Summer Vegetable Minestrone

One thing that I have definitely become better at since becoming a parent is time management. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak organised, but I now realise I was completely terrible at managing my time!  I used to be very good at writing lists; long lists that were neatly written with little boxes to tick when I had done the task. Sounds ideal – but I would rarely, and by rarely I mean NEVER finish the list of jobs. Post-baby I still write a list every day, it’s normally scribbled on the back of an envelope with a coffee stain on, but most importantly I actually do what it says! William has been in a pretty steady two nap routine for a few months and this has made it relatively easy to be organised. It means I have two spells in the day to get things done. For my kitchen this means I need recipes that I can prep, at least in part, in advance. Most often I get the supper prep done in his morning nap as by the afternoon my enthusiasm can be dropping, or my house may have turned into a bomb-site! This summer vegetable minestrone is a perfect example of a supper that can be prepped in advanced and then cooked quickly when everyone is ready to eat.

All of the summer vegetables in this soup need minimal cooking, it takes only 10 minutes to cook and in an ideal world would be eaten straight away as this way the vegetables keep their individual character, colour and texture. On the surface it may not sound that baby friendly, but all the prep work can be done beforehand, meaning when your little one goes to bed supper is only 10 minutes away. This soup is a wonderful way of getting vast quantities of green vegetables into your family. For Will, I blend his up to make a thicker soup as the chunks are currently too big for him to manage, but an alternative for baby led weaner’s would be to drain the liquid off the soup and just give them the vegetables as they are.

The ingredient list may look long but don’t be put off, its really just a shopping list of green vegetables, and they can all be exchanged for others you may have in your fridge or freezer. The key is to not let it overcook. The other little trick in this soup is to add a parmesan rind; a trick I learnt from a Nigel Slater recipe. It works brilliantly with this soup to add a depth of flavour to the broth which would otherwise not be there owing to the soup cooking so quickly. It can be omitted but it does enhance the flavour. Adding pasta to the soup in the form of orzo or spaghetti (we use wholewheat spaghetti) makes it a filling supper on its own, but its also wonderful with some crusty bread and butter.

Soup may not seem that summery but I urge you to give this a try, it is a real celebration of all things green and sings summer!

Ingredients

  • A bunch of asparagus
  • A courgette
  • One handful of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • One leek or 4 spring onions
  • One handful of sugar snap peas (or fine beans/ mange tout)
  • Few stalks of tenderstem broccoli (normal broccoli works too)
  • One handful of frozen edamame beans
  • Parmesan Rind
  • Vegetable stock
  • Two Tbsps orzo pasta or a small handful of spaghetti broken into little pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of chopped basil
  • 5-6 leaves chopped mint

Method

  • Chop all your fresh vegetables until they are the size of small cubes – try as much as possible to make everything a similar size.
  • Soften the leek or spring onion in a little olive oil, making sure they don’t colour
  • After a minute add the rest of the chopped vegetables and the edamame beans
  • Add the orzo or spaghetti pieces
  • Add the vegetable stock (a cube works just fine in this soup, because I’m also cooking for William I use salt free stock), water (about 2 pints) and the parmesan rind. Leave to simmer on a medium heat.
  • After 5 minutes add the frozen peas and mint plus half of the basil
  • Cook for further 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft but still retaining their beautiful green colour.
  • Remove the parmesan rind, ladle into bowls and garnish with the rest of the basil, enjoy!

 

Salmon & Leek Risotto

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Its nearly the end of June, it’s raining, its foggy and we all have colds. All in all its a grumpy house this week. Will is frustrated if we stay in all day but gets too tired and overwhelmed if we are out for too long, which is making it hard to know what to do with him! This morning we went to a soft play centre which he enjoyed for about half a hour before turning back into to a little cuddly, grizzly boy. I’m not complaining though, having a cold is horrid and he is never normally cuddly so in some ways it’s nice (for me). His body is obviously fighting hard to get him better as he is also napping a lot! He has currently been asleep for over an hour which is unheard of in the afternoon for him!

As I wrote that previous sentence he woke up, when will I ever learn!? DON’T MENTION GOOD NAPS! 

Anyway, my point was that both the weather and everyone being under the weather, meant comfort food was definitely in order for supper! Comfort food for me is bowl food – the kind of thing you can eat with just a fork. Risotto is perfect comfort food, and this salmon and leek version manages to feel both warm and cosy, as well as light and summery. It’s not hard to make either, but as with all risotto it does take some serene stirring.

To make it baby friendly there are a few sacrifices  compromises. They aren’t actually sacrifices, as it’s delicious and full-flavoured without them. There is no white wine added, although the lightness of the salmon and leek come through more as a result. It really isn’t missed in this particular recipe. There is also a lack of salt so it can feel under seasoned, but I have a trick for this which will become clear in the recipe method!

Ingredients

This is enough for 2 adults and 1 baby portion. 

  • 1 salmon fillet, deskinned
  • 75g smoked salmon
  • 200g arborio rice
  • 1 leek
  • Low salt vegetable stock cube
  • 3 tablespoons of peas
  • Small bunch of dill
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • knob of unsalted butter

Method

  • Finely slice the leek, leaving the top 2 inches of green leek for later
  • De-skin and chop the fresh salmon fillet
  • Add leek to a large sauté pan with half of the butter and soften (don’t let them colour)
  • Add the rice to the leeks and stir to coat in the butter
  • Add the stock cube to a saucepan of hot water and bring to simmer (roughly a litre of water should be fine but if you run out just add more water to your saucepan)
  • Add a couple of ladles of the stock, the fresh salmon and stir
  • Keep adding more stock as the rice absorbs whats in the pan, stirring periodically to prevent it sticking. I like to use a wooden fork for stirring as it prevents the rice from breaking down.
  • When the rice is soft but still too hard to eat (after roughly 15 minutes) add the peas and the lemon zest
  • Finely chop the dill
  • Slice the smoked salmon into thin strips
  • Finely slice lengths of the green leek top
  • Once the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed (20-30 minutes), turn the heat off, add the remaining butter, the dill and roughly two thirds of the smoked salmon, and stir to combine.
  • Remove the baby portion
  • For the adult portions, I add the rest of the smoked salmon on top, with some of the green leek and a generous crack of black pepper.

Adding the rest of the smoked salmon to the adult portions ensures that the baby portion isn’t too salty, and the adult portions’ become adequately seasoned. I like to add the raw leek as it provides a fresh taste as well as a contrasting texture from the smooth creaminess of the risotto.

Risotto is excellent baby food as it is so versatile: you can feed it in a variety of ways. For baby led weaning you could simply squash the peas and pop this, once cooled a little on a plate/highchair tray (messy but effective). You can also wait for the risotto to cool, mash the peas and roll it into balls the size of a walnut. These can be coated in parmesan and bread crumbs and lightly fried to create finger food. Finally you can pop it all in a blender and puree to you required consistency. This is what I have done today as when Will isn’t well he prefers to be fed by me.

What are your favourite comfort foods? I’d love to know!

 

 

Too Hot for Porridge

IMG_5879.JPGHas anyone mentioned that its been rather warm in Britain this week? Pre- motherhood I could never understand people that would sit, fanning themselves in a vastly over the top fashion, moaning about heatwaves (summer, I think they call it in most places, but that’s not nearly dramatic enough for us Brits)! I live in Wales and despite what my husband says; it rains here, a lot! So for me the odd warm day came as a lovely surprise, and it didn’t matter if the bedroom was a bit warm, or the butter had melted over the kitchen worktop because I could sleep the next night, and I would have plenty of time to clean up the butter pool. Post- motherhood however, my feelings towards these balmy  roasting days has changed! I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times in the last 72 hours I have googled ‘how to cool a baby down without air conditioning’. We have dunked poor Will in bowls of water, he’s hasn’t worn clothes for days (brilliant for my washing pile) and my husband and I have been taking it in turns to stand by the chest freezer with the lid open. But the facts remain the same; its hot, and its totally out of my control!

One thing I can control though is food, or more accurately, breakfast. We usually have porridge as its filling, suitable for everyone, quick to make and cheap. A perfect meal in my humble opinion, but not at all summery. So I set to work creating a recipe for overnight oats that would be suitable for Will as well as us adults. Its hardly a recipe, more a combining of a few ingredients, but the key to making this baby friendly is simply to make it a little more milky than usual, and to use fruit that is pureed rather than whole berries. The quantity below is for 1 portion for a baby (although it obviously depends on how much of an appetite your little one has). My husband and I had double the amounts written with 20ml less milk to make it less liquid.

Ingredients

  • 2 inches of banana, mashed
  • 2 level desert spoons of porridge oats
  • 50ml of fruit puree, I used blueberry and cherry
  • 50ml milk (almond milk, cow’s milk and soya milk are all lovely)
  • pinch of cinnamon (or a few seeds from a vanilla pod)

Method

  • Mash banana and add to the base of a small jar
  • Add the porridge oats and the cinnamon
  • Add the fruit puree
  • Top with milk and close jar
  • Leave in the fridge overnight and enjoy the next morning

You can stir it together before serving but I don’t as Will responds really well to having different tastes and textures throughout a meal. For younger babies, blend the porridge oats until you get your desired texture before adding to your jar; I use a milling blade on a Nutribullet.

So there we are, porridge with a summer makeover! What are your favourite overnight oat flavour combinations? And if anyone out there does have any tips for making heatwaves with babies more tolerable I’d love to hear them!