Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls
Feeding my little one is obscenely challenging. I am not over reacting. Here are some of the useless and aggravating comments made by people who think that they know better.
1. Leave him. This is on the top of my list for a very good reason! Yes, tried that. An entire day can pass but if the food doesn’t do it for him, it’s not going into that little tummy. He will, if slept, take an interest in foods that he wants to take an interest in. He touches everything to his lips. Even if it has been hours and hours since he last ate, it has to pass that taste and texture test!
2. Let him play with and explore the food. Yes, of course I’ve tried that..come on. My child is very good at throwing; ask my walls, floors and the ants that he attracts. He’s also very good at squashing, squashed courgette pakora make interesting patterns on white clothes, I’ve learned.
3. Give him a sandwich. My child is the reincarnation of an indian villager. He will eat a spinach curry in a chappati but he won’t eat a sandwich.
4. Give him what he likes. Should I just laugh at this one?
5. Turn the telly on. Even with help of special agent OSO, Ra Ra the noisy little lion, Curious George, or my personal favourite of Charlie and Lola, he still knows what he wants and doesn’t want.
6. He won’t starve, he has stores. Sigh. Yes, but if we can get through the day without hunger strikes and some down time (naps happen when tummies are full ish) I could see fields of green, skies that are blue, red roses too…
7. He will probably never be an eater. This is what a health visitor said to me. It was like being back at school when that horrid teacher decided to publicly announced his predictions of each class members GCSE grades and their future careers. I remember internally screeching, ‘don’t tell me what I’m going to be! I will carve that out!’
So I composed myself, shut down the expletives that were exploding in my mind and said, as calmly as I could, ‘my parents tell me that I was absolutely worse than him, but look at me now’
Are you sensing the exhaustion? Do you have it too?
All of the above said, I do have to set some boundaries. We don’t spend infinite amounts of time in the high chair. There is no forcing. I don’t wedge his mouth open amidst screams and shovel food in. He does not get a bag of crisps to replace a meal, just because he likes it. We just move on, smile and hope for better the next time around. I want my little monster to see food in the way I do; pleasure-giving and satisfying. I want him to explore his senses and creativity through food. It’s so uplifting isn’t it?
I don’t think I have ever been so tested as a food writer. My son, without doubt, is definitely the toughest person ever to please. I’ve devised an array of recipes that have been super hits…but alas, phases pass so I keep creating! I will share them with you however, in case you find yourself flopped on the chair asking your little one, ‘so what will you eat eh?’.
I learn as we grow together, my boy and I. Things that may seem obvious to the more experienced mum, I just learn…gradually. For example, my boy never took to purees. Of all the babies that I had come across, I’d never seen a baby that wouldn’t eat a purée.
Anyway, after a good couple of months of trying, someone said to me, ‘well he’s been tasting what you’ve been eating since he could taste in your tummy till now, why would he want to eat boring bland stuff’. I mean, isn’t it obvious? Why didn’t I think of that? So I did a mild, salt-free dhal. Bingo.
My boy then wouldn’t accept a spoon. Not accept a spoon, who does this?! So I gave him breadsticks, melon, green beans..and he would chomp on it. But this felt like diet food, just like the mush they call baby food in the supermarket aisles. No butter, no cheese…so I have him bread with soft cheese it or buttered chappati. As you can imagine, he quickly grew bored.
Amusingly, when we would eat out as a family, my boy would go for the onion fritters, samosa, Chinese rice, pasta, spicy chappati…anything that tasted flavoursome. I think it can be a misconception that little mouths like plain and simple food…so many kids I know love garlic bread, that’s hardly a subtle taste is it?
So, the challenge was to make foods that my little one could hold and that contained something valuable to his growth and then just let him do his thing, calmly. Here’s one that seems to be working really well at the moment. My little one loves crunchy textures and spices and you can change the filling to suit what your child likes. You could of course make a few grown up spring rolls just by adding salt to your own stuffing, so that you can all enjoy rating the same food together,
Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls
Makes 20 rolls
One small red onion, finely diced
One medium courgette, grated
Quarter tin of chopped tomatoes
A knob of unsalted butter for frying
10 sheets of spring roll pastry
125g paneer, grated
1tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1. Heat the butter and add cumin seeds for a minute, then the onion and soften until transparent
2. Stir in the paneer and the courgette and then the spices and seasonings. Mix well, then add the tomatoes. Cook until the courgette has softened enough for you to break between your fingers.
3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then blitz it together into a coarse texture.
4. Cut a spring roll sheet in half and then place about half a tablespoon of stuffing at the bottom of the sheet, leaving an inch of space. Fold in the sides by. 2-3cm and simply roll
5. Lightly coat the spring rolls in oil and then bake until they are crispy and lightly golden.