Cooking with a Toddler – Pesto Recipe

I have always enjoyed food, be it, cooking, baking, eating or even talking about it. Now I’m a mum I don’t get to try new recipes as much, host those 6-course dinner parties I used to love, or even go to a restaurant as often. Although I have been able to enjoy the adventures that come hand-in-hand with introducing food to my son, discovering new flavours and textures, even the messy play, sorry, I mean mealtimes with Matheson. I’m lucky he’s fairly easy with food, he’ll try most things, even if trying means squashing, throwing, spilling, tipping and eventually getting a little into his mouth.

Now he’s well into his toddler times, we are getting asked for the usual chicken bites, fish fingers, pasta, the classic toddler meals. Where possible I try and prepare from scratch, although most know that finding healthy, nutritious meals for children, that they will enjoy, can be tough. Even a child that has been given a varied diet their whole solids-eating-life and is willing to try anything will turn their nose up now and again to a meal that was only enjoyed with eager excitement last week.

What seems to work well for us is getting a little involvement in the selecting and preparing side of things, yes, it can get a little messy, but as long as I can get over a little mess, it can be great fun for both of us. We have a step-stool in our kitchen which means he can climb up beside me and watch what I’m doing, try some of the food while it’s being prepared and even help out. Just this weekend my now 19-month-old spooned the dry ingredients into the mixer while making a cake and this morning helped wash the breakfast dishes (tipped water on himself).

This Basil Pesto is one of my favourite recipes that I often make with Matheson (under close supervision). It’s handy to have a little jar in the fridge to stir through pasta, use as a dressing for a potato and green bean salad, spread on bread for a little snack, stir through soup or even add to macaroni cheese. Another use for this pesto is coating small bite size pieces of chicken or fish and rolling in breadcrumbs for home-made bites, these can then either be baked in the oven straight away or freeze and cook in the oven straight from frozen.

What’s great with pesto is that you can mix up the ingredients, use ground almonds or cashews instead of pine nuts, half basil, half spinach, or add in another flavour altogether.

Basil Pesto

  • 60g pine nuts
  • 50g basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 40g finely grated Parmesan
  • About 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Lightly toast pine nuts in a dry pan over a moderate heat – check them often as they can burn quickly. Leave to cool.

In a food processor, add the toasted pine nut, basil, garlic and grated cheese. Whizz to a paste, making sure all the nuts are ground finely. Then, with the processor still running, slowly pour in the oil until you have a thick, sloppy purée. Usually, 100ml oil is enough but you might want a little more.

Scrape the pesto out into a bowl or jar and season with a good squeeze of lemon juice and some black pepper. This will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days.

X Amy

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