Top five cookbooks for feeding a young family

Family cookbooks

As soon as our kids started weaning I tried to give them an interesting, varied and healthy diet. I wanted to introduce them to different, distinct flavours as early as possible in an attempt to avoid future fussiness. There’s no scientific reasoning behind this, it just makes sense to me. If you let kids get used to a small variety of meals and flavours, I would have thought they’re more likely to reject different things further down the line. As I say, I have nothing of substance to back this theory up, so I could be completely wrong but, so far (touch wood) it’s working with our two.

So, in trying to provide them with a varied diet, I have used recipes from a lot of cookbooks. Some with more success than others. Below are the five best, from my experience, in no particular order.


Save with Jamie – Jamie Oliver

The idea of this book is, as the title suggests, to provide ways in which you can eat really good food, without spending a fortune. It’s split into six sections: Veg, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Fish. Each section (except for Veg) begins with what Jamie calls a ‘Mothership’ recipe, which is your sunday lunch, essentially. So, roast chicken, beef, pork, lamb and salmon. Each mothership is then followed with a number of recipes for which you can use the leftovers, as well as a number of other economical recipes.

So you might have the roast chicken on the Sunday and then use the carcass to make a stock for the chicken and sweet pea risotto (read my turkey version here) on the Monday and have the chicken stew and dumplings on the Tuesday. It’s a great concept and works really well in practice too. I’ve used loads from this book and much of it is suitable for children as well. The star pick from this would probably be the chicken and spinach cannelloni (read my turkey version here) – it’s delicious and the kids absolutely love it.

A photo of a recipe in Save with Jamie

The biggest hit in Save with Jamie

Hugh’s Three Good Things – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

The beauty of this book is its simplicity. As the title suggests, it’s full of recipes which have three main ingredients. Now it’s not strictly three ingredients per recipe, you understand. For example; pappardelle, squash, sage includes the three main ingredients in the title, plus garlic, oil, butter and parmesan.

Pasta, courgettes, mozzarella is the stand-out dish here, for the family anyway. This cheesy pasta bake is great comfort food and a big hit with the kids.

A photo of a recipe from Hugh's Three Good Things

The pick of the recipes from Hugh’s Three Good Things

Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner

This book provides recipes based on the age of the child. So it starts with purees for weaning, then finger foods, then more grown-up meals for when the kids are slightly older. I got most use out of the weaning section. There are dozens of great ideas for purees, and more textured, mashed food, that you can make in bulk and freeze in individual portions. Doing this is really helpful as you can just take out some food on an evening and it’s ready for you to feed to the sprog the following day.

I used a lot from this book, but if I had to pick one favourite it would be braised beef with sweet potato. Both Maya and Asher loved this puree and, with the beef, sweet potato, mushrooms and leeks, it really felt like they were getting something particularly nutritious. In the first few weeks and months of eating solids, it can be quite difficult to get meat into them (should you want to) and this slow cooked and pureed braising steak is a great way of doing so.

A recipe from Annabel Karmel's New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner

Annabel Karmel’s best

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook – Nikki Duffy

This book really speaks to me as its entire focus is on how to provide the best, tastiest, most nutritious food for your kids. It’s not just a recipe book either, it’s essentially a guide to weaning and feeding young children. There is a lot of information about feeding in the first year; approaches to weaing, what foods to avoid, drinks, supplements etc. The recipes start with some puree ideas and the rest of the book is divided into the four seasons; with meals appropriate to Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

There are lots of lovely recipes in this book – whether you’re just feeding the kids or the whole family – but my favourite is Helen’s egg parcels. These little tartlets are great for kids of all ages, from the newly-weaned upwards. You can take a look at my take n this one in my ham and spinach tartlets post.

A photo of a recipe in the River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook

Tartlets for kids of all ages in the River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook

Super Food Family Classics – Jamie Oliver

A follow-up to Everyday Super Food, this one, as you’ve probably guessed, is focused on well-balanced, family-friendly recipes using the most nutritious ingredients. I’ve tried loads of the recipes in this book, with a lot of success, but the ‘Kitchen hacks’ section at the end is particularly good. This is full of great ideas on things that can be made in bulk, and then frozen. The healthy chicken nuggets and fish fingers are great but the one I’ve got the most use out of has to be the 7-veg tomato sauce. This is absolutely packed full of goodness and, as it’s blended, the kids have no idea. It also tastes really good. The recipe makes a mammoth 3.5 – 4 litres so will keep you going for ages. You can simply serve it over pasta, on pizzas or use in place of tinned tomatoes in recipes to give an extra boost of goodness.

A photo of a recipe in Super Food Family Classics

A great ‘kitchen hack’ in Super Food Family Classics


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