Perfect BLW tomato sauce: so easy it took me 33 years to learn how to make it

I didn’t learn to make tomato sauce until about four months ago. This is seriously embarrassing but also good, because I learnt a new thing and it is AWESOME!

When I did baby-led weaning the first time around two years ago (blimey, doesn’t time fly), we ate boring pasta for ever and ever. I did nice enough things with Philadelphia cheese but the tomato sauce I put together could never compare to shop-bought, the individual ingredients were nice enough, bacon, onions, courgettes, mushrooms and a tin of tomato all thrown together in a frying pan for 15 minutes or so but the result was really quite bland.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the easiest tomato sauce recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall’s Every Day cookbook. I hesitate to even mention where I’ve found it because it is so easy it shouldn’t really belong to anyone.

"What is THAT? It looks like brains!" - Yes, dear.

“What is THAT? It looks like brains!” – Yes, dear.

Before I tell you how to make it, let me put my Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) hat on. Luciole is going to be six months old in 10 days time on 23rd December so down the rabbit hole we go again. She’s already had her first taste of cucumber and it was a great success, she attacked it with gusto, with the added bonus of being nice and cold on her poor teething gums. She’s not quite steady enough on her bottom to sit unaided so we’re going to take it easy but I’m feeling confident about the whole thing.

The key with BLW cooking is to remove the salt from the cooking process altogether, which is really not that complicated to remember. Other than that, between 6 months and 1 year old, babies shouldn’t eat honey (risk of botulism), or shark and marlin such like (risk of bad stuff happening) but who eats shark anyway, right?

As soon as Luciole is 6 months, she will be able to eat the same as us; I just need to make sure that things are cut in a way that she can easily grab a hold of. Fusilli pasta is perfect for this, and so she will be tasting pasta in tomato sauce very soon indeed.

Back to the tomato sauce, as I said, it’s dead easy, and I don’t know why or how I have not known how to do it before.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes or two
  • a frying pan

The cooking process in all its glory:

1. Warm the oil in the pan on a medium heat.

2. Chop the garlic clove into small bits and toss in the pan for a couple of minutes. It should start to sizzle and smell garlicky but not go brown, as it spoils the taste. This is as technical as it’s going to get.

3. Empty the tin of chopped tomatoes in the pan.

4. Cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken on its own. Then squash the tomato chunks with a fork to blend them in. It is done, yay!

5. If you want to be clever and hide some vegetables (like cooked courgettes) in the sauce because your toddler is going through a difficult vegetable phase, now is the time to squash them in.

6. Other than pasta, this sauce is ideal to go on pizza.

 

 

FACT: tinned tomatoes taste better when cooked.

A month of weaning

It’s been a little over a month since we started Little Girl on solids and it has been a lot of fun.

The best thing from my point of view is that she is finally swallowing food. For a long time it looked like nothing stayed in her mouth ever. She started by just tasting the food and pushing it back out. But in the last couple of weeks she really has turned a corner. One day I gave her chicken and mash and was astounded when I couldn’t find any bits left over anywhere. Nothing on the floor or in the bib or ears, and nothing stuck to her legs or elbows! I was not fooled by the lack of mess however and just as well, it is still a bit hit and miss and there are things that will end up on the floor come what may.

She has started to practice the fabled pincer grip. Rice and peas are still going to be a challenge for a little while but she is desperately trying. In the meantime the little things are getting smashed and loaded onto spoons. I cannot emphasize enough how much the loaded spoon approach has helped us. I really was not looking forward to just putting a pile of mash on her tray, and it solves the problem nicely. She mostly picks up the spoon the right way and hits her mouth.

Baby led weaning

Food Glorious Food

Favourite foods this month have been:

–          Butternut squash soup on fresh bread

–          Tuna mayo sandwich

–          Banana (no surprise here, don’t most babies love banana?)

–          Chicken

–          Cheesy mash

–          Cucumber

–          Nutella pancake

–          She LOVED the bavette we had on my birthday (bavette is a French cut of beef taken from the skirt area, basically a steak)

Foods she is not so keen on:

–          Yoghurt unfortunately, it’s a bit too tart for her and I haven’t got round to stewing apples to sweeten it.

 

Unfortunate habit

Thank you Badgerman for teaching her to drum with her spoon over the weekend. I’ll be leaving the cleaning up to you from now on.

The mess is out there

When you talk to people who have been down the self-feeding route with their child, they all exclaim with some glee: ‘the mess…!’ Until you’re there yourself however, you can only imagine what it’s really like and you laugh to yourself about all the lovely pictures you’re going to take; you never think about the clearing-up after.

On day 4 of our self-feeding journey, we had a first go at breakfast. What on earth do you give to a 6 months old baby for breakfast? The same you would give a purée-fed baby: yoghurt. So I bought some wholemilk live yoghurt (not that easy to find in the midst of all the sweetened fruit/custard/low-fat types) and put a bit in one of those baby bowls. Ha! Never again. The bowl never stayed on the table very long and when it did, Little Girl would grab it – from the wrong side of course – so that the contents would slowly drip onto her lap. Thankfully I’d also pre-emptively bought some bread sticks so I dipped one in the yoghurt and left it for her to grab. This tactic thankfully worked wonders. I also put a little pool of yoghurt straight onto her high-chair tray so she could play with it and hopefully occasionally lick her fingers. I think she may even have swallowed some but I can’t be sure.

One can only wonder what her chair will look like when we start her on porridge.

So I must ask, How do you give soft foods to your baby?

baby weaning

Weaning starts here

Yesterday we started the process of weaning Little Girl. For some reason before we had her I had this picture of breastfeeding her for months and months and months and it didn’t occur to me that she would start on solids quite this soon! She’s going to be 6 months on Monday, when did that happen?

I am starting weaning her in earnest from Monday but yesterday I thought I would see what would happen if I put food in front of her, out of curiosity really. Wonderfully, she reached, picked up and stuffed her mouth with cucumber and cheese and happily sucked on the lot.

She sucked, she made faces, she gagged a bit because she’d put the cucumber too far back and she dropped the lot all over the place. And then she tried again. Today, she also had tomato and really liked it!

For those who are surprised that these should be her first foods, we decided a couple of months ago not to bother with purées and go straight with normal food so she will be eating the same as us. All I need to do is to adjust my recipes by cutting out the salt and to stop using shop-bought sauces and stock. This means I am going to have to learn how to make Puttanesca pasta sauce from scratch! I’ll let you know how that goes…

This approach is called Baby-Led Weaning (or self-feeding) and I will be posting more on this subject as we go on our feeding journey, but for now I leave you with this encouraging image.

Baby-Led Weaning

The first day