Now that I have five mouths to feed on a daily basis, I need to cook dishes that are easy to put together and suit all the members of the family, be they 11 months or 41 years. That means they must be flavourful and tasty, as I don't have the time, will or energy to cook separate meals for the still-toothless baby, two active toddlers and two food-loving adults. To be honest, I don't think it should even be necessary.
We've used the baby-led weaning* approach when introducing solids to our three kids, and that means our littlest has been eating family food from Day 1 (not the first day of her life, but the first time she was offered any solid food, e.g. when she was 6 months old). So much more convenient for the whole family and especially the cooking parent (that's me, at least on most days). This stew - enjoyed both by parents and the toddlers (aged 2 and 4), was perfect for the 11-month old as well.
The cold weather hotpot is a great comfort food and midweek dinner. The humble vegetables can be varied - you could add some turnips or parsnips as well, or even broccoli. Sometimes I've used gnocchi instead of potatoes, adding them at the end, so they'd have the chance to soak in the broth. The can of Heinz's baked beans you throw in at the end - well, this adds some protein as well as thickens the stew. Overall it's yet another dish that tastes much better than you'd expect from simply looking at the list of ingredients.
We love a spoonful of thick sour cream on top, but a crusty bread would be good, too.
* New to baby-led weaning aka BLW? Read all about it in Gill Rapley's book - see Amazon UK/Amazon US. I highly recommend reading it if you've got a small baby who's about to start solids soon!
Cold weather hotpot
Slightly adapted from BBC Good Food, March 2003
2 Tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
4 small onions
4 good-sized carrots
8 medium-sized potatoes
450 g lean minced beef
1 l hot beef stock (you can use a stock cube or bouillon extract)
a good splash of Worcestershire sauce
a handful of chopped parsley
some good sour cream (optional)
Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Peel the carrots, halve lengthwise and cut into thick slices. Peel the potatoes and cut into smallish chunks.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add the minced beef and fry quickly, stirring all the time, until browned evenly.
Add the vegetables, give everything a quick stir. Pour over the beef stock. Bring into a boil, then partially cover with the lid, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.
Season with Worcestershire sauce, pour in the baked beans. Stir gently and then heat through. Taste for seasoning, then scatter parsley on top and serve.
Ladle into bowl and enjoy with a spoon.