Beetroot Risotto

Colourful Beetroot Risotto for a veggie meal or side dish


If you’ve seen my Beet, Carrot and Barley Salad you’ll know that thanks Grigson’s Vegetable Book, my bible for all things vegetable, I now know how to prepare and cook beetroot!  This recipe brings together the heavenly combination of beetroot and goats cheese with risotto.

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Beet, Carrot and Barley Salad


The beetroot of my childhood was the pickled variety out of a jar. I thought that was the only way to eat beetroot and I was not a fan!

Thanks to the superfood revolution, fresh beetroot has become very popular again having found favour with chefs and food writers alike. According to an article by Khaleda Rahman in Mailonline weekly sales of beetroot in the UK now exceed £1 million.

I had a lovely beetroot and lentil salad in Gail’s cafe recently, which prompted me to have a go at creating my own salad with this purple taproot of the beet plant. I’ve never cooked beetroot before so had to refer to my trusty “Vegetable Book” by Grigson to learn how!

It takes a while to cook the ingredients for this salad, but you can do everything in advance.  The beetroot and carrots are oven baked so once you set the timer you don’t need to watch over them.  Of course, I also think the flavours in this yummy salad are worth the cooking time and I hope you’ll agree.


The what:

4 beetroot, gently washed (see below)

400g Chantenay carrots, washed

160g Barley (pearl barley is fine, but hulled barley is supposed to retain more nutrients although can be harder to find).

100g Feta cheese

a handful of blanched hazelnuts

a handful of spinach or mixed leaves

squeeze of lemon juice

a handful of mint, finely chopped

for the dressing:

1 tbsp mirin

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1cm ginger, finely sliced

3 tbsp olive oil

pepper to season


I usually make my dressings in an old jam jar so I can close the lid and give it a good shake to mix it well.  Always taste your dressing too with a piece of fruit or veg from the salad before adding to the rest of the salad and adjust, if necessary.

The how:

Gently wash the beetroot to remove any dirt, place in a baking tray and cover with tinfoil.  Bake the beetroot in oven for about 3 -3 1/2 hours at 150 (130 fan).  To test if the beetroot is cooked Grigson suggests wrinkling the skin and if it easily comes away from the root it is cooked.  Leave to cool, peel and chop.


Meanwhile add the carrots to boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes to soften.  Then drain and place in a baking tray.  Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with the mint.  Cook in the oven for one hour at the same temperature as the beetroot.  Remove and leave to cool.  Remove the ends and chop.

To cook the barley, first rinse it in cold water, place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil, drain, return to the saucepan and cover again with about 300 ml cold water.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 1 hour (until tender), stirring occasionally.

To make the dressing add all the ingredients except the olive oil to a jar, close the lid and shake well to combine.  Then add the olive oil, close and shake again.  Test the flavour with a carrot or piece of beetroot.

To construct the salad, arrange the spinach / mixed leaves at the bottom of your bowl.  Place the barley, beetroot and carrots on top.  Then break in the feta cheese and add the hazelnuts.  Drizzle with the dressing or serve on the side.



Chicken and sweet potato in tomato sauce


Little Coco got her first tooth recently:  a central incisor.  Judging by growing sparkle when she smiles it looks like this little tooth will shortly be joined by another two.  In the meantime we still need to blend certain foods for her (can’t wait be rid of the blender!), although I am gradually introducing more texture. It’s amazing how strong and sharp baby gums can be!

If you chop the vegetables finely, you won’t need to blend this dish much, if at all.  The sweet potato can be mashed and the chicken shredded with a knife and fork once cooked.

Makes 6 portions


The what:

250g sweet potato, peeled and chopped

150g carrots, peeled and finely chopped

150g chicken fillets, diced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

200g plum tomatoes in natural juice

5 basil leaves, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

1/4 tbsp olive oil


The how:

Place the sweet potato and carrots in a saucepan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until soft.  Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the garlic and onions for 1-2 minutes.  They should be soft but not browning.  Then add the tomatoes and cook for 8 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the sweet potato and carrots from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the chicken to the cooking water in the saucepan and poach for 2-3 minutes.  Check the chicken is cooked through before removing from the heat.


Mash the sweet potato and carrots and add the shredded chicken (or alternatively mix all three together and puree using a hand-held blender).  If blending, gradually add the tomato sauce – to minimise “splashage”. You may also want to wear an apron for this bit!.  Otherwise just stir the sauce into the mashed potato and chicken.  Coco loves this dish, although there isn’t much she doesn’t like!  Her tastes aren’t quite as selective or sophisticated yet…..

Happy weaning xx


Seared tuna with courgette and carrot salad

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I’m a big fan of mouth-wateringly, succulent seared tuna!  It’s quick to cook so ideal for midweek dinner and great with this summery veg salad.  It just peachy when something so healthy and simple tastes so great!  Luckily Lentil loves fish too – I just cook the tuna a little longer for him.

Makes 2 adult & 1-2 little portions


The what:

3 sustainably caught tuna steaks

1 courgette, peeled and finely sliced with a mandolin or potato peeler

2 large carrots, peeled and finely sliced with mandolin or potato peeler

60 – 70g sesame seeds

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp pure sesame oil

olive oil


The how:

To make the sauce mix together the mirin, soy sauce and honey in a large bowl.  Once combined, add the sesame oil and stir well.

Pour about 1/2 into a separate bowl / sauce-boat and set aside to drizzle over the tuna and salad once cooked.

Heat some olive oil in a griddle pan and grill the courgette slices in batches. About 30 seconds on each side.  Then set aside on some kitchen paper.

Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate / flat surface. Dip each side of the tuna in the large bowl of sauce and then coat in sesame seeds.  Sear in the griddle pan for about 1 – 2 minutes each side.

Serve with the courgette and carrots, drizzle with a little sauce and enjoy!


A few of Coco’s favourites


Now that little Coco is eating three meals a day, I thought I’d share a few of her current favourites with you: sweet potato and fish purée; lentils and apple, pear compote.  We still have to purée everything, although we’ve detected a glimmer of white through her bottom gum so hopefully she’ll have a few teeth soon.  I was beginning to wonder if she had any in there at all!

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Coco’s weaning diary – the next chapter

 Week 4:



More new food stuff??  Just when I thought I’d tried almost everything. I’ve eaten a lot of different fruits and vegetables, which Mummy has cooked for me over the last few weeks.  This new stuff is really yellow and quite small like those tiny pea things Mummy likes to put in everything!

Mummy calls the yellow peas “sweetcorn”.  She mixes it with some sweet potato.   “AAAGGHHH..MAAAA…GURGLE, GURGLE”. Mmm, this isn’t bad at all.  Continue reading

Coco’s weaning diary – week 2

Day 8:

DSC_0870aI feel all at sea. Being six months old is really, really hard! So many new things to learn and remember: I don’t think Mummy and Papa realise how confusing it can be. Having turned my world upside down last week with this new “food” stuff Mummy decides to give me even more food this week – twice a day! And the food stuff keeps changing. Just as I get used to the sweet potato stuff, she gives me something else.

Today Mummy gives me something she calls “papaya”. She says it’s a lovely fruit from the Carica tropical fruit tree.  I wonder if that’s one of the trees in our garden that Papa likes to show me with the birds on it that say “tweet, tweet”?? I’m not so sure about eating things from trees though….


I try the papaya.  Uhmm….no, I’m not liking this.  Mummy says it’s bath time next. I love bath time. I kick my legs a lot and water splashes everywhere, sometimes even in my brother’s face, which is funny…hehe.  I really want to have a bath so I eat another few spoonfuls of papaya.

Day 9:

DSC_0817aMummy sometimes calls me a little princess and once, at bedtime, told me a story about a princess and a pea.  At lunchtime today Mummy tries to feed me peas.  I don’t recall the princess in the story having to eat the pea and I’m not sure about this: the peas are very green.  Mummy mixes the peas with some potato.  It’s white, not like the orange “sweet potato” I like. It doesn’t taste too bad though and I my tummy feels a bit empty so I eat one whole portion of the peas AND a portion of potato.  Mummy is very pleased.

Day 10:

DSC_0847aI don’t think this eating business is going to stop.  Mummy just keeps giving me more food and now I have to eat everyday as well as drink milk and sleep.  So many things to do and remember!

Today Papa gives me some food.  It looks like that “apple” stuff, but with something else yellow on top.  Papa calls the yellow stuff “mango”.  The apple still makes me blink a lot and the apple and mango are a bit cold (not like the warm pea and potato).  I spit some out and try to tell him I prefer warm food, but he doesn’t seem to understand and puts more apple and mango into my mouth. Why are these parent people so silly sometimes?

Day 12:

Maybe Papa did understand me when I said I prefer warm food as yesterday he gave me some warm sweet potato for lunch – yummy! I ate two portions so he would know I really like it.  He was very happy.  I really wish he would tell mummy I like sweet potato.  Today before bath time Mummy tries to give me some more carrot stuff mixed with PEAS!  Yuck! The pea with the white potato was OK, but this is disgusting.  What is Mummy thinking?  I spit out the first few spoonfuls, but Mummy tries to give me more so I stuff my whole fist in my mouth so she can’t put in anymore.

Day 13:

Oh no, is that more carrot Mummy has in the bowl?  It’s orange like carrot, but Mummy says it’s “butternut squash”.  That’s a really long name, I don’t think I can remember that.  I’ll try a little but if it tastes anything like carrot, I’m stuffing my fist back in my mouth!


Ooh, it’s quite nice.  I think I like it more than that other orange sweet potato stuff.  It’s nice and sweet tasting.  I think I’ll eat all of this…quickly before bath time.

Mummy’s edit 


Following a shaky start last week, little Coco seems to have taken to her food a bit better this week.  Having started with one meal a day, for weeks 2-4, I am giving her two meals: one at lunchtime and the other at tea time, both followed by milk.

Coco is doing quite well with the vegetables, particularly the root vegetables, but is not yet a fan of fruit.  One would expect the opposite! It’s just a case of persevering, discovering what foods and tastes she likes and what she doesn’t like.  I have started to introduce a couple of tastes together in one meal such as the potato and pea and apple and mango. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce more new foods and continue to give her those she likes, such as butternut squash, sweet potato and potato and pea.

I might dispense with the carrot for a while….she really seems to dislike it, which makes the clean up operation a nightmare!  Coco may come to like it or it maybe her one food hate, like celery is to me!

What mummy made:

Papaya purée – makes 3 portions

Peal a papaya, slice in half and remove all the seeds. Chop up and blend using a hand-held blender.  Papayas are quite juicy so add 2 tbsp of baby rice to the purée to thicken it up.

Pea purée – makes 3 portions


Add 200g frozen peas to boiling water and bring back to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Drain the peas and add 1-2 tbsp of your baby’s milk. Blend using a hand-held blender, adding more of your baby’s milk, if needed, to achieve the right consistency for your baby.

Potato purée – makes 8 portions

Peal and half 3 medium-sized potatoes.  Add to a pot of boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes until a knife cuts easily into the potatoes.  Add a knob of unsalted butter and 4 tbsp of your baby’s milk.  Mix together well and pass through a potato ricer, to give a really smooth mash.  If you don’t have a potato ricer, you can mash with a standard masher instead – it’s just takes a little muscle to achieve a smooth purée!

Mango purée – makes 3 portions


Cut a mango on either side of the central stone and discard the stone leaving you with two halves.  Cut through the flesh (but not the skin) of each half vertically and then horizontally.  Then invert each mango half into a hedgehog so you can easily cut out the cubed flesh.  Blend with a hand-held blender.  If needed, you can use a pestle to grind any remaining lumps.

Butternut squash purée – 1/2 half makes 5 portions

Pre-heat the oven to 200 (180 fan). Slice a butternut squash in half and remove the seeds.  Place the butternut squash flesh side up on a baking tray.  Melt a knob of unsalted butter in a pan or in a microwaveable dish in the microwave and brush over the fleshy side of the butternut squash, including the cavity.  Cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and scoop out the flesh.  Blend with a hand-held blender, adding some of your baby’s milk, if needed, to achieve a smooth purée. If you only use half the butternut squash for the purée, why not use the other half to make some of my “Wise Owl Risotto”


Tip: You can freeze the purées in ice-cube trays and cover with a freezer bag. Just pop a cube out as and when you need it. As your little ones get used to solids, you can increase the number of cubes you give them. Alternatively you can use little freezer-proof pots and label each with the date and contents.

Happy weaning!!

Coco’s weaning diary – week 1

Day 1:

DSC_0697bMy mummy, papa and brother all put weird colourful things into their mouths when we sit down at the long wooden thing in our kitchen.  I just have milk – I love my milk.  Today mummy tries to put some very strange orange stuff in my mouth using a blue and pink thing, which she calls a spoon.  Mummy says the orange stuff is “baby carrot”. I really don’t like it and screw up my face in disgust.  Mummy says I should try a little more and before I can wobble my lower lip and threaten tears, she puts another spoonful into my mouth. I try to swallow it but it makes me gag and then it all comes back out again.  Ha! Mummy won’t try that again!

Day 2:

DSC_0726bOh no, mummy is insisting on putting weird stuff in my mouth again! Despite my obvious disapproval, there is more orange stuff today.  It tastes different to the “carrot” stuff, but is still yucky.  Mummy calls this new orange stuff “sweet potato”. She says Lentil liked the orange stuff when he was a baby. Well…mummy should know by now that I have my own mind, even though I’m only very small.  She also says that this stuff she calls “solids” or “food” will help me sleep better. I really don’t mind waking up at night for milk and I always smile at mummy when I do. So why all the fuss about this food business??

This new orange stuff also makes me gag and this time I not only wobble my lower lip, I cry very loudly with proper big tears.  It works, mummy gives me some milk!

Day 3:

DSC_0687bEven after all the tears yesterday, Mummy tries to give me carrot again today. Although it doesn’t make me gag as much as the first day, I still don’t like it.  I just want my milk.  I spit most of it out, knock over the little tub and throw the spoon thing on the floor.  I get it all over my face and hands and make as much mess as possible.  Mummy doesn’t seem to mind the mess: she has covered me in a big plastic thing with birds and flowers on it, which she calls a “bib”.  She even gives me an encouraging smile to get my hands stuck in! What do I have to do to get her to stop giving me this orange stuff??

Day 4:

OK, message received: no sign of any orange stuff today!  Oh no, what’s that? Some weird white and green stuff.  It is a little sour tasting and makes me blink and shake my head. Mummy says it is called “apple”.  I haven’t had any milk for lunch yet and am quite peckish so maybe I should try a little. Some of it falls back out landing on the “bib” thing, but Mummy says I have done very well.  I’m not sure if that is good: does it mean I have to have more??


Day 5: 

It seems it does mean I’ve to have more! New green stuff today.  Mummy calls it pear. It looks just like “apple” to me.  It tastes OK and I eat a little, but I still prefer my milk.

Day 6:

Uh-oh, it’s the orange stuff again today.  I don’t think mummy is going to give up.  I try a little to humour her.  It actually isn’t that bad.  It tastes sweeter than last time, more like my milk.  Maybe this food stuff isn’t so bad afterall and I still get to have my milk afterwards.  I do hate it when mummy is right though….

Mummy’s edit 


“Every child is different”.  This certainly rings true when it comes to weaning.  I started Lentil on carrot puree and although he turned his nose up at it a little on day one, he has devoured almost everything I’ve put in front of him since! Coco, on the other hand, is taking her time to adjust to solids.  I panicked a little on day three and wasn’t sure she was swallowing anything; her bib was covered in orange puree!  However, it is a big developmental leap so one can understand why their little bodies and minds need time to adjust.  You just have to stick with it and introduce a variety of tastes.

I also learnt that my little daughter seems to have inherited her Papa’s sweet tooth (not that she actually has any teeth yet)!  Once I started adding a little milk (you can use breast milk or formula) to the purees, she gobbled them back.  If you’ve ever tasted breast milk (I have thanks to airport security), you’ll know just how sweet it is – I was really shocked! Anyway, it seems to do the trick so I’m sticking with it for the moment…..

What mummy made:


Carrot purée – makes 3 portions

Peal and slice 4 sweet baby carrots and steam over a pan of boiling water for 15-20 minutes until soft. If you have a microwaveable steamer, steam for about 4-5 minutes.  These really are fantastic and not expensive at all.  Add a knob of unsalted butter to the hot carrots and purée with a hand-held blender.  Add a little of your little darling’s normal milk, if needed, to achieve a really smooth puree (or to satisfy that little sweet tooth!).

Sweet potato – makes 6 portions

Peel and chop one large sweet potato. Steam in a microwaveable steamer for 6-8 minutes until soft.  Alternatively, place in boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until soft. Add some unsalted butter to the hot potato along with 1-2 tbsp of your baby’s milk or some of the water from the steamer / pot.  Mash with a potato masher or purée with a hand-held blender.

Apple purée – 3 portions

Peal, core and chop a Bramley or other dessert apple.  Cook on medium heat in a pan with 2 tbsp of water for about 8-10 minutes.  Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.  Once soft, puree with a hand-held blender.

Pear & cinnamon purée – 4 portions

Peal, core and slice 2 conference pears.  Place in a pan with 2 tbsp of water and 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon.  Cook on medium heat for about 6-10 minutes  (depending on the ripeness of the pears) until soft.

Tip: You can freeze the puree in ice-cube trays and cover with a freezer bag. Just pop a cube out as and when you need it. As your little ones get used to solids, you can increase the number of cubes you give them. Alternatively you can use little freezer-proof pots and label each with the date and contents.

Happy weaning!!

Cuddly & warm beef bourguignon


This is my take on beef bourguignon for little ones, i.e. sans the burgundy!  Not as yummy as the adult version so if your kids are a little older and you want to make this for whole family include a little burgundy: any alcohol should have evaporated by the time it has finished cooking.  Although it takes a long time to cook, the prep is pretty quick and then you can just leave it in the oven while you relax (i.e. sort out the overflowing laundry basket, play hid & seek or read the “Tiger who came to Tea” for the thousandth time!)

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Carrot & Cauliflower Lentils

Twinkle, Twinkle, little lentils…..


Lentils are a great source of protein and really easy and quick to cook.  Luckily our little Lentil loves them too! Even if he’s unwell and his appetite isn’t great, he’ll devour any lentil dish.  You can add whatever vegetables you have in your vegetable drawer.  I’ve married carrots and cauliflower for this recipe.  The carrots help sweeten the dish a little.

Makes 4 portions


The what:

15g unsalted butter

1 tsp olive oil

200g cauliflower florets.  The woody stems generally don’t appeal to children (and I can understand why!) so I remove these.

1/2 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

90g puy / green lentils

400ml chicken/vegetable stock

a pinch of pepper to season (optional)


The how:

Sweat the onions, celery and carrots in the butter in a saucepan on medium heat and add a little olive oil.

Steam the cauliflower, either using a steamer over a pan of boiling water or a microwaveable steamer.  Next add the steamed cauliflower, lentils and stock to the onions, celery and carrots and bring to the boil.  Then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in the pepper to season.

You can freeze extra portions for another day.