for sticky little fingers…
It’s no secret that I love mucking around in the kitchen (as if all the recipes I post weren’t enough of a clue) – I love to cook – and so I was pretty excited when Elsie hit six months and it was finally time to start weaning her onto solids. Excited, and terrified. While I couldn’t wait to start seeing her chowing down on chow mein and splattering spaghetti all over the kitchen floor, the idea of her eating solids – actually putting whole pieces of food in her mouth – was kind of scary. What if she choked? What if she hated everything? What if she was allergic to something and we had absolutely no idea until – ohmygod – she came out in a rash or worse, had to be rushed to A&E?
After a bit of research on baby cpr, reading a library’s worth of baby-led weaning books and a trip to IKEA to pick up the simple, cheap as chips and hackable antilop highchair… we gave it a go. Broccoli. Boiled until it lost all structural integrity and any flavour. She HATED it; a moment on the lips and then it went straight on the floor. I didn’t blame her; I mean, if that was my introduction to the world of food then I’d have probably spat it out and hurled it south too. But, that’s what all the baby books said: “start with the all the disgusting stuff so they get used to eating it” and, “if you start with fruit then they’ll only eat sweet things for the rest of their life!” (paraphrasing). Vegetables only to start, and lots of them. So, I persevered with all the chopping, and the boiling, and the blending – apparently “it can take up to ten tries before a baby decides they actually like eating something!” We tried courgette next, but it joined the broccoli on the floor. Carrot puree was a momentary success… until it too decorated the floor. Then we tried potato (I mean, come on – who doesn’t like potato?); the dog got it… after it went on the floor. Cauliflower I briefly caught… before I fumbled it and it fell to the floor (side note: after three months of weaning I’ve achieved the reflexes of Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith).
After tearing my hair out and getting thoroughly fed up with all the chopping and the boiling and the blending – on top of cooking for myself and my husband, I might add – I caved and came home from the supermarket with a bag full of Ella’s Kitchen Fruit Pouches. Of course Elsie loved them, they were sweet, they were smooth… if you’d blended them with rum and ice they’d have made a cracking Daiquiri and I’d have love-loved them too. They were mess free! They were… cheating. Weren’t they? Or least that’s what it felt like. I side glanced all the weaning books on my shelf and all the pictures of babies happily munching down on little sprigs of broccoli held in their tiny fists. I felt them judging me. They’d totally sold me on their vision and method for creating children who didn’t eat around their vegetables – ones who nudged aside the turkey dinosaurs and hoovered up their greens first.
I felt guilty, and lazy… for a couple of weeks. And then I decided I was overthinking it and trying too hard. I mean, I grew up on potato smilies, fish fingers and baked beans and I turned out alright(-ish). So, I stopped chopping and boiling and blending unless it was for my own dinner – any vegetables from that were set aside for Elsie to try again, and alongside it she had baby food. You know, actual baby food. Pouches, jars, finger fruits. Suddenly, she grew an appetite. She loved strawberries, yoghurt, toast, peppers, baked beans, avocado, fish, potato, boiled eggs, chicken, pasta, curry (!?)… Finally, we were on a roll.
I think the moral here – for us, anyway – was to just go with your gut, or more accurately, your baby’s gut (see what I did there?). Don’t stress out about it, and don’t expect too much on day one. Follow the guidelines, experiment and adapt. Three months later, broccoli still ends up on the floor (otherwise known as the Bungle Buffet) along with a lot of things, but we’ve – Elsie’s – come a long way. She’s even started eating a decent amount of spice.
She tried a baby pouch with Jerk Seasoning a few weeks ago and enjoyed it so much I decided I had to come up with my own recipe – one we could all eat as a family together. These Jerky Chicken Fingers are tangy and spicy (just remove the cayenne pepper if bubs isn’t a spice fan), and made up of baby friendly finger foods like pepper, mango and chicken. They’re dead easy to make – just use a mango puree pouch from the baby food aisle as your base. Serve it as finger food for baby and as a stir fry with rice for yourself. 🙂
Jerky Chicken Fingers
enough for baby and two adults
- a little vegetable oil
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into fingers
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 shallot, sliced
- half a mango, sliced into fingers
For the sauce:
- 70g mango puree
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1/4 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp low salt soy sauce
- 50ml pineapple juice
- 1/2 tsp onion ganules
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp cornflour
- Steamed Rice
- chopped spring onions
- handful of chopped coriander
- To save a little time (and a lot of fussing!) at dinner time, you can prepare the sauce up to two days before (it’ll keep well in the fridge for 48 hours).
- To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients – except the cornflour – in a saucepan and bring to the boil gently on a medium heat. Once bubbling, turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan – heat the oil and fry the sliced shallot until translucent. Throw in the chicken and seal it, then stir fry with the mango and bell pepper until everything has cooked through.
- Next, whisk the cornflour into the sauce. Once it’s disappeared and the sauce has started to thicken, pour it into the frying pan. Take the frying pan off the heat and coat the chicken, mango and pepper with the sauce.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving it to baby. 🙂
Have a lovely week!