this proves difficult but it should mash well.

Combine the salmon and broccoli and portion up accordingly, allowing a portion to cool enough before feeding to your little one.

Baby Bites - Cheesy Sweet Potato Mash

From six months old in the weaning game, almost anything is fair game with a few exceptions. Part of the fun here is introducing new tastes, flavours and then eventually textures, so to start with, we had simply mashed individual root vegetables. The sweeter varieties such as parsnip and sweet potatoes were particular favourites, but I've read that in order to not give your little one too much of a sweet tooth, it's vital to introduce more savoury tastes around this time too.

You can mash together almost any root vegetables but Bridget really loved the combination of swede and parsnip and carrot with parsnip. Also I started the weaning process a little earlier than six months so at this point we may have been a little more adventurous than if you're just starting out.

One of the first foods I gave to Bridget with protein in, was this Cheesy Sweet Potato and it has since become a firm favourite.

For ease and organisation now I’m back at work, I make up a batch and pop into little pots in the freezer so this makes up 3-4 portions.

2 smallish sweet potatoes or 1 big one
30g cheese, we use Cheddar or Red Leicester

This is the easiest thing to make - simply bake the sweet potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes or until the inside flesh is soft and yielding.

Remove from the oven and then remove the inside flesh and pop into a bowl, using a fork or a masher to fully mash. Sweet potato is such a lovely soft and smooth texture when baked which makes it perfect for little ones even before the arrival of teeth.

Grate in the cheese and fully mix and then divide between 3-4 pots and if serving a portion right away, allow the potato to cool enough first.

When using a ‘frozen’ portion, I remove from the freezer in the morning and allow to defrost first, then simply pop the pot into a bowl of boiled water to warm.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Introducing Bistro Becs Baby Bites

I am very excited to introduce a new focus to Bistro Becs in the form of ‘Baby Bites’.

In September last year my beautiful daughter Bridget was born, who has brought unthinkable joy to both me and my partner (and of course our families).

In turn, life has been a little unpredictable and at times chaotic and the blog has certainly been slack but this hasn’t stopped me from cooking and enjoying food – although I have embarked on the 5:2 diet to try and shift some of the baby weight, so for two days a week my consumption has been a little limited!

In the past couple of months, Bridget has slowly been weaned onto solid food and I’ve gone down the ‘traditional weaning’ route, which has included beginning with purees, slowly introducing lumpier textures and then the introduction of finger foods. I can honestly say, that so far it has been absolutely joyous, she has rejected very little and is certainly enjoying her food.

I have mainly made my own ‘baby food’ with some pouches of Ella’s Kitchen and Hipp Organic thrown in for good measure, but since she has mastered more textured food, I’ve made everything from scratch – not because I’m anti-jars or pouches, but because I can, because I enjoy cooking, and mostly because I like to know that I am aware of every ingredient that is going into Bridget’s food.

I found that when looking online for resources, the outlets are actually quite limited so I thought I would share some food and recipes that have been happily welcomed by my daughter in the hope it might help or inspire someone else wanting to prepare their child’s first foods. 

And just because I can't resist sharing, here is a picture of me with my lovely Bridget. Recipes and ideas coming soon.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Courgette, Asparagus and Bacon Tart

As we enter ‘asparagus season’ I wanted to share a very quick, easy and satisfying summer tart recipe that makes the most of the gorgeous long-stemmed vegetable.

It’s fresh, light and tasty and works with or without the bacon so can be a good offering for vegetarian friends or if you’re trying to stick to a meat-free day a week. Served with salad it is like a slice of summer on a plate. 

Here’s how:

Puff Pastry sheet
2 courgettes
Bunch of asparagus
100g crème fraiche
2 egg yolks (keep the egg whites to egg-wash pastry)
2 rashers of smoked bacon
Bunch of spring onions
1 clove garlic
25g Unsalted butter
100g Gruyere cheese
30g Parmesan
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Salt & Pepper

Pop the oven on to 180⁰C and line a baking sheet with some baking parchment or greaseproof paper. 

Roll the pastry onto this to make the tart base, pierce all over with a fork and top with another sheet of greaseproof paper and a baking sheet to help keep the shape the same all round. Once the oven is hot, place pastry in for 20 minutes, remove from the oven, take off the baking sheet and greaseproof paper and return to the oven for five more minutes, until golden brown.

Chop the spring onions and bacon and crush the garlic and fry gently in some melted butter then remove from the heat.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, crème fraiche, and most of the grated Gruyere and Parmesan – saving some to top the tart and most of the mint and parsley, retaining some for garnish. 

Add the bacon and spring onions and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and give a good stir.

Snap the ends of the asparagus spears off to remove the bitterness and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute then remove and drain. Use kitchen towel to absorb any retained water or moisture to prevent your tart from having the dreaded soggy bottom!

Using a vegetable peeler create thin ribbons of courgette and set to one side.

Once the pastry has cooled for 10-15 minutes spread over half of the cheese mixture, leaving a 1.5cm border around the edge. 

Scatter the courgette ribbons to cover the cheese mixture then place the asparagus over the top in whichever pattern you fancy then top with the remaining cheese and crème fraiche mixture.

Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese has melted and serve immediately with a simple salad.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine

This chicken tagine serves four and is essentially a pimped up chicken stew with an exotic North African makeover. The herbs and spices used make for a fragrant, almost aromatic dish and it tastes great served with rice, cous cous or fresh bread to soak up all of the juices. 

Here's how:

Handful of shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
8 Chicken thighs
Jar or tin of olives
Tin of chickpeas
2 lemons
Pinch of saffron threads
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 pint Chicken stock
4 tbsp olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp honey
Bunch fresh parsley
Bunch fresh coriander
Coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper 

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the tagine and place on the hob on a low heat and turn the oven onto a moderate-hot heat (180-200⁰C).

Peel and crush the garlic and grate the ginger and add to the tagine with the cumin and coriander seeds and just soften then remove from the heat.

In a separate pan, add a smidge of olive oil and brown off the chicken thighs. Whilst chicken is browning add to the tagine the drained chickpeas, whole, peeled shallots, halved cherry tomatoes and whole olives.

Cut the lemons into quarters and add to the tagine.

Once chicken is browned, add to the tagine and pour over the stock, seasoning, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, honey and remaining olive oil.

Steep the saffron in a couple of tablespoons of hot water then also pour into the tagine.

Add some chopped parsley and coriander, but retain most for garnish and to stir through at the end. Give the tagine a good stir, add the lid and place into the oven for 45 minutes.

Check the tagine after about 30 minutes and stir through and add a little more stock if needed.

After 45 minutes, remove from the oven and check that the chicken is tender – it should be! If not, return to the oven for a further 15 minutes then check again and repeat as necessary – the chicken should easily fall off of the bone. 

Before dishing up stir through some chopped coriander and parsley and then garnish each plate with some whole leaves.