I meet Miriam at a very suited location: Daylesford in Pimlico. We have never met, just chatted briefly on Instagram to arrange this meeting. She is instantly warm and we start chatting like we’ve known each other for years.
I’ve been intrigued at how MIMI’S BOWL started as all I do know about her is that she was a fashion buyer for Harrods… from fashion to food? Why not!
Miriam, whom I keep calling Mimi until I realise my mistake, explains to me that when her daughter was born, one of the many challenges for her as a new mum proved to be food. She was very surprised by this, as she loves to cook. “I would have called myself a capable and aspiring home cook, but as my daughter approached five months I found myself struggling over her first tastes and first solid foods. Even the simplest of tasks caused a sense of “baby food panic” and raised a barrage of questions: How to puree an apple? How should I cook it? Do I need to sterilise my cooking utensils? Is an apple too sweet a first taste? And so on… After sleepless nights my anxious and exhausted state of mind didn’t help guide me. I believe I am not alone. Learning to feed your baby is at times extremely daunting, especially a first baby.”
I agree! I weaned Edoardo when he was 6 months old. I remember reading somewhere that you must not give them fruit before vegetables as they’ll love the sweetness and never look back. I stuck by that rule for a couple of weeks to which point we had exhausted all ideas…and went on to fruit! But again, I also found it hard to get inspiration from the normal “reliable” British kids cookbooks. Why mix fruit with veg? Would you eat sweet potato, apple and pepper purée? No! Me neither!!
Miriam agrees: “I couldn’t find a relatable parent-voice with a modern approach to cooking for your baby or toddler. I wanted quick and simple recipes made from seasonal ingredients. So, I began teaching myself from scratch and cooking by trial and error. I tried it all: from the expensive ‘all-in-one steaming and pureeing machine’; that then required 30 minutes to take it apart and clean it, after each use… To the ice cube trays that froze solid so I couldn’t remove the food (you need freezing trays with a soft silicon shell). I tried pureeing every fruit and vegetable my green grocer had; initially fighting seasonality, because I had read somewhere about a specific list of fruits and vegetables that were good first foods to try…
I began to note down my experiences and to work on recipes that my daughter liked and would eat. (There is no harsher or immediate food critic than your own child to deliver feedback). In the end I rejected expensive equipment for a simple hand blender and soft structured ice cube tray. I started to develop my daughter’s palette from bitter to sweet tastes; because I strongly believe we shouldn’t privilege sweet flavours for babies from the outset (something so many baby food recipes do). And so, Mimi’s Bowl began to take shape. Today I share online what I cook at home and how I feed my daughter, it has been wonderful to share our “baby eating adventure” with other parents.”
And thank god it did. Mimi’s bowl is a haven of delicious and simple recipes which can be adapted for the whole family, just keep some aside for the little one and then add seasoning to your own meal! And being Italian, that’s what I feel is very important, to eat together and to taste the same foods together. No differences. And this is exactly what Mimi’s bowl does!
I thought it would be fun to ask Miriam some questions, some for me, some to know more about her:
For a fussy 20 months old who really likes peppers, cucumbers, pizza, egg and sausages what recipe idea would you come up with? Note he’s weird with consistency!
• Sausage Meatballs, Roasted Peppers and Pasta ~ How about removing the sausage meat from its cases, and rolling the sausage filling into meatballs. Then lightly fry them in a pan, to brown them a little, finish cooking in the oven with chunks of peppers. Toss the roasted peppers and meatballs through some pasta (wholemeal pasta would work beautifully here and would stand up to the meatballs). I don’t know if your boy likes tomatoes but adding some tomato passata (it has a very smooth consistency) would turn the meatballs and peppers into a lovely sauce.
• Mini Pizzas ~ I often make mini pizzas with my daughter, you can make the dough ~ but I also quite often buy organic mini wholemeal bases from Biona (they cook in 8-10 mins in the oven, heat up your tray first for a crispy base). Peppers, sausage and egg would all work well as toppings! It might also be an opportunity to try some new pizza toppings too ~ I find that if I get my daughter involved in the kitchen, she is more likely to try new foods.
When weaning at around 6 months is it true that giving them fruit before vegetables will make them fussy eaters?
Not in my experience, all children are different and have different experiences. However, if you add fruit to all your purees it makes all the other flavours taste sweet too. I found that a lot of baby food recipes do this: pound up vegetables and combine them with fruits. I believe we want our babies to develop varied palettes; ranging from bitter to sweet. I prefer to offer a variety of flavours and tastes; rather than privileging sweet flavours from the outset. When I was weaning my daughter, I abandoned a lot of baby food recipes, sweetened with fruit, for this reason. I am not a nutritionist but this approach worked for us.
Only in a baby cookbook will you find Avocado mashed with Banana… If it looks and tastes awful why feed it to your baby? instinctively this is not how I wanted to feed my young daughter.
Snacks! I go for freshly cut fruit and veg but then I also give out apple rice cakes left right and centre! I’d love to find an alternative that I can batch make… something with that crunch that I know kids like but healthier?
Freshly cut fruit and veg make great snacks ~ I make them into homemade crisps ~ sliced apple and sweet potato work brilliantly. Very useful when you are on the go, as a pram snack. I also make homemade oat bars.
What inspires your cooking each day?
My mother, now proud grandmother (Grammy), is a naturally gifted cook. She is totally self-taught,
grows all her own fruit and vegetables, and makes everything from scratch. I am the eldest of four children, and I think back on our childhood in amazement: she was always preparing huge lunches and dinners for friends and family, whilst looking after all of us. A lot of my principles about enjoying food as a family are inspired by her.
A lot of mamas out there are time poor but really care about what their kids eat. Have you considered consulting for these families and writing simple recipe plans for their children, weekly?
I have never been approached to do this! But one of my greatest pleasures is talking with other parents about food and what their children like and don’t like. I started Mimi’s Bowl to create an online community for healthy family cooking; sharing ideas and working with other parents was always part of that vision.
From fashion to food… what do you miss most about fashion? What do you least like about food?
As an ex-fashion Buyer (I worked for Harrods), I met the most amazing designers and saw truly beautiful craftsmanship at work. There are so many wonderfully creative people working in fashion. Life with a small toddler is somewhat different!
Washing up – I have just renovated our house and I have installed two dishwashers – with the amount of cooking I do they are a lifesaver. Even though our kitchen isn’t massive I worked very hard on the designs, to make sure I could squeeze in two dishwashers.
Last meal ever…what would you eat?
Homemade Roast Chicken, roasted with lemon, herbs and garlic
Boiled new potatoes (when they are at their best)
A big bowl of steamed green vegetables (whatever is in season)
~ It’s a meal that reminds me of my childhood; Jemima loves it too. As a family, it is a luxury for us to eat together in the week (I’m sure so many other working parents can relate to this). I try and make it a weekly ritual for us to eat together at the weekends; and this is one of our favourite family meals. I don’t have time to make separate food for Jemima; recipes have to work for all of us.
If you were a food what would you be and why?
A potato ~ it doesn’t sound that glamorous but it won’t let you down. It works very hard and can be made into so many different things. It’s a bit of a chameleon ~ I can relate: having been a fashion buyer at Harrods, then becoming a mum and now writing about modern baby, toddler and family food.
You’ve got 10 people round for lunch, what’s your go to dish to make?
This changes a lot but at the moment because it is Summer:
• Simple Salmon tray bake with lots of roasted vegetables (fennel, tomatoes, peppers, shallots, asparagus) ~ it goes straight in the oven so I can then enjoy time with my guests
• My mother’s summer pudding ~ it looks impressive but really is unbelievably easy to make ~ berries are at their best right now.
What’s your favourite recipe you’ve ever made for Mimi’s Bowl?
My Mini Egg Frittatas, I cook them in a muffin tin. I love the convenience of it, when your time short in the mornings – as it goes straight in the oven (no cooking eggs over a stove).
When I started Mimi’s Bowl, earlier this year, it was one of the first recipes I posted. A mum and her little boy made them together and sent me a video of them making it. I was so touched they had tried it, enjoyed it and taken the time to message me.
And with this we give each other a big hug and promise to see each other again very soon! That’s how great Mimi, sorry Miriam 😉 is!