I have been making this meal for my daughter Poppy since she was nine months old. She just turned 4 last week and she still loves it. This dish is actually textured (don’t worry, I’m not still feeding my four year old pureed salmon!) and can be eaten by the whole family as a casserole. If you are keen to try out fish and texture on your baby, this recipe may be just the thing. Interestingly, Poppy, who is not the most adventurous of eaters, happily eats salmon sandwiches and plain cooked salmon. Lately I can’t convince her to eat chicken to save my life but put a salmon sandwich in front of her and she is as happy as can be. I’m sure it’s because from an early age she loved the flavour of this casserole and has positive associations with salmon. Here she is trying to fend off the cat as she eats her salmon dinner.
Prior to writing this post, I had never actually measured anything when making this dish. For the purpose of presenting it to you as a proper recipe, I have included measurements here. However, keep in mind that they are not set in stone; you can just eyeball it and it will turn out fine, as long as you keep the ratios of liquid to dry about the same.
Makes 1 large casserole (6-8 adult servings) or 4-5 ice-cube trays of baby food.
What you will need:
3 cups milk
1 cup chopped frozen spinach
1 box whole wheat couscous (about 200 grams)
2 cups boiling hot water
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 large fillet of wild salmon (about ¼ of a whole fish)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: herbs and spices such as onion powder, garlic powder, tarragon, oregano, basil, parsley. Just add a good size pinch of whichever ones you fancy.
Optional: 1/2 cup multigrain bread crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp of melted butter
What to do:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Check the fish for any bones by running your fingers down the middle and pulling them out. Wrap the salmon (skin side down) in parchment paper or tin foil being sure to seal well, or if you prefer, place it in a shallow casserole dish covered with a lid. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until cooked through. You want it to be flaky and opaque but still moist looking.
Allow to cool enough to handle.
While the salmon is cooking, make the couscous. Simply pour it into a heat safe bowl then add 2 cups hot water. Cover and let stand for at least 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let stand 5 minutes uncovered.
Next it is time to make a spinach cream sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. With a small whisk, blend in the flour and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Add the spinach and stir well. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste, and herbs if using.
Once the salmon is cool enough to touch, using your hands or a knife, flake the fish into small pieces, discarding the skin. If your baby is just starting out with texture, you may want to use a knife and mince the salmon, but use your discretion. If you are serving this as a family meal, you will want to leave the salmon pieces a little bigger- you can always fork mash them up for baby later. *Double and triple check that there are no bones left in the salmon.
Now it is time to put all the components together. Put the salmon into the bowl with the couscous and gently stir together. Pour the spinach sauce over top and stir until combined.
If making as food for a baby, the dish is now ready to serve. Freeze any extra (there will be lots!) in ice cube trays, then pop the cubes out and keep in a sealed bag or freezer safe container. For each meal defrost anywhere between 4-8 cubes depending on the appetite of your baby. If it looks too thick once defrosted, stir in a little extra milk. Serve warm.
If serving to the whole family as a casserole, put the mixture into a casserole dish and cover with buttered multigrain bread crumbs. Bake uncovered in the oven at 375 degrees until heated through and browned on top. Serve with cooked vegetables or a green salad.
*For a gluten free version of this recipe, substitute cooked millet for couscous. Leave out the flour or add a gluten free thickener of your choice.