While we’ve been quite adventurous letting Nicholas try some foods (at 16 months he’s already tried frog legs, mussels, veal, pink beef and, if you’re not European maybe skip the next word… horse). I have, however, been quite cautious introducing stronger spices. Herbs like basil, oregano, chives, thyme and parsley I had no problem in adding pretty much immediately; they help give flavour when you’re not adding salt. But I’ve been concerned about spices like cumin and coriander and also garlic, possibly irritating Nicholas’ tummy.
If you’re interested in reading some more about introducing spices to your little one’s food as well as the health benefits of spices, this article gives a good overview and it also has links to Indian recipes for babies (suitable from 7-8 months) and toddlers (suitable from 10-12 months).
So in my quest to start introducing some stronger spices into Nicholas’ diet I thought I’d adapt Cook Eat Live Vegetarian’s wonderful butternut squash and chickpea cakes. Have a look at Natalie’s fabulous plating of her creations and I dare you not to drool! In fact maybe just look at her photos rather than my poor efforts!
This is an easy recipe to do two ways – cakes for your toddler and cakes for the rest of the family. I make my toddler version first (eliminating some of the spices and reducing others) then add the missing spices to the remaining mixture before making the adult cakes. I serve the toddler cakes with some yogurt to dip them into (toddlers love dipping!) and the adult cakes with whatever chutney we have in the fridge (will definitely make Natalie’s red onion marmalade soon though).
I don’t peel the butternut squash… I’m lazy. If I was serving this to guests I probably would just to be sure they didn’t find any big bits of peel. I also mix my ingredients in a food processor (the original recipe mixes them by hand). Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients as they’re actually very easy to make.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKPEA CAKES
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins (roasting the squash) plus 15 mins (cooking the cakes)
Makes 2-3 toddler servings (about 12 mini cakes) and 2 adult servings (6 cakes)
400g butternut squash, chopped (unpeeled) into chunks of about 4cm
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Drizzle of olive oil
1 400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup (40g) breadcrumbs (or polenta or cornmeal), plus extra for coating
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small clove of finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
To add for family version:
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small-medium clove of finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 190C. Put the butternut squash chunks on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Roast for 20-30 minutes until golden and soft when pierced with a knife.
While the butternut squash is cooking, put the rest of the ingredients for the toddler version (chickpeas, breadcrumbs, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, egg, parsley, salt and pepper) into a food processor.
Once the butternut squash is cooked, you can decide whether or not to leave the skin on or peel it off. If leaving it on, you just need to blend your mixture a bit more to ensure the peel is broken up and you can always still check for big bits of skin when shaping your cakes.
Mix everything together until the butternut squash has broken up and the mixture is sticking together. If you have time, cover your bowl with cling film and put in the fridge for at least half an hour so the mixture firms up and it’s easier to shape your cakes. If not, it’s easier to drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the breadcrumbs and shape each one as you’re covering it.
Shape about half the mixture into little balls. Dip into breadcrumbs to cover completely.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium frying pan at medium heat. Cook the balls for a couple of minutes each side, pressing them down into cake shapes, until they have a lovely golden crispy coating.
Serve with a dollop of yogurt.
For grown ups:
With the remaining mixture add the rest of the ingredients (garam masala, cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper, and extra salt and pepper) and mix well. Shape into 6 equal balls and dip into breadcrumbs to coat. Add some more olive oil to the frying pan and cook them for 4-5 minutes each side, pressing them flat.
Serve immediately with some fruit chutney and salad.
- the original recipe uses fresh coriander rather than parsley
- replace the butternut squash with sweet potato
How do you feel about giving your little one strong spices?