Monday 20 November 2017

Neven Maguire's top tips for weaning your baby

Neven Maguire with his twins, Lucia and Conor.
Neven Maguire with his twins, Lucia and Conor.
Neven and family
Lamb hotpot
Carot parsnip etc
Butter bean dips for a picnic lunch Newsdesk Newsdesk

Just when you thought you had night feeds down, mastered the art of breastfeeding in public or become a champion bottle steriliser, now you've got to help your kiddie kick their milk habit.

Welcome to weaning. But before you invest in an industrial strength blender and stock up on baby food, Ireland's most trusted chef, Neven Maguire, has dished up the best advice and recipes to help encourage your little one to develop a life-long love of delicious and nutritious eating.

Check out his tips and recipes below.

Stage 1 (About 6 months): Runny first purees

During the first stage of weaning, it's important to remember that milk is still the most important food for your baby. Solids at this stage are merely 'first tastes' and fillers, which should be increased very slowly. And don't forget that breast or formula milk should still be the main milk drink for the first year of life.

When the twins were being weaned, we introduced one new food at a time. We allowed two days in between new foods being introduced and generally gave it to them at their lunch (around 11am) so that we could keep an eye out for any possibly reactions.

Start with one to two teaspoons of baby rice or nice smooth vegetable purée. Over time, you can slowly build up the amount of non-milk food given at one feed. When an infant has taken about five teaspoons (or one cube) at lunchtime, add in a second spoon feed at a different time of day. The idea is to gradually build up to two or three spoon feeds per day.

Aim to give your baby more vegetables than fruit in the early stages of weaning to stop them developing a sweet tooth. Once your baby is happily taking vegetables and fruit purées, it is recommended that you mix in some puréed iron-rich foods, such as meat, fish, well-cooked eggs, beans and lentils.

Stage 1 goals:

Texture: Slightly thicker purée without lumps.

Number of meals per day: Two to three meals per day, approximately one or two cubes per day.

Milk feeds: Breastfeed on demand or give the usual amount of formula, offering solids after feeds. Take care when introducing solids not to reduce your baby's milk intake, as milk is still the most important factor in growth and development.

Recipes: Carrot, Parsnip and Turnip Purée

Carot parsnip etc


1 carrot

1 small parsnip

½ small turnip

1-2 tbsp breast or formula milk or freshly boiled water


Peel the vegetables and cut into small cubes. Place in a large steamer with freshly boiled water and return the water to the boil.

Reduce the heat to medium, then cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool.

Blend the steamed vegetables in a food processor with enough milk or water to make a smooth purée.

Leave to cool, then spoon into ice cube trays and freeze.


Stage 2 (6-9 months): Thicker purees, mashed food and soft finger food

This stage of weaning sees the introduction of stronger-tasting foods, such as chicken, fish and lamb, plus more cereals. Try to include iron-rich food - such as eggs, meat, fish or pulses - in your baby's meals at this stage.

iw IMG_7819.jpg
Family man: Neven and his wife Amelda (right) with their twins, Lucia and Connor. Photo: Paul Sherwood

Babies who have been introduced to solid foods from six months should have an easy progression to thicker purées and mashed or chopped-up foods.

Stage 2 goals:

Texture: Thicker purées, mashed and chopped-up foods and soft finger foods.

Number of meals per day: Build up to three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and tea) with 2-4 tablespoons of foods for each meal.

Milk feeds: Milk feeding is still very important. Your baby should be still getting 3-4 milk feeds during the day, although some of this quantity can come from milk that has been used in their meals. Food should now be offered before an infant's milk feed at this stage. If you are still breast feeding at this stage of weaning when gluten is introduced, it's thought to help protect infants against coeliac disease and diabetes in later life

Recipes: Lamb Hot Pot

Lamb hotpot

Makes 840g (14–28 portions)


350g shoulder of lamb,

well trimmed and diced

1 tbsp plain flour

½ tsp chopped fresh


1 small onion, sliced

1 small leek, trimmed

and sliced

1 large carrot, peeled

and sliced

1 potato, peeled and cut

into cubes

50g turnip, cut into


about 300ml homemade

chicken stock (page 90)


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss it in the flour until evenly coated. Arrange half of the lamb in the bottom of a small casserole dish and add a pinch of the thyme. Scatter over the onions, leeks, carrots, potatoes and turnips, then add another pinch of thyme. Arrange the remaining lamb on top to cover the vegetables completely and sprinkle over the remaining thyme.

Pour in enough chicken stock to just come up above the last layer of lamb. Cover the casserole with a lid and place in the oven for 1½ hours, until the lamb and vegetables are tender. Mash or finely chop up one portion and place in a bowl. Freeze the rest for a later date in individual bags or suitable containers.

Simple Fruit Yogurt - I tend to avoid sweetened yoghurts and those marketed specifically at children. I make my own fruit purée instead, which can then be added to natural yoghurt. Natural plain yoghurt is a naturally healthy food that can be a good source of calcium and protein, and it may have some vitamin D added.

• Stage 3 (9-12 months): Lumpy foods, chopped foods and harder finger foods

At this stage, infants should be enjoying a wider variety of foods with many different textures and should be able to manage more than two textures in one meal. It is vital to encourage your infant to feed him or herself from a spoon at this stage, even if it means that meals take longer and they get messier while eating.

Neven and family

Top tip: once your baby reaches the toddler stage (12 months), they will only need about 300ml of milk per day as they will now be getting the majority of the nutrition they need from their food.

Stage 3 goals:

Texture: Lumpy foods, foods that are chopped into small bite-sized pieces and harder finger foods.

Number of meals per day: Three meals per day - breakfast, lunch and tea, with 60-90g portions (4-6 tablespoons) of food for each meal, plus 2-3 healthy snacks in between.

Milk Feeds: Three breast or formula feeds each day with cooled boiled water making up the rest of their fluid requirements (as a rough guide, they need approximately 110-120ml per kg). By the age of one year they need about 300mls of milk each day, and that is inclusive of milk used in cooking and in cereal. With the exception of children who are still being breastfed, all other fluids should be given in a lidded beaker with a non-valved spout from about six months.

Recipes for stage 3:

Fish Footballs With Minty Yoghurt Dip




200g salmon fillet

300ml milk

200g frozen diced

vegetables (to include

sweetcorn and carrots)

450g leftover mashed


3 spring onions, finely


4 tbsp plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

100g dried white

breadcrumbs (panko)

olive oil, for cooking

lime wedges, to serve




150g natural yoghurt

1 tbsp finely chopped

fresh mint



Place the salmon in a saucepan with the milk, cover and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes to finish cooking, then remove the fish and break up the flesh into rough flakes, discarding any skin and bones.

Cook the frozen mixed vegetables in a saucepan of boiling water over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes, until tender, or according to the packet instructions. Drain and tip into a bowl. Add the poached salmon, mashed potatoes and spring onions.

Take walnut-sized spoonfuls of the mixture and shape into balls. Dust with flour, dip in the egg and roll in breadcrumbs. If you don’t intend to use the fish footballs immediately, flash freeze them on solid baking sheets, then pop into freezer bags for long-term storage.

Heat some sunflower oil in a non-stick saucepan and deep-fry the footballs in batches for 2–3 minutes, or 6–8 minutes if cooking from frozen. Of course you can shallow fry them, but they will not keep their round shape as well.

To make the minty yoghurt dip, stir the mint into the yoghurt. Drain the footballs well on kitchen paper and arrange on plates with small dipping bowls of the minty yoghurt and lime wedges, if using, to serve.

Neven Maguire's Complete Baby & Toddler Cookbook €18.99


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