As parents, especially those with babies, we agonize over not only what our children eat, but how they eat. Are they getting enough nutrition? Are we cultivating a healthy relationship with food? Are they developing proper eating habits? Are we exposing them to enough taste and flavor diversity? Are we creating issues that will show up later in life? And just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, the kids decide they don’t like this or that and change it all up again.
Luckily we have wonderful experts like Annabel Karmel that we can turn to for practical advice. The beloved cookbook author and baby food guru has recently delved into the popular practice of baby-led weaning. The concept of baby-led weaning is letting the child feed itself from the start — essentially, putting a variety of bite-size food out and let the child pick and choose what to eat by hand.
“The most important aspect of weaning is to introduce a wide variety of healthy foods, flavors and textures early on,” says Annabel. “And encouraging self-feeding of soft finger-foods and family foods undoubtedly encourages good habits from the start.”
Annabel’s passion for healthy cooking came out of her own personal tragedy — she lost her first baby at three months due to an illness. With the arrival of her son a few years later, she was determined to feed him nutrient-rich foods, even though he was a fussy eater. As she continued to create successful and delicious meals for her then growing family, the moms at the school gate began asking for her recipes. “When I wrote my first book, I wrote it from the heart,” said Annabel. Over 25 years later, she is celebrating the release of her 43rd book. The “Baby-Led Weaning Recipe Book” features 120 family-friendly, healthy recipes along with simple tips and advice to help parents get their children eating well.
Annabel shared four of her new recipes that are sure to please babies just experimenting with food, fussy toddlers and finicky kids alike. And, according to Annabel, some of these foods, like the chicken meatballs, are grown-up cocktail-party favorites!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 25 balls (about 5 portions)
Suitable for freezing
50 g/2 oz trimmed kale
100 g/4 oz fresh breadcrumbs
500 g/1 lb 1 oz skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped
100 g/4 oz carrots, peeled and grated
1½ teaspoons grated fresh root ginger
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon soy sauce (for babies over 12 months)
4 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons rapeseed,
Sunflower or light olive oil
- Cook the kale in a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze out the water and finely chop the kale.
- Place the chicken thighs in the bowl of a food processor with the breadcrumbs and blitz until roughly chopped (you don’t want it too fine).
- Transfer to a bowl, add the chopped kale and the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Shape the mixture into 25 equal-sized balls.
Place the flour on a large plate and roll each ball in the flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the balls for 8–10 minutes (in 2–3 batches) until golden and cooked through
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Makes: 20 small fritters
198g / 7oz tin sweetcorn, drained
100g / 4oz wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
Handful of basil, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g /4oz grated halloumi cheese
Sunflower oil for frying
- Blend 100 g/4 oz of the sweetcorn in the bowl of a food processor, or in a mixing bowl with a stick blender, until finely chopped.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and eggs in a bowl. Whisk in the sweet chilli sauce and finely chopped sweetcorn. Add the remaining ingredients including the remaining whole, unblended sweetcorn kernels. Season to taste (if using).
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan. When hot, fry heaped tablespoonfuls of the fritter mixture for 1–2 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to kitchen paper.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2-3 portions
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
45g / 1½oz Rice Krispies
1 tablespoon finely grated mature Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon milk
4 tablespoons plain flour
200g / 7oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5cm / ½ in cubes
dips, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
- Place half the oil in the bowl of a food processor with the Rice Krispies and grated cheeses and blitz to evenly combine (you may need to stop and scrape the mixture down from the sides of the bowl a couple of times). Alternatively, crush them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Transfer the Krispie mixture to a wide, shallow bowl or a large plate.
- Whisk the egg in a small bowl with the milk and mix the flour with a little salt and pepper (if using) and spread it out on a large plate. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining oil.
- Toss the chicken cubes in the flour, dip them in the egg, then coat them in the Krispie coating. Lay them on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through and crispy, turning them over halfway.
- Serve immediately, with dips if you wish (mayonnaise, ketchup).
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25-30 minutes
Makes: 6 child portions
Suitable for freezing
200 g/7 oz skinless, boneless salmon fillet
A knob of butter
150 g/5 oz mini shell pasta
150 g/5 oz broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
200 g/7 oz peeled butternut squash, deseeded and diced
250 ml/9 fl oz unsalted or weak vegetable stock
200 g/7 oz full-fat crème fraîche
150 g/5 oz cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
50 g/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
A squeeze of lemon juice
A little salt and pepper (for babies over 12 months old)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
- Put the salmon in the centre of a piece of foil, top with the butter and season with salt and pepper (if using). Fold the foil over the fish to make parcel, place it on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven, unwrap and flake the fish into large pieces.
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, adding the broccoli florets 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, add the onion, garlic and squash and fry for 5 minutes, then add the stock, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove the lid and stir in the crème fraiche and salmon. Stir in the pasta and broccoli until heated through, then remove from the heat. Add the tomatoes, Parmesan and lemon juice and serve.