My eldest daughter was raised on jar food. We made a few other mistakes along the way, as you tend to with your first child. She has turned out pretty good, but is now very fussy with her food, is quite unadventurous and prefers bland foods.
I had finally figured it out by baby number three. The food part, anyway. I asked a good friend* who fed her two premature babies to good health on congee, for her recipe.
Congee is a rice based porridge, made with meat and vegetables and cooked long and slow so the rice breaks down into a gentle mush. It's yummier than it sounds.
If you make your own baby food, you know what is actually in it
Congee isn't just for babies – it exists in dozens of forms, with many different names, from many different Asian countries.
But when made with fresh natural ingredients, gentle flavours and lots of love you can be guaranteed that your baby is getting a good feed, you know what's in it, and you are preparing their palate for adventure later in life.
I am providing two recipes here, but with a little imagination you can easily make your own range of congee flavours.
Chicken Congee cup long grain white rice, washed 1 small skinless chicken breast, whole Vegeta vegetable or chicken stock cube 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled, whole 1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
½ small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 ½ to 5 cups of water
½ cup brown rice, washed
1 small porterhouse steak, whole
½ Vegeta vegetable or chicken stock cube
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled, whole
1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1/4 pumpkin, chopped into small cubes
4 ½ to 5 cups of water
Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and cover.
Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Discard the ginger.
Remove the meat and puree in a food processor. Return to pan.
For younger babies you can puree the rice and vegetables as well: it will make a smooth, silky porridge. Brown rice doesn't puree as well as white, which makes it perfect for older babies who are able to take lumpier food.
As your baby gets older, stop pureeing the food and get more adventurous with the flavours. You can use any meat including pork chops, lamb chops, or salmon and any vegetable you desire. Salmon works well, although your baby might smell a bit fishy for a while.
This quantity makes about 4 cups of congee. It will freeze although it changes the texture (it goes a bit rubbery, but you can just blitz it again with a bit of water). Or if it is too much, share it with your friends' children (or eat it yourself).