When I was pregnant, I was very blessed to have my freezer crammed full of delicious home cooked meals.
They didn’t appear one day by magic, I had been asked what we wanted for the new baby and in a scandalous tilt at British humility, I answered the question squarely: I wanted things that would give me more time to enjoy my new baby.
Knowing what an amazing impact it had on our lives, I have tried to pay forward the love and cook up a freezer stash for some of my pregnant friends.
After searching for recipes, and remembering the trauma of eating in the early days, I have come up with a list of ideas for anyone wanting to gift a meal to a new parent.
I’m not joking about the trauma by the way; feeding a newborn at mealtime—and my babies always needed to be fed at mealtimes, it was a frickin’ gift of theirs—usually involved staring at plates of rapidly cooling food, that required more hands than I had free, to eat.
These ideas are one-hand-friendly and cover the major food groups recommended by experts. Actually, they are just tasty recipes that are designed to be eaten while balancing a saggy newborn, the nutrition is just a bonus.
1. The Stew
The grandpappy of spoon-food is the stew, so my first share is a recipe that’s tasty enough to punch through the haze of near exhaustion.
Asian Beef Shin Stew – A Nigella Lawson Recipe
- 2 onions, peeled, quartered
- 5cm/2in piece fresh root ginger, peeled, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 250ml/9fl oz Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry)
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 litres/3½ pints beef stock, preferably organic
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 3.5kg/7½lb beef shin, on the bone, cut by the butcher into thick slices (or 1kg/2¼lb beef shin off the bone, cut into large cubes)
- 3 carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks
- 4 spring onions, cut into matchsticks
- 1 long red chilli, seeds removed, cut into matchsticks
- 1 long green chilli, seeds removed, cut into matchsticks
- 20g/¾oz bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1 lime, juice only
- 4 tbsp Thai fish sauce
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
- For the beef, blend the onions, ginger, garlic and coriander in a food processor until well combined and finely chopped.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole or oven-proof frying pan and fry the mixture over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until soft and beginning to catch in the pan; this should take about 10 minutes.
- Pour in the Chinese wine (or sherry) and let it bubble up. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, stock, oyster sauce and rice wine vinegar and bring to a boil, then drop in the cinnamon sticks and star anise.
- Add the pieces of beef shin and let everything come up to a bubble again, then clamp on a lid and put into the oven for two hours (or longer if using regular stewing steak).
- Take the casserole carefully out of the oven and, using a slotted spatula, remove the beef to an oven-proof dish. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while you vigorously boil the sauce in the casserole (or pan) on the hob, without a lid, until it has reduced by about half.
- For the salad, combine all the julienned vegetables and the chopped coriander in a bowl.
- For the salad dressing, mix the lime juice, fish sauce and caster sugar in another bowl and dress the vegetables with this.
- To serve, arrange the beef on a serving platter and pour the reduced sauce over the meat. If you are using cubes of stewing steak, rather than slices of shin, you’d probably do better to use a deeper dish. Dress the top of the beef with the hot and sour shredded salad.
2. Healthy Spring Rolls
If you want something a bit easier to hold one handed, Lamb Pastilla look a lot like a Royal Ascot version of the humble spring roll. Made with Filo pastry and baked, these little puppies are big on iron but easy on the frying which is great because nobody needs a lecture on cholesterol from their health visitor.
Fight back against the fog of Baby Brain with Smoked Fish Risotto. The richness of the fish means you can flavour the rice with vodka instead of wine and if, like me, it has been a few months since vodka has passed your lips, I’m sure you’ll be overjoyed at having a guilt free reminder of how you got into your current position.
4. The Healthy Burger
Having spent the best part of a year jumping through culinary hoops, I want a bit of junk food indulgence. If you find the right recipe it becomes easy to turn an indulgence into a health food.
(For 6 Burger Patties)
- 3/4 cup Green lentils – soaked, cooked and drained
- 1 bunch kale – stems removed
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 medium onion – diced
- 1 ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 ½ tsp sambar masala (the recipe called for curry powder)
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder
- 2 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- Salt to taste
- Squeeze of fresh lime juice
- 3/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup almond meal (I found this at Whole Foods)
- Steam the kale. 5-8 minutes. Cool. Squeeze out as much water as you can and set aside. You’d be surprised how much water there is in a bunch of kale. My bunch of kale was reduced to the size of a lime after steaming and squeezing water out.
- Steam the sweet potato for 8-10 minutes till it is tender.
- In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add onion and the spices (garam masala, sambar powder, red chili powder) and cook until onion is translucent.
- Add kale and garlic and cook for 2 mins.
- In a large bowl mash the lentils and sweet potato.
- Add the kale-onion mixture, egg, cilantro, lime juice and salt (to taste).
- Shape into patties (about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter).
- Pan-fry the patties till they brown on each side and transfer to a cookie sheet.
- Stick the patties in a preheated oven at 375F for 15 minutes and you are done.
These sweet potato burgers are actually filling enough to be a meal in themselves but for ease of eating, a few part-baked rolls might make welcome company.
You don’t have to be a new mum to think Breakfast Burritos are an outstanding contribution to the world of convenience food. It’s an entire breakfast. In one hand! That kind of simplistic genius is to be applauded, and then consumed like a rabid wolverine in the thirty seconds before your newborn next fills their nappy.
If you feel inspired to cook for a new mum, I would suggest you Google something sensible like “new foods for mums” to get more ideas, but I’ll be honest, the people who have drawn up those pages seem to think that French trimming a rack of lamb makes it finger food.
Instead, my suggestion is simple: cook anything.
As long as it’s made with love it will feel like a feast to a new parent. Even if you turn up with a round of peanut butter sandwiches, I can guarantee you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Except to a house with nut allergies, then you should probably just bring a pizza.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer/ Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: devinf/Flickr Creative Commons