Have you ever eaten a steamed courgette or aubergine slice? Well, as someone who was keen to introduce my baby to a variety of textures, I have, and I can quite confidently report that they were horrendous! This for me is one of the problems with baby led weaning; to get food to a texture where it can be eaten or gummed safely by a baby often means cooking it in a way that renders it at the very least dull, and at worst quite unpleasant to eat.
Luckily, there are a huge array of spices that are perfectly safe for babies to eat and enjoy including, amongst others, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika and cardamom.
Although it is true that baby tastebuds are more sensitive than ours, it doesn’t mean that they won’t appreciate the subtle spices used in this persian inspired stew. I use the word inspired here deliberately. I am not Iranian, I just love cooking with Middle Eastern flavours. This is a recipe that I used to cook pre-baby and I have simply adapted it slightly to make it suitable for the whole family to enjoy together. It is relatively quick to make and one of the best things about it is that as with many spiced dishes, it actually tastes better after a couple of hours, meaning you can make it at any time you have during the day and just warm it up that evening. Will usually takes a long nap of about an hour in the morning so I love recipes that I can quietly get on with during this time.
I usually serve this with brown rice, although it also goes nicely with the nutty sweetness of quinoa and on particularly busy days I have also served it with couscous (an absolute store cupboard saviour in my opinion).
This is enough to feed 4 people or 3 people and a few meals for your baby (depending on their portion size). I made this today and fed 3 adults and had 4 meals for Will.
- 500g chicken, chopped into chunks ( I prefer to use chicken thigh fillets as I prefer the flavour but chicken breast also works
- Two medium onions sliced finely
- One aubergine sliced into 1cm thick rounds and then quartered
- One courgette sliced into 1cm thick rounds
- The equivalent of one bell pepper sliced thinly (I often use a third of each colour, yellow, red and green)
- A tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 5 cardamom pods, cracked open but not crushed
- Tbsp olive oil
- Slice your courgette and aubergine and griddle them in hot dry pan until they are brown on each side. This may seem a little time consuming but the flavour you get from them is far better if they are slightly charred before adding to the stew.
- Slice the onions and soften them in a wide based saucepan with the olive oil.
- Add the spices to the onions and then remove from the pan
- Add the chicken to the saucepan with a little olive oil if needed and brown
- Add the onions, peppers, courgette and aubergine to the chicken and stir together
- Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, then half fill the tin with water and add this too
- Bring to simmering and add a lid, leave on a low heat until the chicken is cooked, the sauce has thickened slightly and the vegetables are soft (about 30 minutes).
At this point the dish is essentially cooked; it is at this stage that I remove the amount I want for Will and blend it.
Once the baby portion has been removed add salt and pepper to taste and leave the sauce to reduce slightly. It is then ready for the whole family to enjoy.
My son has eaten this since he was about 7 months old and always enjoys it. I have also fed it to a friend’s baby who seemed to approve. If you are worried about the spices overwhelming your little one’s palate you can always add a some cooling full fat yoghurt to it.