Mess aside, I’m really enjoying weaning Baby S. We’re doing baby-led weaning and allowing him to feed himself from whatever I put on his tray. He loves getting his hands on a spoon, and is really starting to get the hang of eating. I love this stage – he is happy to try pretty much everything I give him and as a consequence it feels like he’s eating balanced healthy meals. My two older children have got pickier as they got older – although we’re now coming out of the other end with five-year-old R, which is a massive relief. At the moment Baby S has the healthiest diet of the three of them, and eats a more varied amount of fruit and vegetables. Long may it last!
Nonetheless, I’m finding it a challenge, albeit a good one, to make meals that everyone in the family can and wants to eat. I’ve made risotto for the two Rs before without success. The most annoying one was a chicken risotto which they both refused to eat and then (being vegetarian myself) I couldn’t eat either so had to throw the lot away! Weaning baby S has given me a new impetus to cook and serve up different meals, and to make things from scratch that I’d got out of the habit of doing. Fish cakes are a good example. Both Rs will happily eat any supermarket fish cake but are not impressed at all when I serve up my homemade ones. Little Miss R will eat it after some grumbles but R (the one I said earlier is getting less fussy) just can’t be persuaded! Luckily baby S loves the homemade fish cakes so I’m going to carry on making them and hopefully R will come around to them too.
This risotto went down just how I expected it to with the two Rs. Baby S absolutely devoured it. He really, really enjoyed it. I loaded up the spoons for him (mashing the peas a little as I went) and left them on his tray for him to pick up. The advantage of risotto is that it’s sticky enough not to slide straight off the spoon as he picked it up. He just kept coming back for more and more. Little Miss R ate some of it (weirdly she wanted some greek yoghurt on her plate, and ate it dipped into that). R was persuaded to try one mouthful but didn’t eat anything else. He’d been at a friend’s house that afternoon, so I don’t know what he’d had in the way of snacks – usually hunger is the best way to get him to try new foods these days.
For us grown-ups, this is definitely not as full a flavour as a risotto made with wine, salted stock and loads of butter. But it was still fresh and flavourful. We both added a bit of goats cheese, some salt and had it with a green salad and it was a good family dinner.
Ingredients (serves 2 adults, 2 children and a baby)
200g fresh or frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
250g risotto rice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
800ml boiling unsalted vegetable stock or water
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
50g grated parmesan
25g unsalted butter (optional)
Salt and pepper, to serve
First, blanch the peas. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the peas. Boil for 1 minute, then drain and place in a bowl of iced water to cool. Drain once cool and set aside. (Of course, you could just boil them, but I think they taste nicer like this).
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and sweat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until translucent and soft. Remove the lid and stir in the garlic, continuing to cook for a minute or so.
Add the rice, oregano and bay leaf. Stir until the rice is coated in oil and then add a ladleful of stock or water. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed, then add another ladleful. Continue in this way until all the water has gone. This will take 15-20 minutes. You will get bored of stirring but it’s really important to continue doing so, so make sure you have the radio on or someone to chat to! Taste the rice. It should be soft but with a tiny bit of bite. If it’s not cooked add a further ladle-ful of stock or water.
Stir in the fresh mint, parmesan and butter (if using) followed by the peas. Take out a portion for the children and/or baby and then season well with salt and pepper. Alternatively allow people to season their own at the table.
You may want to mash the peas for a young baby.
NB: Parmesan does contain salt so if you want to keep this really salt free you could also remove the baby’s portion before adding this.
I am including this link in this week’s Cook Blog Share challenge, hosted by Kerry Cooks as well as the other following blog link ups.