I am something of a River Cottage addict, and, with a 2 year old at home, when I noticed this book appearing in my recommendations I had a closer look. I did hesitate on whether to order it or not, given that I don't own any other books specifically aimed at feeding children. A read reveals that is an absolute bible on feeding your child - from breastfeeding all the way through to adulthood. Throughout the book preaches a message of trying to relax and give your child a balanced varied diet.
Before getting into the recipes, the book gives advice on a number of areas including why to cook for your children - ranging from the better taste, control in what goes in to reducing packaging. Good food shopping is next on the list. All fairly obvious, but it does set the book firmly in the River Cottage corner. Despite providing a normal index at the back, Nikki gives a very thorough and useful 6 page table, split up by vegetable/fruit, giving when it is in season, how to store it, what do with a glut and where the recipes are in the book. Glut ideas - for apples - range from pureeing to grating to use in cakes, coleslaw and burgers. This Raw Ingredients chapter ends with the things to avoid - E-numbers, processed foods and too much sugar/salt and the wrong sort of fat.
The next chapter is The First Year - the great food adventure begins. This chapter includes breastfeeding, formula feeding, milk (even what formula to choose),when to wean, weaning, allergenic food and reluctant eaters.
Nutrition - what exactly does your child need - follows next. Basically a thorough overview of a good varied diet, including drinks, quantities, vegetarian and vegan diets, salt, sugar, what you shouldn't give to children before a certain age (generally because of a risk of choking, infection, or is potentially toxic for a small child), food allergies and intolerance.
Problems with Food - dealing with conflict and anxiety at mealtimes. This was of particular interest to me given my 2 year olds current efforts to exert himself and his refusal of many of the things I've prepared for him. Nikki advice includes issues over food, food refusal, eating too much and not eating enough. She gives guidance on how to deal with anxiety when your child refuses what you give them and how to cope with difficult mealtimes, and concludes on how to encourage your child to eat well.
Cooking for the family - a flexible approach - is the chapter that finally gets to the recipes! The chapter starts with a few pages of advice, including notes on ingredients and cooking with your kids. Starting with single ingredient purees, from beetroot to sweet potato and then moving on to mixed purees (parsnip and apple/chicken and lettuce), I wish I had had this book when my son was at the puree stage, the purees even sound tasty to me.
The next chapters give recipes by season. Each recipe contains an overview of the nutritonal value of the meal (not in calories), and gives advice on how to adapt the recipe if required and variations. I've given a few recipes for each season to give you an idea of what's included.
Spring - Avocado and Houmous salad, Frittata, Saag paneer, Chowder, Golden goujons, Chicken liver pate, Oaty rhubarb crumble
Summer - Tangy tofu dip, Courgette and cheese dip, Courgette polpette, Pea risotto, Lamb curry, baked peaches.
Autumn - Apple muesli, Cheese and apple on toast, Carrot and lentil soup, Felafel, Fish and fennel pizza, Banana and Sultana cake, Steamed pumpkin pudding, Pear and nut smoothie.
Winter - Eggy bread, Beetroot coleslaw, Brussel sprouts gratin, Little toads in the hole, Baby baked apples, Apricot and orange loaf.
All Year Round - Basic bread, Spelt and apple stars, Polenta 'chips', White bean houmous, Rice pudding.
I have to admit that I wasn't an avid reader of baby food books and I didn't have tremendously high hopes when I ordered this book - but I am really impressed. There are numerous recipes I will try here, not only for my little boy, but for my family. I will also read over Nikki's advice on refusal again; she makes some good points and they're certainly worth a go. Another worthy addition to the River Cottage cookbook collection.