Experimenting with flavours and inventing recipes is all part of the fun when it comes to weaning your baby onto solid food.
But if you are in need of some culinary inspiration, or a crash course in the basics, here are a few weaning recipe ideas and tips to help get you started.
From first simple spoonfuls and early finger foods to family meals with complex flavours, these ideas are designed to tantalise tiny taste buds and help your baby to develop a broad palate.
Baby rice and cereal
Specially designed baby rice and baby porridge are bland in flavour, so an ideal way to introduce the feel of solid food in your baby's mouth, before bombarding her with a whole new world of taste. Simply mix with a little formula or expressed breast milk, according to the instructions on the pack.
TIP: Porridge can also be combined with puréed fruit or mashed banana for a sweet fix and extra nutrition.
As your baby progresses onto thicker and lumpier textures, baby porridge can be replaced with regular porridge oats and you can skip the puréeing step.
Simple vegetable purées
First vegetables: Sweet potato, potato, carrot, broccoli, parsnip, cauliflower, swede, courgette, butternut squash.
Steam or boil any of the above vegetables until soft and tender. Then using a hand blender or food processor, purée with a little of the cooking liquid until smooth. Add a little expressed breast milk or formula milk for a smoother, creamier consistency.
Combining flavours, such as potato and broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato or parsnip and carrot will help to add variety to your baby's meals.
TIP: Excess food can be frozen in ice-cube trays then decanted into date-labelled freezer bags and stored for up to one month.
Basic cooked fruit purées
'Harder' fruits, such as apples and pears, can be prepared as above but with cooking time reduced to around seven minutes. For a smoother consistency, try pressing the fruit through a sieve using the back of a spoon.
Again, try combining flavours to create your own 'fruit cocktails', such as apple and pear or peach and apricot.
Easy, no-cook, no-blender fruits
When very soft and ripe, peaches, pears, mangos, avocados and melons, don't need to be cooked or blended with a processor and can be simply mashed with a fork and blended with a little breast milk or formula milk. Again, press through a sieve with the back of a spoon for a smoother consistency.
Fruit and yogurt purée
Introduce dairy by mixing any of the above fruit purées with an equal quantity of natural yoghurt.
Introducing your baby to finger foods will encourage a deeper sensory experience with food, as well as helping to teach your baby to feed herself. Offer batons or chunks of soft - cooked or ripe - vegetables and fruits.
Once your baby has eaten a wide variety of fruits and vegetables you can begin to create more complex recipes, introducing meat, fish and pulses, and eventually thicker textures.
Paediatric dietician, author of Stress-Free Weaning and founder of the Child Nutrition consultancy Judy More, recommends the following recipes to take your baby through from first tastes to family meals.
First meat, fish and vegetarian meals
Beef with potato, broccoli and red pepper (4 - 6 servings)
60g lean braising beef, cut into small cubes
½ medium potato (about 70g), peeled and diced
3 small florets broccoli (about 50g), chopped
¼ red pepper (about 30g), diced
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan then add the meat and the vegetables on top.
Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the meat is cooked right through and the vegetables are soft.
Purée with the remaining water until smooth.
Take one portion and freeze the rest.
Add some cooled, boiled water if you would like a thinner paste.
Lamb with spinach and sweet potato (4 - 6 servings)
Lean lamb from thin loin or chump chop (about 60g), cubed
1/3 medium sweet potato (about 70g), peeled and diced
40g frozen spinach
Cook the lamb and potato as above.
Add the spinach and simmer until it has thawed and is piping hot.
Purée as above.
Lentils with carrot and coriander (6 – 8 servings)
3 tbsp red lentils
½ medium potato (about 70g), peeled and diced
1 small carrot (about 60g), peeled and diced
1/2tsp ground coriander
½ tsp tomato purée
Rinse the lentils thoroughly with water by placing in a sieve and immersing in a bowl of water. Remove them from the water and drain.
Place lentils, diced vegetables, water and coriander in a pan and cover. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender and the lentils are soft.
Add the tomato purée and mix together in a blender until smooth.
Textured meals and finger foods
Scrambled egg with finger food
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp butter
Beat the egg with the milk in a bowl.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a small frying pan and pour in the egg mixture.
Continue cooking over the gentle heat, stirring until the egg is just cooked right through but still soft.
Remove from the heat and serve with soft finger food such as steamed vegetable sticks and crusts from lightly toasted bread.
Chicken with rice and leeks (4 - 6 servings)
30g white basmati or long grain rice
½ chicken breast (70g), skinned and cut into small pieces
½ small leek (40g), washed and thoroughly and thinly sliced
1 small carrot (30g), peeled and diced
1 tsp thyme
Rinse the rice in a sieve and drain. Place in a small pan and add the water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for five minutes.
Lift the lid and add the chicken, leek, carrot and thyme.
Replace the lid and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked right through and the rice and leeks are tender (about 20 minutes). Add a little more water if necessary.
Purée the mixture. Add some cooled, boiled water for a thinner consistency.
Pork with apple, parsnip and swede (4 – 6 servings)
Lean pork from a thin loin chop, cut into small cubes
½ dessert apple, peeled and cored
½ medium parsnip (about 50g), peeled and cut into thin slices
60g swede, peeled and diced
Dice the apple. Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add in the pork, apple and both vegetables. Cover and simmer until meat is cooked right through and the vegetables are soft – at least 15 minutes.
Take out some of the parsnip sticks to offer as finger food and purée the rest with the remaining water.
Take out one portion and add some cooled, boiled water for a thinner consistency.
Poached white fish with vegetables (4 – 6 servings)
½ sweet potato, peeled and diced
7-8 small broccoliflorets (about 60g)
85g fresh haddock fillet, skinned and boned
1 tsp fresh fennel leaves, chopped
Steam the sweet potato and broccoli florets or simmer gently for 10 minutes in 75ml boiling water. While the vegetables are cooking, pour the milk into a small, non-stick pan. Place the haddock fillet in the milk and heat.
Gently simmer, uncovered, until the haddock is well cooked and turns white right through (7 – 8 minutes).
Mash the haddock and remaining milk with a fork.
Check carefully for any remaining bones and remove them.
Take out two broccoli florets for finger foods and mash the fennel and the remaining broccoli and sweet potato into the mashed fish.
Pasta with tomato and pepper sauce (4 – 6 servings)
55g pasta shapes
2 tsp olive oil
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small courgette, chopped
4 tbsp chopped tomatoes, tinned
2 tsp fresh basil or thyme, chopped
1 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated
Cook the pasta shapes until soft, according to the instructions on the packet. Drain. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and then add the pepper and cook for about five minutes to soften.
Add the courgette, tinned tomatoes and herbs and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Blend to a smooth sauce with a hand blender.
Keep aside three or four pasta shapes as finger foods and add the remainder to the tomato sauce. Add the grated cheese, which should melt into the sauce.
Mash with a fork to break the pasta into smaller pieces. Serve with cooked vegetable sticks.
Egg custard (2 - 4 servings)
½ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F.
Beat the sugar and egg together until the sugar dissolves.
Whisk in the hot milk and vanilla extract and pour into a small, ovenproof dish.
Bake until set (about 30 – 40 minutes).
Family meals (from around nine months)
Chicken and vegetable stir-fry (2 – 4 servings)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ chicken breast, thinly sliced
½ tsp dried tarragon
½ red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 small courgette, thinly sliced
6 small broccoli florets
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the chicken slices and tarragon and stir-fry for a few minutes.
Add the red pepper, courgette and broccoli florets and continue stir-frying over a gentle heat until the chicken has cooked right through (about 15 minutes).
Serve with rice, pasta or steamed potatoes. Cut the chicken into small pieces.
Moroccan lamb with couscous (4 - 6 servings)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp nutmeg
110g lean lamb neck fillet, trimmed and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp diced aubergine
1 tsp grated fresh ginger or ½ tsp ground ginger
½ clove garlic, crushed
½ can (200g) chopped tomatoes
6 tbsp/80g couscous
200ml boiling water
Mix the ground spices together in a bowl. Toss the cubes of lamb into the mixed spices and stir well until the lamb is well coated.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb until browned.
Add the diced aubergine and continue frying, stirring for two minutes. Add in the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes, cover tightly with a lid and simmer gently for about one hour, until the lamb is tender when it will bread apart when pushed with a fork.
Put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to stand for five minutes so that the water is all absorbed.
Fluff up the couscous with a fork and stir into the lamb dish.
Take out one portion and cut the lamb into small bite-sized pieces.
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