If it’s time to start your baby’s adventure into solid food, then purees are many parents' first choice. But rather than heading to the baby food aisle at the supermarket, skip those preservatives and dust of the blender as there are some very simple purees you can make for yourself.
Steaming these will preserve the nutrients and you get a thicker, more intense puree than if you cook the fruit in water. Peel, core and slice 2 or 3 medium dessert apples or pears. Put in a steamer basket or a fine sieve balanced over a pan of simmering water. Cover and steam for 6–8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until soft. Puree. Makes 250–350ml.
Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in 200g fresh or frozen peas (or petits pois). Return to a simmer and cook until tender – around 5 minutes for frozen peas, probably longer for fresh ones. Drain, saving the water. Transfer the peas to a blender and blend with enough of the cooking water to achieve the consistency you require. If you want a super-smooth pea puree for a very young baby, push the blended puree through a sieve.
Makes around 300ml (unsieved).
Bake 2 medium sweet potatoes at 190C for 45 minutes–1 hour, until completely tender. Slice them in half, scoop out the soft flesh with a teaspoon, then puree. Two medium sweet potatoes yield about 200ml.
Use these alone or in combination. Peel, slice, then steam until tender, about 15–20 minutes, then puree in a blender with a little of the steaming water. If you’re using parsnips, make sure you remove all the woody core. You could also boil these veg, drain, then puree with a little of the cooking water. 350g root veg yields about 250ml puree.
Cut cauliflower (about 250g untrimmed) into small florets, then put in a steamer basket or a fine sieve over a pan of boiling water. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes, until tender, then puree with some of the steaming water. Makes about 200ml.
Once those first purees are going down well, move on to mixed purees, adapting the texture to suit your baby. As they mature, make the purees thicker, and turn them into more substantial meals by adding other ingredients containing protein, carbohydrate or fat. Do this fairly swiftly if your baby is 6 months old or older. It’s then a short stride to offering your baby normal family foods, chopped or mashed to a texture that suits them.
Bake 1 medium potato at 200C for around 1 hour, until completely tender. Towards the end of the cooking time, place 1 small fish fillet (such
as pollack or mackerel) on a foil-lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Flake the fish off the skin, carefully removing any bones. Cut away the tough stalks from about 250g purple sprouting or ordinary broccoli. Put the broccoli in a steamer or a fine sieve balanced over a pan of boiling water. Cover and steam until tender, about 8 minutes. When the potato is cooked, cut it in half and scoop out the flesh, then mash it. Either pur.e the fish and broccoli together or chop them very finely on a board. Combine the fish and broccoli with the mashed potato, adding liquid as necessary. Makes about 300ml.
Using strong kitchen scissors, cut 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs into even-sized chunks. Put them in a small pan and add enough water to just
cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the chicken is cooked right through, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile,
roughly chop 1 head of Cos (Romaine) lettuce. Add to the pan, stir, then cover the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until
the lettuce has completely wilted. Transfer the whole lot to a blender and puree. Makes about 300ml.
Peel, core and slice 2 medium dessert apples. Put in a steamer, or fine sieve over a pan of simmering water. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring once or twice. Cool, then puree or mash with a banana and enough freshly squeezed orange juice to get the consistency you want. As this puree uses raw fruit, it’s best eaten straight away. Makes about 150ml.