Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.

Nigel Slater

Beyond the Bottle – Green Beans; Swede

When they start eating solid foods, babies can only eat tiny little portions of pureed fruit or vegetables at a time (1-2 tablespoons to begin with). In some cases it makes sense to steam or boil a large amount and then freeze individual pureed portions of foods that they will eat regularly (like Sweet Potato and Apple/Pear). But invariably you’ll still be left with excess fruit or vegetables in the fridge – if you want to avoid waste you can manage your own meals very easily to efficiently use the same food for both babies and adults.

For the first few months of eating solid food a baby has a very simple diet of pureed fruit and vegetables, so the opportunities to make anything for yourself is limited to using single ingredients. As the baby grows and their palate develops,  they start to eat more complex foods like fish and pastas, which gives you more scope to make similar interesting meals for yourself.

We have accompanied this goulash dish with green beans and mashed swede.

For the green beans, top and tail them, and remove the strings if there are any. Wash them, then put them in a saucepan and cover with freshly boiled water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes until tender. Remove enough from the pan as per your babies requirements, and puree using a little of the water to get the right consistency. Allow to cool before feeding your baby. The remaining green beans in the pan can be served immediately with your own meal.

Wash the swede, then peel and cut it into cubes. As per the beans, put it in a saucepan and cover with freshly boiled water. Bring to the boil, cover, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the pan and puree to a smooth consistency. Remove and put aside enough for your babies meal, and then add butter and pepper to the remaining swede to make a silky accompaniment to meat dishes. According to Nigel Slater, any other swede recipe is probably a waste of time.

Here’s Moveable Feast Jr enjoying his sweet potato and green bean dinner!


Pear and Blueberry Cake

Last week apples, this week pears? Not quite, but thanks to my friendly neighbour Tim who dropped in a bag of garden apples, I have enough fresh fruit to make a few more cakes this week!

This is a cinch to put together, a really quick cake that’s great if you have to make something quickly for unexpected guest. From Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, he suggests you can use any fresh fruit for the topping.

Preheat the oven to 180degC, and line a 9-inch cake tim with baking parchment.

Beat 130g butter with 130g caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat 2 eggs together, then gradually add them to the butter and sugar. Sift 130g flour and a teaspoon of baking powder together and fold this gently into the mixture. Scrape into the lined cake tin.

Peel and core 2 ripe pears, and then cut them into chunks. Spread over the top of the cake mixture with 250g washed blueberries. Scatter a couple of tablespoons of sugar over the top. Bake for 55 minutes, then test for doneness with a skewer. If it comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven, then leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out.


Orange Sorbet; Yoghurt Sorbet

Two sorbets from Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries, both made with one of my most-used pieces of kitchen equipment, my ice-cream maker. Home-made ice-creams and sorbets are a cinch, and affordable, to make with this bit of kit. A frozen treat like this is a really cost-effective way to add a dessert or palate cleanser to a meal. If you have any left over it you can obviously keep it in the freezer to eat again later.

For the orange sorbet, put 250g caster sugar and 250ml water in a pan over a moderate heat until the sugar has melted. Add the zest of two oranges, and then leave to cool completely. Once cool, strain the syrup to remove the orange zest. Pour 750ml freshly squeezed orange juice (about 6-8 oranges) into the syrup, and stir in the juice of a lemon. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn until almost frozen. Remove from the bowl and freeze for twenty minutes or so before serving.

The yoghurt sorbet was a product of having most of a tub of natural yoghurt left over from the cucumber salad I served with the halibut last week. I just added 4 tablespoons of sieved icing sugar to about 400g of natural yoghurt, and poured it straight into the ice-cream maker to churn. Again, it requires a few minutes in the freezer to finish off before serving.


Aubergine, Tomato and Lemongrass Curry

Home-made curries usually require a lot of ingredients, but have the advantage that most of them are spices that will last in the store cupboard for ages. One of the key things when making curry is to have all your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Generally everything gets added together in one go, so the cooking time isn’t that lengthy.

This recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s “Kitchen Diaries”. I made a spice paste with 4 chopped small red chillis (deseeded), the inner leaves from 2 lemongrass stalks roughly chopped, a thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and grated, 2 shallots and 4 cloves of garlic, all chopped, and then I blitzed it all together in a food processor with a half teaspoon of shrimp paste a tablespoon of water.

I then warmed 3 tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan, and fried the spice paste, moving it round the pan so it didn’t burn. I added 400g chopped mushrooms and let them cook until they softened. I then poured in 325ml of vegetable stock and brought it to the boil. I added an aubergine, chopped into pieces about an inch square, as well as 6 tomatoes, which I had roughly chopped. I let it simmer for about fifteen minutes, then I poured in 200ml coconut milk andlet that simmer for another ten minutes. I added some coriander leaves for the last minute, and served it with basmati rice.


Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry

A mild curry recipe from Nigel Slater’s “The Kitchen Diaries”, this makes a great meal for six people, and uses loads of store-cupboard seeds and spices.

Soak 200g for several hours (or overnight if possible). Drain, and cook them in boiling water for about 45 mins, until they are reasonably tender. Peel and chop 2 medium onions, 4 cloves of garlic, 3 fresh red chillies, and 3 carrots, keeping them separate. Grind 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds to a coarse powder, remove the black seeds from 6 green cardamom pods and grind those to a powder.

Pour 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil into a heavy-bottomed casserole dish set over a moderate to low heat – cook the onions and garlic until translucent and golden. Stir in 15 curry leaves, 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds and 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric, as well as the ground coriander, cardamom, turmeric and chopped chillies. Leave to sizzle for 2-3 minutes then add the chopped carrots and continue cooking over a low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Roughly chop 500g tomatoes, a medium squash (or small pumpkin) and 400g sweet potato and add them to the casserole. Stir, then pour in 750ml vegetable stock. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Discard any froth that appears on the top, then turn the heat down so that the contents simmer gently. Stir occassionaly, keeping an eye on the vegetables so that they become tender, but not broken up.

When the vegetables have softened, drain then chickpeas and stir them into the curry. Stir in 250g of Greek yoghurt, making sure that the mixture does not boil (causing it to turn grainy). Stir in a handful of coriander leaves just before serving with rice.

You can also add 150g small mushrooms at the final stage with the chickpeas. For a hotter curry use stronger chillies, and increase the quantities of coriander seeds and turmeric. Curries are all about experimenting until you get the balance right, and using the ingredients that you have.