“I am a mummy to one fun-loving little girl who is my heart, and the inspiration behind my cookbooks – Aaliyah. I am also a British Asian Muslim, living in Leicester with Aaliyah, my hubby and two cats.
When I started Aaliyah’s weaning journey a few years back, I read weaning books and websites, but the recipes that went along with the expert guidance were bland. It seemed strange to wean my daughter with meals that were completely unlike what I would be feeding her in the future, and was convinced I would have had a battle on my hands when I transitioned her over to our family meals. So I decided to do something about it and create my own recipes - researching nutritional requirements for babies, food groups, the health benefits of herbs and spices, and combining this knowledge with my love for cooking. I didn’t feed my daughter only Indian flavours, though. I introduced her to a broad range of flavours to keep mealtimes fun and interesting.
The objective of flavour-led weaning is to prepare baby for the big table using flavours that reflect your home cooking, whether you are following a spoon-fed or baby-led weaning method. Home cooking varies from home to home, culture to culture. It’s what makes us all unique, and our food so yummy! Spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning focus on the physical process of weaning – both hugely important during weaning, and for helping to develop a baby’s motor skills. Flavour-led weaning simply works alongside these weaning techniques
There are many benefits to following the flavour-led weaning approach and encouraging a diverse flavour palate – baby will develop a positive relationship with food, excited to try tasty new meals and, it reduces the chance of fussy-eating behaviours occurring. If a child is less fussy (like my daughter), they will be more willing to eat a range of foods which is key to achieving a well-balanced diet making sure that baby is receiving all of the vitamins and minerals required for healthy growth.
Herbs and spices are also excellent alternatives to adding salt and sugar to meals to make them tasty. Flavour-led weaning incorporates the use of natural herbs and spices to complement and enhance the flavour of fruits and vegetables.
I hear lots of stories from parents about how their child will only eat certain foods, but I’m glad Aaliyah eats pretty much everything I put in front of her. Her palate has always been diverse, and I do attribute this to the flavour-led weaning approach I used with her from the very beginning of her weaning journey.”
CHEWABLE TEETHING STICKS
Makes 3–4 servings
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 small sweet potato – washed, peeled, cut into 1cm-thick sticks
If your little one is teething, this tasty snack may help to soothe those sore gums. The nutmeg not only provides a warm, aromatic taste to complement the sweet potato, it also contains the compound eugenol, which is used as a natural medicine to treat toothaches. This combines with the powerful analgesic properties of cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Place the oil, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and stir. Add the potato sticks and give them a good toss to coat them with the seasoning. Lay them flat on a foil-covered baking tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until tender, turning them over halfway. Allow to cool before serving to baby.
Extracted from The Flavour-led Weaning Cookbook by Zainab Jagot-Ahmed (Ebury Press, £14.99) Photography by Zainab Jagot-Ahmed