It’s Clemmie’s birthday! Whoop whoop! She’s 3 today!
Now, I know that many (most) of you will be following this blog because of the human recipes I offer you and I PROMISE it’s not about to turn into a pet zone, but I have decided that today, as a one off, the recipe is not for you but for your dog.
The interesting thing about dog food is that it seems like a secret code to many people, me included: when I began researching the possibility of making my own food for Clemmie I came up against a whole bucketful of sites saying I needed to get the precise quantities of the correct nutrients for the exact age and size and breed of my dog and then, after all that, may have to vary it by unknown degrees in order to make it totally tailor-made. And yet when I buy a can from the supermarket to feed my 3.4 kilo Yorkie the contents are identical to the next can which is going to feed an 35kg Doberman. He’ll just be getting more of it.
You can hum and ha as long as you like, but there’s no denying that making dog food shouldn’t be rocket science. Obviously it would take some time and effort to ensure sure that the nutrients were right and essential vitamins and minerals (such as calcium and zinc) were covered with (natural) supplements. But I’d also hasten to add that many commercial pet foods fall short in these areas too, not to mention the fact that some manufacturers put in other ingredients that may not be at all suitable. However, home made dog food is a time consuming business and I understand that for most people the best option is to choose a reputable brand which doesn’t hide away behind indecipherable ingredients. I am one of those people, and so I buy the shop stuff whilst making the occasional meal or healthy treat for my pooch.
When thinking about making Clemmie’s cake I had a little browse at dog food cans on the shelves and came across two brands that looked really excellent: Lily’s Kitchen and HiLife Spoil Me! pouches (I can’t vouch for other HiLife products). I was amazed and delighted to see how natural the contents were, and was especially impressed with the Lily’s Kitchen range which had all manner of natural additives and flavourings, not one of which could be called into question.The only problem was the price: at £1.99 for a 400g can that’s more that a cash-strapped gal like yours truly can afford. But it did give me hope that all dog foods didn’t have to be made up of a whole malarky of mysterious extras. When I’m rich, Clemmie, you can eat Lily’s Kitchen. Promise.
In the meantime, she’ll have to put up with some of my creations instead. And so we get to the cake. A dog can eat it, a human could eat it although I reckon the dog would probably prefer it ;) (there’s no added salt so it’s bland by human standards). It’s got a balance of dog-friendly ingredients, chosen to supply energy and health-boosting protein, vitamins, fibres and fats. And just to please my cook’s eye, it even looks like a proper birthday cake.
Happy birthday Clems! Here’s to many more.
A few notes for dog owners
1. Clemmie’s a fussy eater so I shied away from adding too many peas and bulking agents to the meat. I also did a taste test on her before spreading the “icing” over the cake. She licked it off the spoon and jumped up for more, so that was a winner. But if your dog doesn’t like it, don’t waste it: you can use it yourself on a shepherd’s pie or in a soup.
2. This cake has liver in it which contains vitamin A and plenty of protein, amongst other useful nutrients. However, it’s best not to feed too much liver to your dog as it can cause digestive issues in larger quantities. As there’s also cream cheese which is fatty, Clemmie will have a small slice of cake every few days.
3. If you want to get into making more dog food or treats yourself, please bear in mind that some human foods are toxic to dogs, and others, whilst not toxic, still do them no good (it takes much less ice cream to make a dog fat than it does a human).
4. I’ve listed a few useful websites at the bottom of the page for those of you wanting to find out more.
For 1 medium-small cake
30g brown rice (I used organic short grain)
240g sweet potato (1 medium-small)
150g lean minced beef or lamb
80g liver (I used beef)
1 tsp dried parsley
1 medium egg
Small handful of peas
50g cream cheese + extra for decorating (I used full fat as it had no nasty extras)
The night before, soak the rice. Rice contains phytates which cause bloating and/or digestive problems so I like to soak mine for both human and dog consumption. Simply put the rice in a bowl with enough water to cover and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Give a stir and then leave out on the counter overnight.
The following day, drain and rinse the rice thoroughly under fresh running water. Set aside whilst you prepare the sweet potato.
Peel and cube the sweet potato. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and either cook the sweet potato in it until soft, or put the cubes into a metal colander, place this over the simmering water and secure the saucepan lid on as closely as possible. This steams the sweet potato so it doesn’t get too heavy with liquid and allows the nutrients to leak into the water below (which is then used for the rice). Make sure it doesn’t boil dry.
Once the sweet potato is soft, scoop it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the rice to the pan of sweet potato water, bring to a simmer and replace the lid. Cook for 30-50 minutes, stirring every now and then and checking that there is still liquid in the pan. Add more water if necessary.
Meanwhile, mash the sweet potato ***Don’t add cream cheese yet***. Place 75g of the mash in a food processor along with the mince, liver, parsley and egg. Once the rice is soft and fluffed up, strain through a sieve and add to the food processor too. Blitz the ingredients until they are well combined. They don’t have to be totally smooth, however.
Scoop the mixture into a bowl and stir through the peas. Line a small cake or loaf tin with greased baking paper and spoon in the meaty mixture. Pat down and bake at 180 C degrees fan for roughly 50 minutes. To test if it’s done, make a hole in the centre using a skewer and then press down on the cake with your finger. If the juices run out clear, the cake is cooked; if they are red and bloody, cook for a further 15 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool in the tin then place in the fridge until you are ready to ice it.
For the icing, mix the remaining sweet potato with the cream cheese. Spread the mixture all over the cake and decorate with a little more piped cream cheese and some sprinkles of dried or fresh parsley.
Present to your dog but please ration the serving! It may be a special day but you don’t want your poor pup getting indigestion with too much cream cheese and liver.
This cake will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge. It can be frozen: cut it into portions and open freeze. To defrost: defrost single portions overnight in the fridge, and make sure it is eaten within 2 days.)
Useful websites for pet nutrition
http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk – Helps advise on the best commercial dog food for pet. Rates commercial dog foods out of 5, taking various factors into account.
http://www.best-dog-food-review.com/69101.html – Gives informations about ingredients, which ones are nutritionally good and bad for your dog, and simple things to avoid or look out for on dog food packaging.
http://www.caninejournal.com/foods-not-to-feed-dog/ – A list of foods which are dangerous for dogs to consume.
http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_7/features/Home-Prepared-Dog-Food-Nutritional-Information_20568-1.html – This site has a lot of information about home prepared dog food, but readers will find the comments left by other visitors interesting too.
*Disclaimer: I am not a vet or expert in animal nutrition. I have done thorough research for this post but I cannot say that it will be suitable for your dog. Please consult a vet if you have any questions or concerns*