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Creamy lentils

Lentils are a great food. Full of protein and fibre, cheap and easy to cook. Puree them for your baby, keep them whole for your toddler, feed them to your whole family. They’re also low in calories so a great meal to fill a mummy up if she’s trying to lose her baby weight.

Red lentils break down more than other types when they cook, so they’re perfect for our little ones. They’re great too if you want to make a thick soup. The following recipe would also work really well as a soup. If after pureeing it’s too thick, add a little stock. And it’s easy to add some chopped vegetables like carrots, leeks, celery, etc.

A little while ago I came across a mummy blogger who freezes cooked lentils. Her favourite thing to do is add the frozen lentils to cooking rice. I haven’t tried this, but it’s a good way to add some extra protein to a meal.

My creamy lentils uses the tomato pasta sauce I often make for Nicholas and always have in the freezer. You could use some chopped tomatoes or some tomato puree instead. Add chopped tomato (chopped as small as you can) after you’ve drained the cooked lentils and cook them over a low heat for a couple of minutes to break the tomatoes down.

CREAMY LENTILS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes about 4 toddler servings
Freezable

1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 shallot, finely diced
7 tbsp homemade tomato sauce
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Put the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Drain off the excess liquid.

While the lentils are cooking, put the shallot in a small microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water and cook on medium in the microwave for 2 minutes. Drain.

When the lentils are cooked and drained, add the shallot, tomato sauce and oregano and mix well.

If serving to a baby or as soup, puree the mixture until smooth.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top if desired.

Variations:

  • use onion intead of shallot
  • add a little garlic
  • add chopped vegetables to cook with the lentils (such as carrots, leeks, celery)
  • use tomato puree or chopped tomatoes instead of the homemade tomato sauce

Other uses:

  • add to other soups or stews
  • add to cooked rice
  • serve as a side dish to meat or fish
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Tomato pasta sauce

I have to start my blog with Nicholas’ favourite meal – pasta in a tomato sauce. He eats it a lot for lunch and I think he’d happily eat it day after day after day. It never fails. It’s quick and easy and very versatile. You can use the tomato sauce with rice, cous cous, lentils, add vegetables, add meat. It’s one of the things I most like to have in the freezer because it can turn some mundane ingredients into something much more interesting.

Although I use a little olive oil in Nicholas’ food now that he’s had his first birthday, when he started eating I wanted to feed him as naturally as possible and so avoided oil, salt and sugar. I started using my microwave a lot more to steam vegetables rather than boiling lots of the nutrients away in a saucepan. I worked out an easy way to cook onion in the microwave and I’ve continued using the method because I don’t have to stand over a pot stirring and making sure I don’t burn the pieces (I very rarely manage not to have some degree of ‘caramelisation’ while attempting to soften onions over the stove!).

I chop the onion finely, simply so it cooks quicker in the microwave. You don’t have to worry about chopping the tomatoes and basil very small because the sauce is blended in a food processor after it’s cooked. By blending it you also don’t need to worry about big pieces of tomato skin as they’ll be broken up.

Nicholas

TOMATO PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 – 20 mins
Makes about 400 ml
Freezable

1/4 onion, finely diced or grated
3 tbsp water
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Approx. 5 large basil leaves, roughly torn or chopped

Put the finely diced onion and water in a small microwave-safe bowl and cook on medium for 2 mins until the onion is transparent.

Transfer the onion and cooking water to a small saucepan and add the tomatoes (and a pinch of salt if you want).

Cook over a medium-low heat (a light bubbling boil) for approx. 10 mins or until the tomatoes have softened. If it’s looking a bit dry, add more water; if you don’t think the sauce is thick enough, cook it for longer to reduce it.

Turn off the heat, leaving the saucepan on the stove, and add the basil. Leaving it to cool for a few minutes allows the basil to infuse the sauce.

Blend the sauce in a small food processor until the tomato skins and basil have broken up into small pieces. Add to pasta with or without a drizzle of olive oil and with or without some grated cheese.

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Yum! And yes, we were having a bit of a bad hair day!

Variations:

  • use red onion or shallots for a lighter and sweeter oniony flavour
  • use dried oregano or dried basil
  • add some salt for an adult pasta sauce

Other uses:

  • eat with rice or couscous or lentils
  • use as the base of a casserole

How else would you use this sauce?