I’ve been part of the Eco Schools project for a few years now. It’s a fantastic initiative to encourage school kids to learn about locally grown produce and Scottish seasonality.
It’s inspiring to see these young kids’ faces light up when they try something new, but it’s also made me aware of how important the right food can be for children, even before they start school.
As a father of four boys now, I’m even more passionate about the importance of starting kids off on the right foot. Our wee twins are almost five months old now, and having just started on the baby rice, we will soon move on to puréed food, which is a stage I always love. All of our boys are very much part of our shared passion and love for food and ingredients, and that starts with what we feed them.
From around six months to about three years old, kids develop their taste buds, and what you feed them at these stages can really help develop their sense of taste. Our eldest son Kasper discovered his liking for food very early and now he eats almost anything. I was particularly proud the other day when he ate his first grouse. When the older boys were younger, we always used fresh, seasonal ingredients in the foods we made for them, and I really believe that’s why now both Kasper and Axel love food. It is rewarding to see that they’re never shy of trying new foods and I hope the twins will follow suit.
Most parents, like us, will be trying to juggle work and family life, and believe me, four boys can mean a lot of juggling and sometimes not a lot of sleep. But actually, using some of the ingredients you use to make your own breakfasts, lunches and dinners can be a quick and easy way to feed your kids. We believe in feeding our children the same food that we eat. We hardly ever make different meals for them, but instead invite them to eat what is served on the table. While there are a few ingredients to be careful of, like nuts and citrus, there’s no reason why baby food shouldn’t include a lot of the ingredients adults eat, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Poaching fish and combining it in a blender with some seasonal vegetables can make a great purée for your baby from about the age of six months, and it’s so much more nutritious than buying the same kind of thing ready made from a jar. You avoid any additives or preservatives that way too and in fact it can often be a lot more affordable. You can even make a big batch to keep them going for a couple of days, or freeze small portions to take out when you need them. Sweet potato and apricot is another lovely combination as the apricots add a lovely element of sweetness without any unnecessary sugar or flavourings.
Making food fun and exciting is a great way to get kids to try new things. I am convinced that feeding them a wide variety of fresh foods from a young age will set them on the right path and usually means they will grow up with great taste buds, and happy to try most things you put in front of them.
Carrot, Sweet Potato and Apricot Purée
½ diced onion
2 carrots – diced
½ sweet potato – diced
10 dried apricots – diced
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
tbsp of butter
chicken stock (optional)
Cut the vegetables into small manageable bites.
In a heavy-bottomed pan sweat the onion gently in butter, then add the carrots, sweet potato, dried apricots, zest and juice of the orange and continue to sweat gently.
Cover the vegetables in chicken stock or water and place on a gentle heat until they are cooked. If the mixture dries out, add a little more liquid. Once the vegetables are soft, place in a blender. You can make the purée as smooth as you need to depending on the age of your child. For younger children blend into a smooth purée and for older children leave it a little chunkier.
white fish eg haddock, hake or plaice
2 carrots – diced
1 potato – diced
handful of fresh or frozen peas
tbsp of butter
Chop all your vegetables into very small cubes.
Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan, add your choice of white fish and poach gently.
Remove the fish and add the diced carrots and potatoes, cook on a gentle heat until soft. The milk will slowly evaporate.
Flake the poached fish with a fork and add back to the pan with the carrots and potatoes. Add a spoonful of butter and handful of peas and heat gently until soft.
Beetroot and Potato Purée
1 medium beetroot
1 medium potato
Wash the beetroot well and place in a pot of boiling water. Cook until soft, for around 30 minutes. Beetroot is cooked when a skewer slides in easily.
Peel and dice potatoes and place in a small saucepan of boiling water. Cook until soft, around 10 minutes.
Peel or scrub away beetroot skin; it should come away easily.
Strain potatoes, reserving a little bit of water if required and place in a blender with the beetroot. Purée until smooth.