Organic baby food
Kathie Auton - 20 April 2012
Whilst I probably can’t tell you in scientific detail what makes an organic carrot better than a non-organic one, I can tell you that it seems super-obvious which one you’d rather feed to a baby. I would think most parents would feel a strong instinct to introduce the very best and purest food to these teeny little digestive systems. And organic does feel like the best, even if I can’t tell you all the detailed reasons why and can only make vague noises about pesticides, chemicals and higher nutritional levels. The Soil Association can explain it better here, although I think their headline ‘no nasties’ pretty much sums it up.
And these days, even those who aren’t really bothered about organic, will probably find that any baby food they’re buying IS organic. In the few years since I weaned my son, organic brands have taken over the baby food market. These days it’s all about the little space-food pouches that you can squeeze straight into the child; it’s hard to say who this is more fun for. For me, this shift seems obvious. Like I say it caters for the urge to give the purest and the best. The range of organic baby food available now is awesome and allows you to feed the shop-bought without a niggling sense of guilt.
If, however, you do have a strong urge towards home-made and are going to set up your own in-house puree factory, consider the following:
- Making purees/ baby-led lumps is comically easy cooking. It does not need to be an epic nightmare. Just section off baby appropriate bits from your own cooking and if you’re not eating anything suitable for babies then you’re eating NO VEGETABLES and may like to consider a health drive!
- A Veg Box, you could even play puree lucky dip. Pick a couple of items from the box at random and mush them up in the safe and sure knowledge that whatever you come up with will be brilliant. Dig in and get busy with the beetroot smearing! If you’re baby-led weaning, just make grabbable ribbons of whatever’s in this week’s box - easy!
- Puree/lump swap. In your mummy group allocate people a vegetable in the least insulting way possible and meet up to swap frozen nuggets of goodness.
There is also the halfway house way. Here you can combine organic shop-bought with your home-made treats. Maybe take a favourite squeezy pouch and add it to some finely chopped bits of your organic roast? You’re aiming for everyone eating the same thing, so the sooner you can make their meals resemble yours the better.
And finally, a word to the anxious. My eldest got the full range of home-cooked organic goodness, my second (in the midst of moving job/city/house (twice)) seemed to do best on bread and the potato topping off cottage pie. Both are now happily tucking into pretty much everything and anything put in front of them. Organic where possible of course…
If you want to try out some recipes of your own, here are a few suggestions. The main ingredients in each recipe are easy to buy in organic form.
Recipes and ideas
I haven’t given quantities or suggested how many portions these make because I have no idea how much your baby should or will eat! All of these can be bolstered up into a grown-up meal too to save you cooking twice and all freeze well too.
- Olive oil
- 2 Carrots
- Handful of red lentils
- 4 dried apricots (the dark organic ones rather than the bright orange ones)
- Garam masala
Heat butter and olive oil. Fry onions until soft. Add garlic. Grate in carrots. Add red lentils and water. Bring to boil then simmer. Add dried apricots and garam masala. Simmer until lentils are mushy.Mash or puree if necessary.
- Dried prunes
- Dried apricots
(NB - prunes have the same effect on babies as they do on adults - not a problem, and potentially useful if they do seem constipated, but I wouldn’t give this every day...)
Chop dried fruit roughly. Pour over boiling water to just cover, and then simmer until fruit is soft. Drain most of water then puree to a thick paste. Keeps well in fridge.
Serve stirred into yogurt or fromage frais. Or add more hot water to make thinner puree (cool before serving).
Tuna and beans
- Tin tomatoes or a good dollop of tomato puree
- Small tin tuna (in sunflower oil or water - not brine)
- Tin organic butter beans
Heat then mash or whiz the whole lot together, or leave chunkier for an older baby or serve with pasta.
- Small tin of sweetcorn
- Single cream or crème fraiche
Heat then whiz. For stage two try as a pasta sauce or serving on toast fingers.
Another thing I found useful is to freeze ‘ingredients’ which can then be defrosted and combined in different ways to make varied meals. This is especially useful for using up veg from your veg box, cooked cabbage or spinach freezes well and can be added to other purees for extra iron. Other veg can be frozen as purees or finger food size batons. Pineapple and papaya freeze well too and I defy even the most hungry baby to eat a whole pineapple, so it’s a good way to avoid waste. Most other fruits freeze better if cooked first.
Poach fish (salmon, plaice, etc. etc.) in water or milk with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Cool, and then flake with your fingers checking carefully for bones. Freeze in ice cube trays to serve later in different ways, with tomato, parsley or cheese sauce for example.
Vats and vats of cheese sauce come in useful too as a base for pasta sauces (add your frozen spinach and you’re away). Adding a cube of cheese sauce has rescued several meals from the rejection bin at home.
Kathie has two young children and is taking a break from teaching to be a full-time mum. She is passionate about cooking and growing good food and takes any opportunity to get her kids involved in the kitchen.