Friday, 27 January 2012

Carrots, carrots, carrots

It's all about the carrots at the minute for our baby. She still eats a lot of different foods (we've not hit the 'fussy' phase quite yet), but there are some foods she's practically guaranteed to eat every time: sultanas, tomatoes, porridge (with sultanas in it), mushrooms and carrots. So here are two carrot-based recipes for you if your little one likes carrots too. The first, I'm proud to say, is completely my own invention and the second comes from the, now classic, Baby-led Weaning Cookbook.

Thick carrot soup
250g carrots, peeled and chopped to suit your baby
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
80g red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 tsp cumin

1. Fry the onions until soft.
2. Add the garlic, cumin and the lentils and stir for about a minute.
3. Add 750ml of water (or chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer - but use a low-salt variety if this is for a baby or toddler) and bring to the boil.
4. Cover and simmer for between 1hr and 1/1/2 hrs, until the soup has reduced to a thick consistency.
5. Meanwhile, cook the carrots in water until tender and drain. Mash half the carrots with a fork and then add all the carrots to the soup.
6. Cool and serve - this should make 3 or 4 portions, depending on how much your baby eats and if you're eating it too!

This makes a lovely thick soup with some different textures from the mashed and whole carrot pieces. Open to endless variation - try roasting the carrot and garlic in the oven together and adding these to the cumin-y, lentil-y stock. Or add some additional vegetables.

Sugar-free carrot cake
200g self-raising flour and 1 tsp of baking powder
110g dates, finely chopped
50g dessicated coconut
50g nuts (walnuts, mixed nuts, etc) finely chopped or ground
3 tsp mixed spice
110g melted butter (unsalted)
110g sultanas
1 large carrot, grated
grated zest of 1 orange and 2 tbsp orange juice
2 eggs, beaten

For the topping/filling depending on how you're making your cake:
200g mascarpone
100g dates, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 orange

1. Preheat the oven to 150 C/Gas Mark 2 and lightly grease a deep 20cm round cake tin (or two shallow round cake tins if you want to make a layered version as I did).
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the dates, coconut, nuts and spices. Mix thoroughly, then make a well in the centre.
3. Combine the melted butter, sultanas, carrot and orange zest and juice. Add to the dry ingredients and combine to a thick paste. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
4. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until done (check with a skewer).
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then remove from the cake tin(s) onto a wire rack to cool completely.

6. If using, blend the topping/filling ingredients together and spread over the cake.

This cake was absolutely demolished by our 1-year-old and the adults enjoyed it too. I left out the nuts as she hasn't had any at all yet and I want to check that she doesn't have a reaction (and didn't want this to be a birthday cake-A&E scenario!). It doesn't keep too long before drying out, so do eat it quickly. It was also the driest cake mix I've ever seen - so don't worry at the mix stage if you feel it's a bit sticky/clumpy - it should still come out ok!

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