A friend of mine had a little boy just a over two weeks ago now – a beautiful little chicken of a baby, with soft cheeks, delicate fingers and the requisite new-baby smell. He is definitely a sight to behold, with his miniature yawns and peach-fuzz hair. Regardless of a few nicks from his sharp newborn nails – and a few surprise vibrations from his diaper – he charmed me through and through, in that way that babies are preternaturally good at, without even trying.
With the mini baby boom happening in my circle of friends right now, the one thing I’ve come to understand is just how precious the resources of time and energy are to new moms and dads. Squeezing in a shower or running an errand are rare opportunities that are seized with an acute sense appreciation, if not urgency. Other activities, namely, making a full meal, are easily relegated to the back-burner (sorry for the pun). I’ve heard that a banana and a box of crackers will suffice when you’ve been on four-hour sleep cycles – at best! – and have a little person who needs you in a way that no one else has before.
Knowing that my friend and her husband were busy acclimatising to their new unit of three (diapers, feedings, and all the rest of it), I thought I should come equipped with couple of homemade treats – things that could be frozen or eaten as-is, without any prep, aside from a quick re-heating. In fact, it’s also the kind of food any non-parent would want in the fridge or freezer on those frantically busy days when they don’t have one more ounce to give.
Parent or non-parent, this soup and this cake are my virtual gifts to you. Enjoy xx
Turkish Lentil Soup – makes 4-6 servings
- 225 grams red lentils (approx 1 1/8 cups)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock (plus 1-2 cups more, as needed)
- 1 small piece ginger, grated
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1-2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Fresh mint (or cilantro) and lemon to serve
- Salt and pepper
1) Set the vegetable stock in a pot on medium heat to warm up.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large pot, and sauté the vegetables with the garlic cloves, for about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, spices and grated ginger, and cook for a few more minutes. Add lentils, washed and drained, and cover with hot vegetable stock.
3) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for about 30 or 40 minutes, until the lentils begin to fall apart. Add more stock if they look a bit dry (just remember it should be a soup-like consistency). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
4) Set aside two or three ladles of soup, and puree the rest in a blender (optional).
5) Serve with chopped fresh mint (or cilantro) and lemon juice. Do not skip this – it’s what makes all the difference!
Date-Walnut Banana Cake with Coconut
Lightly adapted from Lunch Lady’s Black Gold Banana Cake
Makes one 9x5x3″ loaf
- 4 medium overripe bananas
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup white +1/2 cup whole-wheat)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup raw caster sugar
- 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup Medjool dates, chopped
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1) Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2) Place the overripe bananas into a mixing bowl and beat until puréed. Add the vanilla, coconut oil, and sugar, and beat again until combined.
3) Fold in the flour, raising agents, salt, and walnuts until thoroughly combined.
4) Fold in the chopped Medjool dates and shredded coconut; pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with parchment paper.
5) Bake for 45 mins to an hour, or until skewer comes out clean, cool on wire rack.