9-12 Months: Exploring New Tastes - Your Baby Gourmet

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You’ll be amazed by what your baby will eat. Introduce your little one to new textures and tastes as early and as often as you can to establish healthy and diverse eating habits that he will carry with him into childhood and adult life.

Q: Will exotic fruits be too sophisticated for my baby’s tastebuds?
A: Because most of us were not introduced to exotic foods in childhood, we tend to think of them as being “adult food.” However, this is simply not the case. When they are properly ripened, exotic fruits are delicious, easy to digest, and full of all the vitamins and minerals your baby needs. We often underestimate what babies are prepared to eat. They enjoy unusual tastes, and will explore anything that is offered to them in the early days.

I highly recommend putting exotic fruits, such as papaya, melon, mango, kiwi, and passion fruit, firmly on the menu. See my purée recipe of Banana and Mango or Peach.

If you have an unripe exotic fruit, pop it in a bag with a banana; its enzymes will encourage ripening. Or, leave it on your windowsill to let the sun work its magic.

Q: Should I give my baby only fruits that are in season?
A: Most exotic fruits are incredibly sweet and tasty when they are ripe and in season; however, if you get them when they are out of season, they can be a huge disappointment. For this reason it’s worth eating seasonal, locally grown fruits—they will be tastier, sweeter, more nutritious, and usually less tart than those that have been flown in from other climates, and therefore you baby is more likely to enjoy them.
Q: How can I make exotic and other fruits into a treat for my baby?
A: There is something to be said for creating a little bit of good press, and playing up the virtues of new foods. If you present a beautifully cut mango with a sprig of mint and some cherries to make it look like a hedgehog, you have created the ideal treat for your baby. If you explain that you are so lucky to have found some figs, passion fruit, papaya, cherries, or kiwi, and then serve them with a flourish, your little one (and your other children) will be much more impressed.
Q: My husband likes to give our little one a taste of what he’s eating, including Chinese food and curries. She seems to like it—but is it OK?
A: Children are much more adventurous with food than grown-ups often give them credit for. My daughter loved olives at the age of 18 months and when I planned the menu for a chain of nurseries, we found that the children’s favorite dish on the menu was chicken curry. There are many styles of cooking from around the world that appeal to children and it’s easy to make your own versions of healthy mild curries, stir fries, pasta dishes, and enchiladas, for example. What’s more, they provide fantastic opportunities to sneak more vegetables into your baby’s diet.

If you’re eating out, just little tastes are best at the outset. Look out for whole nuts, which you should avoid serving until your baby is five. Lots of sugar, salt, and MSG (an additive that is commonly used in Chinese and other foods) should also be avoided. Unless there are any particular allergy concerns, you can enjoy introducing your little one to different tastes and cuisines. Stick to foods using ingredients you recognize, and if you aren’t sure about what might be included, ask the chef.

Q: Strong flavors and spicy foods seem to appeal to my baby. Will they harm his digestion?
A: If your baby likes the flavors, and he has no reactions after eating them, then you can happily introduce whatever spices and herbs appeal. In other countries, babies are brought up on very strong, spicy curries and other foods, and cope very well. Indeed, there are properties in many spices that may help to prevent diarrhea, and encourage the health of your baby’s stomach.

It’s important to avoid salt in spicy food, but an adventurous nine-month-old most certainly should enjoy foods with strong flavors and a hint of spice without any problem. See my Chicken and apricot curry recipe, which contains just a hint of spice to tempt your little one. This can be adapted for the whole family—just add as much spice as you can handle to the rest of the curry.

Did you know…

that you can add wine, which offers a rich, lovely flavor, to many of the dishes you prepare for your baby? What you must do, however, is ensure that it is sufficiently boiled (or even simmered) for at least 10 minutes, as this causes the alcohol content to evaporate and the flavor to remain. For example, chicken and fish can be poached in wine, and tougher cuts of meat, used in stews and casseroles, can be slow-cooked in wine to tenderize and provide flavor.

Banana and Mango or Peach

Exotic fruits such as mango, peach, papaya, melon, and kiwi are perfect baby foods and they don’t need any cooking. Introduce them by mixing with banana. For older babies, a wedge of peeled mango, melon, or kiwi fruit will make good finger foods. All of these fruits are very nutritious.

3 minutes


1 baby portion

  • 1 small, ripe banana

  • 1/2 small, ripe mango or 1 ripe peach

  1. Peel the banana and mango or peach .

  2. Mash the fruits together until quite smooth. (This purée is not suitable for freezing.)

Chicken and Apricot Curry

While a very hot curry may not hit the spot for babies, a mild and creamy one is often popular. This recipe is a good way to tempt your baby to try more exciting foods from an early age.

10 minutes

30 minutes


2–3 baby portions

  • 1 tsp sunflower or olive oil

  • 1 small shallot, minced

  • 2 tsp korma or mild curry paste (or to taste)

  • 1 cup canned coconut milk

  • 4 moist dried apricots, chopped

  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, or 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small cubes

  • For serving

    • Cooked white rice or couscous

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the shallot very gently for 1 minute to soften. Add the curry paste and cook gently for 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in the coconut milk and apricots. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the apricots start to soften, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the chicken and stir well, then partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and apricots are both tender and the sauce is reduced and thick, about 20 minutes.

  3. The curry is quite soft and so is “gummable,” but you can mash or purée it to your baby’s preferred consistency. Let cool slightly and serve warm, with rice or couscous.

  4. The curry can be frozen in individual portions; thaw overnight in the refrigerator when needed. Add 1 tsp water per portion and heat until piping hot in the microwave or in a saucepan. Cool slightly and check the temperature before serving.

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