Revolutionary mashed potato
Once your baby’s mastered single fruit and vegetable purees and has progressed onto more recognisable main courses, it’s time to look at carbs.
According to the hand-out I was given by the health visitor, babies need to eat a fist-sized portion (theirs, not yours!) of carbohydrate four times a day, which is quite a lot to fit in. Breakfast is taken care of in the form of porridge or Weetabix, but for lunch and dinner it usually comes down to a choice of pasta, potato or rice, with the final portion going to post-main course nibbling on bread or grissini.
For really little ones still on fairly smooth purees, potato is my starch of choice. Pureed pasta or rice are pretty gluey and have little to contribute in the flavour department. Smooth mashed potato on the other hand, is a thing of beauty. I rarely have time to boil and mash potatoes from scratch for every meal, so I tend to make up a big batch and freeze it in silicone trays*.
So, the revolutionary mashed potato method that will change the way you cook for life? Bake them! Simply load up your oven with as many potatoes as you like and bake at 200°C (fan) for 1 hour.
No peeling, no chopping, no pans boiling over with starchy water, no loosing track of time and finding them dissolving into mush. When the time’s up, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh and mash with a little milk and unsalted butter. I reckon the resulting mash retains more nutrients and it definitely has a deeper potato flavour than water-mash. You can check they’re done by inserting a skewer into the centre (it should slide in easily), but if you lose track of time, an extra 15 minutes won’t hurt them anyway.
The baking method also gives you the rather genius bi-product of a big batch of potato skins. These are my favourite uses:
- Cut them into strips, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes at 190°C (fan) until golden brown and serve as a healthier alternative to crisps – great for scooping up those pimped purees too!
- Return the empty skins to the oven for a few minutes at 200°C (fan) to crisp up and they make a great gluten-free alternative to crackers – spread with blue or white-rinded soft cheeses (beer snack!).
- Spread with a little pesto or sundried tomato puree, fill with your favourite pizza toppings and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 10 minutes at 190°C (fan).
- For pre-schoolers and older children, you can use the potato skins as a container for a little cottage pie – just fill with your ragu mixture, top with some of the mashed potato and a sprinkle of cheese. If all the ingredients are hot, just pop them back in the oven to melt the cheese. If cooking from room temperature, bake at 180°C (fan) for 20 minutes and check they’re piping hot all the way through. You can also freeze them made up in the skins, but it’s probably best to defrost fully before baking.
So there you go: Save yourself time and energy, make your children tastier mash and reward yourself with homemade beer snacks. You’re welcome!
* I always mash and freeze it separately to the rest of the dish, as it goes really gluey if you whiz it with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor, plus it gives you the chance of varying the starch and making two different dishes out of the same recipe on different days (pasta ragu and cottage pie, for example).