Do it yourself guide to producing safe soft food for vulnerable people.

Here at Care Food Co we are often asked by our customers how do you make puree food….after all it can’t really be all that hard!

The short answer is with a lot of care and loads of time, yes you can!

Before we start, a couple of important pieces of information should be taken on board.

Disclaimer alert…….ingredients are often different from day to day, and certainly are when fresh food is grown, harvested and supplied from different growing regions right around the country. Ingredients when combined will also behave differently… be careful that you achieve the target texture consistency before serving to the person you are caring for.

Disclaimer alert…..The consistency that you are trying to achieve is laid out by the good people who run the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative. IDDSI is a global group of speech pathologists who have come together to help provide a standard definition for a safe diet for people with swallowing problems. It is far more rigorous than a cookbook and a blender.

In this article, we will focus solely on making safe pureed food, as we are talking about vulnerable people, this is what you must achieve in your puree.

Target Texture

Usually eaten with a spoon (a fork is possible), Cannot be drunk from a cup because it does not flow easily, Cannot be sucked through a straw, Does not require chewing, Can be piped, layered or molded because it retains its shape, but should not require chewing if presented in this form, Shows some very slow movement under gravity but cannot be poured, Falls off spoon in a single spoonful when tilted and continues to hold shape on a plate, No lumps or particulates, Not sticky, Liquid must not separate from solid.

Testing - make sure you do this before serving, if you don’t achieve the targeted texture, start the puree over.

For the testing, you will need a spoon, fork, your fingers and of course your mouth as you will need to eat some.

Fork Pressure Test

Smooth with no lumps and minimal granulation, When a fork is pressed on the surface of Level 4 Pureed food, the tines/prongs of a fork can make a clear pattern on the surface, and/or the food retains the indentation from the fork

Fork Drip Test

Sample sits in a mound/pile above the fork; a small amount may flow through and form a short tail below the fork tines/prongs, but it does not flow or drip continuously through the prongs of a fork

Spoon Test

Cohesive enough to hold its shape on the spoon, A full spoonful must plop off the spoon if the spoon is titled or turned sideways; a very gentle flick (using only fingers and wrist) may be necessary to dislodge the sample from the spoon, but the sample should slide off easily with very little food left on the spoon. A thin film remaining on the spoon after the Spoon Tilt Test is acceptable, however, you should still be able to see the spoon through the thin film; i.e. the sample should not be firm and sticky, May spread out slightly or slump very slowly on a flat plate.

Finger Test

It is just possible to hold a sample of this texture using fingers. The texture slides smoothly and easily between the fingers and leaves noticeable coating

For more information Go Here to IDDSI

Mouth Test

Whilst not specifically included in the IDDSI framework, it is a methodology we use at Care Food Co to help us interpret the IDDSI framework when we develop new products.

Take a spoonful of your puree and place it in your mouth.

First thing, does the puree taste great? If you don’t like the flavour, it is likely the person you are serving it to won’t like it either!

Secondly, feel for any particulates in the food, these might feel slightly grainy, like tiny lumps or flecks, you probably won’t be able to see them if you have pureed well, you may / may not feel them when you do the finger test. These are dangerous and should be eliminated.

Thirdly, the concept of sticky food can only really be detected when you eat the food, after you have swallowed your puree, does your mouth fill as if it has gum in it or you want to have a drink to wash away the residue. If you experience this do not serve the food as it is not safe.

Fourthly, and particularly for meat dishes, after you have eaten the puree, use your tongue to rub the roof of your mouth, if you feel the food to form little lumps again the food is not safe, these little lumps can build up whist the food is being eaten and can coagulate into a lump that could become a choking hazard.

Food that you definitely cannot use in your recipes

Absolutely stay away from peas and corn

  • Food that contains husks (husks are the dry outer covering of some fruits or seeds) - e.g. granary or other multi-grain breads and vegetables such as sweetcorn.
  • Foods with a fibrous or ‘stringy’ texture - e.g. celery, green beans, melted cheese or pineapple.
  • Fruit or vegetables with thick skins, seeds or pips - e.g. baked beans, peas, grapes and tomatoes

The reason is that domestic blenders even a thermomix can’t puree the products to the consistency required. Commercial equipment found in restaurants, commercial kitchens etc are similarly problematic. Our industrial equipment can though, that’s why we sell loads of peas and corn.

Ingredients to be careful with are mainly meat products, Lamb and Beef given the length and stringy nature of the muscle tendons. Slow cooking overcomes a lot of problems though!

Now you know what to look out for let’s get cooking.

To start with let’s do an easy mashed potato.

You will need a pot, a masher or a potato ricer, a fine sieve, teaspoon, and fork.

  1. Peel potatoes, taking care to remove any skin, eyes or blemishes
  2. Dice potatoes into approximate inch sized pieces. Make sure to remain consistent in your dice size so that all potato cooks evenly
  3. Transfer diced potato to pot and cover potato with cold water and add salt (1-2 tbsp)
  4. Bring water to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until potato is cooked
  5. In a separate pot, heat butter, milk and cream until butter is melted and the other ingredients are warmed through. We use about a 10:1 ratio of uncooked potato to liquid/fat ingredients.
  6. Once potato is cooked, drain thoroughly and mix well with butter, cream and milk mixture and add salt to taste. Be careful not to overwork the potato as it can release the starch present, and create a gummy, gluey texture which is very unappetising and not safe within the IDDSI framework.
  7. Pass potato and wet ingredients mix through a ricer or mash in a pot or bowl until potato and ingredients are thoroughly combined
  8. Then pass potato mixture through sieve, using a utensil such as the back of a spoon, to ensure that no lumps are present and a smooth texture is achieved
  9. Perform IDDSI test with teaspoon and fork to ascertain its suitability
  10. Bon Appetit