Meatballs are ideal for baby finger foods, as they are easy to grab and universally eaten in just about every culture around the world. They can be baked, fried or braised, eaten with sauce, soup or dry - the possibilities are endless. Meatballs are easily adaptable and can be made with any kind of meat you prefer or even translated across to fish to make fishballs!
Children tend to be drawn to round objects because they roll and are pleasing to look at, so meatballs are particularly fun for them to grasp and eat (finally something round they can stick into their mouths!). Round baby finger foods can be a bit challenging if your little one has not yet developed sufficient coordination, but you can easily make this recipe into mini meat fingers (long sausage-like shapes) that are easier to grip.
For slightly older children, these meatballs can be flattened to make mini patties that can be dropped into mini pittas for an easy pack lunch. If you want a more substantial meal, meatballs go nicely with tomato sauce and pasta or rice on the side. Or they are perfect on their own for a lighter lunch or as picnic fare, with some green salad or vegetables on the side.
If you are making these for a young baby who has not yet developed good chewing skills or have many teeth at the back of his mouth, you will probably need to deconstruct the meatball and feed it to him as meat crumbs. To make it more palatable, try mixing it with some tomato sauce over rice or pasta, and spoon feeding it.
For this recipe, I prefer not to use meat that is too lean - 10% fat is about right. If the meat is too lean, the meatballs can turn out on the dry side and therefore make it more difficult for babies and smaller children to process (not to mention, less tasty!). I also chose to bake my meatballs and not introduce additional oil through the frying process, but fried meatballs would certainly be more moist. However you choose to prepare your meatballs, your baby is sure to enjoy them. :)
This recipe yields approximately 20 mini meatballs.
500g lean beef mince
1 large egg, beaten
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
45g breadcrumbs (~1 slice of bread)
1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan