When Inner West Mums member Liz Elton contacted us about her latest food publishing venture, it got us excited. Simple recipes for a toddler that the whole family will love – yes, please!
The former creative director of Gourmet Traveller magazine (and mum to twin boys) has been working with Byron Bay chef David Lovett on a cookbook aimed at helping parents and carers make one meal, for everyone. The tagline? Simple Italian food for kids and grown-ups.
The recipes from the father-of-two range from scrambled egg tacos and meatballs in tomato sugo, to eggplant and ricotta lasagne and baked cannelini beans with sage and garlic. There’s plenty of pasta recipes, including a 15-minute sausage ragu. And some sweet treats too.
Here’s a taste of the recipes from Big & Little.
Grugno, or pig’s snout, is something I came up with one day when I had some leftover focaccia dough. I stuck my index and middle finger into the centre of the dough balls I’d made, unknowingly creating a shape similar to the snout of a pig.
Prep time: 20 mins (plus proving) | Cook: 10-12 mins
1.5 litres vegetable oil for frying
7g (1 sachet) dry yeast
250g plain flour
30ml olive oil
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. For the dough, combine yeast and 170ml lukewarm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add flour, oil and 1 tsp salt, and mix for 8-10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is well-combined, scraping the sides of the bowl if needed. Increase to high and knead for two more minutes.
2. Using a pastry scraper, remove dough from bowl on to a lightly floured bench and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into nine, 50g pieces. Roll each piece into a firm ball, and place on a floured tray or board with plenty of space in between each. Set aside to prove for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until 180C. Have a bowl of flour to dip your index and middle fingers into, then press them firmly into the middle of each dough ball, creating two nostrils.
5. Fry the grugno in batches, turning occasionally (be careful of hot oil splashing) until golden brown (5-6 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack.
6. For cinnamon sugar, mix ingredients to combine.
7. When grugno have cooled for 5 minutes, drop them one-by-one into the cinnamon sugar. Roll them around and coat well or you can just sprinkle sugar on for the kids to limit the amount of sugar, and serve.
Grugno are best eaten warm.
PUMPKIN AND RICOTTA RISOTTO
This risotto is bright orange in colour, a little sweet from the pumpkin and super creamy from the ricotta, and a firm favourite with kids. I like to sneak some other bits into this risotto, such as finely chopped baby spinach or rocket for an extra hit of greens and iron for the kids.
Prep time: 10 min | Cook: 35 mins
1 recipe risotto bianco (see below)
300g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and coarsely grated
150g fresh ricotta
A few handfuls of soft greens such as baby spinach or rocket, chopped finely (optional)
Parmesan, for grating at the table
1. Make risotto bianco according to step 1 of the recipe (below), then add the grated pumpkin and fry for 4-5 minutes before adding the rice.
2. Continue to follow the steps until the final addition of butter and cheese. At this point omit the butter and add half the ricotta and all the greens, stir through and then rest for a few minutes to warm the cheese through.
3. To serve, spoon the risotto onto your child’s plate, then season risotto and serve yours with extra parmesan, if desired
BASIC RISOTTO BIANCO
Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes
This risotto bianco recipe is your blank canvas to many different risottos. It’s also lovely just on its own or served with some braised large cuts of meat.
1 onion, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
300g risotto rice
1.8 litres hot chicken stock or water
80g finely grated parmesan, plus an extra chunk for grating at the table
1. Place a saucepan over medium heat and add onion, oil and half the butter, then stir mixture until onion is soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the rice, mixing to coat the grains with the onion, oil and butter, gently frying the grains, but without colouring.
3. Now add your first two ladles or 1/2 cup-fuls of hot liquid. It will bubble and carry on a bit, because the pan is hot, and the rice will immediately begin to cook and absorb the liquid quite quickly, so be ready to add your next batch of stock. Stir constantly until evaporated, then continue to add stock, stirring regularly, until absorbed each time and the grains of rice have swelled, change colour and the liquid is becoming thick and starchy.
4. Test a small spoonful of rice, if it is still crunchy, chalky and unpleasant to eat, then add more stock and keep cooking until the rice is plump and tender to the bite with an ever so slight firmness, but at the same time you don’t want the rice to have absorbed all the liquid and it to be dry. In Italy this is called al dente. Add a final ladle of stock, stir and turn off the heat. Add the remaining butter and parmesan, give another quick stir and put a lid on it and rest and cool briefly (4-5 minutes).
5. To serve, spoon the risotto onto your child’s plate, then serve yours with extra cheese and seasoning.
NOTE You can also make this risotto base ahead if you want a quick meal later on, simply half-cook the risotto through and portion it away in the fridge, then continue cooking it with extra stock when you want to serve it.
An edited extract from Big & Little: Simple Italian food for kids and grown-ups by David Lovett, $44.95, published by Elton & Featherby, biglittlebook.com.au. Photography by Alicia Taylor.