Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.


  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.



IMG_0040_2Can I be honest with you? Of course I can… let’s face it, if you don’t want my honesty you won’t keep reading! The past three days have been exhausting. Adventure Girl, now three* has been quite ill: Fevers, not eating, not drinking. My usually great eater has cumulatively over these days only eaten a small handful of food. As such, I’ve found myself in the kitchen for 2-3hrs each day trying to create nutritious food to tempt her stomach and heal her body. At the same time, since we’ve just gotten home from a week away, I’ve found the creative energy to consider our food options more closely and try out a few things. I’m exhausted, she’s starting to get better and I’ve made a loaf of bread for my GP… all in a week’s work really!

All of this to say, I’m kick starting this blog with the following aims:

  1. To remind myself of the adventures we have, the memories we create and the food we eat. In sharing these I hope to make people envious encourage people that memories are more important than money, that you don’t have to put life on the back burner once you have kids and highlight some awesome locations in our area
  2. To inspire myself (and possibly others) to eat well and consider that what we consume has huge implications upon our lives. As a friend recently shared on social media “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”. For me, and this blog, at the moment this means wholefoods but also looking to understand and learn from other people’s journeys and choices.
  3. To have a place to vent my rants and give my reflections/opinions – a safety valve if you will
  4. To have fun and give myself a creative outlet: something others might enjoy taking part in.

Thanks friends who have encouraged me to write again – I hope I don’t bore you to tears xx

*Since I last posted quite a lot has happened in our lives! Bump #2 aka Dash has been born and my husband has also been diagnosed with a wheat allergy, a small change with significant implications.

Parenting success: stopping a tantrum

I’m sure we all know the feeling of eyeing off a child who is building up to a full blown tantrum in a check-out line… today that child was mine and I was the parent feeling edgy due to the eyes on me, silently saying “aren’t you going to do anything?!?”. I don’t blame Adventure Girl at all – what kid wants to be in a long line, stuck in their pram and with little stimulation? She certainly doesn’t and to be honest, it’s not my favourite place either. Today though we had a parenting success, proved by the completely different looks people gave me/her as we walked out the shops 10 minutes later. The success I wholly attribute to a seminar we attended last week run by clinical psychologist Colleen Hirst from Marylands Counselling. The seminar, Raising Children, gave those that attended practical take-home ideas to implement and in less than a week we’ve noticed a difference in our ability to communicate with our 15 month old.

So what did Colleen encourage us to do? Look our child in the eyes and talk to them. Sounds really simple right? It is and I feel daft for not doing so as much before! Instead of just giving Adventure Girl something to distract her as I would have done before, I got down on her level next to the pram, looked her in the eyes, explained we couldn’t move but that she could play with the paper I was giving her… and it worked! She happily played with that piece of paper for the next ten minutes while we were in the line! When we got out of the shops, once again, I knelt down next to her pram, looked her in the eyes and thanked her. As Colleen said, the praise to disapproval ratio in our language should be 5:1 (i.e. we praise them 5 times more than we pick them up on things). While many other things were mentioned in the Raising Children seminar, this is just one small example of something working after an intentional time of reflecting on our parenting, and boy am I thankful for it!

It reminded me of how much we  need to be intentional in our parenting. Taking time to be trained in skills by people who know what they’re on about and who care enough to teach you in a manner you can learn from. Thank you Colleen!


* please note: Adventure Girl doesn’t have developmental delays / special needs. This post is from that view point and I apologise for any unintended offence caused to parents of those with special needs. I do understand that those with special needs have… special needs and as such, tantrums/regulation activities etc are much, much harder to deal with. No judgement to these parents at all – quite the opposite in fact: deep respect and admiration.

Obesity in Australia and the implications for our family

Last night after delivering a cake to a friend who’s just started the HSC (this is the NSW version of a student ranking exam for university entry) we picked up a pizza as a treat (Adventure Girl had already eaten a much healthier dinner!) and sat down to watch some TV. Ironically, the show we turned on was ABC’s 4 Corners episode on Obesity in Australia, Fat Chance. It was horrifying to hear and see that 70% of adults and 1 in 4 children in Australia are obese. One of the people interviewed, Deb Slorach, made a comment that is still ringing in my ears. In talking about her children and family’s eating habits she said how her children were brought up on junk food and she “look[s] back now and like that’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I think you know I set them up to fail you know and I hate that you know it… it hurts me that I’ve actually done this to my kids.”.

It was at this point in the program that Mr Incredible reached over and said “thank you for taking care of us”. Wow. What a wake up call and encouragement to make sure that take-a-way and processed food remains a treat, even after days that are full. We were thankful for the reminder that it should only be a treat and that bad habits are easy to form and even easier to pass on to our children. I admire Deb and the others who are reversing obesity in their lives with very hard work. I also admire the many who are intentional at stopping this trend and being responsible for what they eat and what they feed to their families.