Feeding the whole family at the same time can be very hard, especially for families with fussy babies and toddlers.
A new cookbook, Something for Everyone: Family meals for baby, toddler and beyond, by Louise Fulton Keats, has delicious and healthy meals for the whole family. Here is a selection:
Beef and vegetable pie
When I was about 7, my family took a winter road trip to stay with friends in Bathurst. I have the most vivid memory of arriving at their farmhouse in the evening, exhausted and cold, to be greeted with a beef pie – exactly like this one – being pulled from the oven. It was the most perfect act of hospitality and, even though I was so young, I've never forgotten how good it tasted.
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1kg chuck steak, cut into 3cm cubes
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 thyme sprigs (optional)
40g tin lentils, rinsed and drained – or use 150g fresh or frozen peas
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, just thawed
milk, for brushing
Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add half of the beef and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with another 2 teaspoons of the oil and the remaining beef. Add the remaining oil to the pan with the onion, carrot and garlic and cook for 6 minutes, or until softened.
Return the beef to the pan, stir in the tomatoes, then add the thyme sprigs (if using) and 125 ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Discard the thyme sprigs and stir through the lentils or peas. At this stage you can set aside your baby's serve. Transfer the remaining mixture to a 1.5 litre capacity baking dish and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Press the pastry over the beef, tucking in the edges. Brush the top with a little milk and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
Baby's serve: for a younger baby, reserve some of the beef pie filling and blend until smooth, adding as much liquid (water or your baby's milk) as needed to achieve the desired consistency. For an older baby, keep the pureed consistency more textured or simply chop up the beef pieces and serve as is.
Toddler's serve: serve as is, ensuring the pie is cool enough to eat, and chopping the beef into smaller pieces if needed.
Chicken with cherry tomatoes and butter beans
Those of you who have my book Cooking For Your Baby and Toddler will know that I like to make a similar dish using fish, which I learnt on a trip to the Ligurian coast in Italy. This adaptation is just as good, if not better. If you don't have a mandolin, it's worth investing in one (it won't break the bank). Once you have these perfectly, thinly sliced potatoes you'll be hooked! Unless you're a particularly nifty cook, it's tricky to get quite the same result by hand.
4 chicken leg quarters (marylands)
6 desiree potatoes, skin on, thinly sliced using a mandolin
4 small zucchini, thinly sliced using a mandolin
1 brown onion, thinly sliced using a mandolin
60ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 rosemary sprigs
12-18 truss cherry tomatoes
400g tin butter or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat a large non-stick frying pan (or flameproof baking dish which you can continue to use for cooking the vegetables) over high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Set aside. Arrange the potato, zucchini and onion slices evenly in the base of a large baking dish. Toss through 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and place the browned chicken, garlic and rosemary sprigs on top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the chicken and potato are almost cooked.
Remove the dish from the oven and scatter over the tomatoes and beans. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Return the dish to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through.
Baby's serve: for a younger baby, blend together some of the chicken (remove any bones), beans, vegetables and tomato until smooth, adding as much liquid (water or your baby's milk) as needed to achieve the desired consistency. For an older baby, keep the puréed consistency more textured or simply chop up the chicken and serve as finger food.
Toddler's serve: serve as is, chopping into smaller pieces as needed.
Stone fruit almond tarts
Despite looking rather impressive, these lovely individual tarts couldn't be simpler to prepare. I even let my four-year-old son help me if I'm feeling patient. You can use whichever stone fruits you have on hand. The apricot glaze is not essential, but it does give a lovely shiny finish (see note).
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, just thawed
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1-2 nectarines, stones removed and flesh sliced
2 plums, stones removed and flesh sliced
2 apricots, stones removed and flesh sliced
100g fresh raspberries
redcurrants, to serve (optional)
maple syrup, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Cut out eight pastry circles – each with a 12cm diameter. Place on the prepared tray. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of ground almonds over each pastry base, leaving a 5 mm border around the edges. Arrange the sliced stone fruit in overlapping circles over the ground almonds. Top with the raspberries.
(Prepare some fruit for your baby at the same time – put some additional diced stone fruit and raspberries in a small baking dish.) Bake the tarts (and baby's fruit) for 12-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is tender.
To serve, place the warm tarts on serving plates. Top some of the tarts with redcurrants (if using) and drizzle over some maple syrup.
Baby's serve: prepare the baked fruit as per baby's serve in the recipe. For a younger baby, purée the baked fruit until smooth, adding as much liquid (water or your baby's milk) as needed to achieve the desired consistency. If it is a little tart, you can mix it with a sweeter purée such as apple or some whole-egg custard. For an older baby, keep the purée more textured or simply serve as is, cut up as needed.
Toddler's serve: prepare as per baby's serve in the recipe or serve as is, cut up as needed.
Tip: If you'd like your pastry edges to have a shiny glaze, melt 1 tablespoon apricot jam in the microwave until it is a syrupy consistency and brush the edges as soon as the tarts come out of the oven.
Something for Everyone: Family meals for baby, toddler and beyond, by Louise Fulton Keats (Hardoe Grant, $34.95.).