Baby food ~ 3 essential recipes

When I first started batch cooking proper meals for my baby, there were three recipes that the freezer was never without. They were different enough to each other that, when alternated, they would include a big range of vitamins and minerals.

Daddy’s Chicken Dinner

This was the first proper meal I cooked for my daughter and our freezer is never without it. It reminds me of that last spoonful of gravy when you’ve eaten a roast dinner that has little bits of everything from the plate – chicken, potato, carrots, something leafy, something legumey… Delicious! It later became known as Daddy’s Chicken Dinner* as the cooking was outsourced to my other half during particularly busy times and the novelty of Daddy doing the cooking proved a big selling point when our daughter was a toddler!

* Disclaimer: made under license to Mummy. May be the product of more than one parent.

Daddy chicken dinner - resized
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 1 large celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1 cm dice or smaller
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 cm dice
  • 1 large handful frozen baby broad beans, defrosted
  • 5 cubes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  1. Heat the oil or butter in a large sauté pan and fry the leek, carrot and celery for 10 minutes over a medium heat until soft and sweet.
  2. Add the chicken to the pan and fry until the outside turns opaque all over.
  3. Stir in the broad beans, spinach and a twist of black pepper, then add just enough boiling water to almost cover the ingredients.
  4. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  5. For young babies, blend until smooth or coarsely textured while still warm. Leave to cool then freeze in silicone trays.

My silicone trays make 60 ml cubes and I give my 9 month old one cube of coarsely pureed casserole mixed with a two-thirds-full cube of mash. My 3 ½ year old will eat 1 – 2 cubes of the casserole on top of 1 – 2 cubes of mash, depending on her whim of the day. Check out my revolutionary mashed potato method!

You can also use a cube of the chicken mixture as a base for risotto to diviersify the carbohydrate. Fry 1 tbsp of risotto rice per child in 1 tsp olive oil for 1 minute. Add a defrosted cube of the chicken mixture per child and stir until bubbling. Add about 100 ml boiling water from the kettle per child and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add more boiling water any time the liquid level gets a bit low. It’s ready when the rice is soft (I’d take it a little past al dente territory as it’s for children instead of adults). If your little one is 12 months or older, I’d add a little parmesan or pecorino and an extra mini knob of butter at the end.

Mince, mash and mushrooms

When I first came up with this recipe, the aim was to make a baby-friendly pureed version of steak and chips with garlic mushrooms, wilted spinach and bearnaise sauce on the side – might as well start those little tastebuds on the good stuff! For obvious reasons, the steak is replaced by minced beef, the chips by mash stirred in at the end and just the spirit of bearnaise remains by including tarragon and butter in the recipe. My daughter chose the rather less luxurious title when she was old enough to speak.

Beef and mushroom stew with mash - resized
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500 g minced beef
  • 250 g flat mushrooms, finely diced
  • 250 ml fresh beef stock (or water)
  • 150 g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 4 cubes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (or 150 g fresh spinach, chopped)
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  1. Heat the butter in a large saute pan, then fry the leek for 10 minutes over a medium heat until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the minced beef, increase the heat and fry until evenly browned.
  3. Add the mushrooms and fry for 10 minutes or until they’ve released their liquid into the pan.
  4. Add the stock or water, then cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  5. Add the peas and spinach, then cover and cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir in the tarragon and tuen off the heat.
  6. For young babies, blend until smooth or coarsely textured while still warm. Leave to cool then freeze in silicone trays.

I would give my 9 month old one 60 ml cube of the coarsely pureed mince mixed with a two-thirds-full cube of mash, though a hungry pre-schooler will eat two 60 ml cubes of the unpureed mince on top of two cubes of mash. Check out my guide to batch cooking and freezing baby food.

Fish pie

This is classic baby fodder. It’s not just important to introduce fish at an early stage because of the nutritional content; it also helps them recognise and appreciate it as a flavour. If you enjoy holidaying by the sea, get them hooked on marine flavours now and you’ll be able to share an awesome bouillabaise, paella or piatto di frutti di mare by the time they’re out of nappies!

  • 600 ml whole milk
  • 450 g smoked haddock
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 200 g spinach, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Bring the milk to a simmer then pour it over the smoked haddock. Cover the dish with clingfilm and leave to steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain off and reserve the milk and flake the haddock, discarding any skin and bones.
  3. Heat the butter in a saucepan and fry the leeks over a low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the flour then gradually incorporate the haddock milk, stirring continuously to avoid any lumps forming.
  5. Continue to stir until it starts to bubble then stir in the mustard and spinach. Simmer for a couple of minutes to wilt the spinach.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and flaked haddock.
  7. For young babies, blend until smooth or coarsely textured while still warm. Leave to cool then freeze in silicone trays.

As before, I cook and serve the mashed potato separately. I tend not to make these up as an actual pie in a ramekin dish – although it looks pretty, it takes too long cool down. For hungry pre-schoolers, this dish is great with a poached egg on top. It’s also delicious with orzo pasta in place of the mashed potato.