What to take when you visit a new mum

So your friend has had a baby. You’re heading over for newborn snuggles. You have the cutest baby-gro ever for the new arrival. But what do you take for mum?

Food! Food is the correct answer. But you need to take HELPFUL food. Whenever I see this discussed on parenting forums, people suggest cottage pie. Which is nice, except then your friend has a bloody great cottage pie taking up room in their fridge, which they have to eat for three days until they’re sick of it.

What your friend really wants is small portions of food they can freeze and then use to build bigger meals. Food that is simple to make, tastes nice and is nourishing.

Two dear friends have had babies this year. One is a first time mum, so it’s all new to her; the other has a two year old so needs to feed child 1 easily, as well as look after child 2. So I took a few portions of my easy microwave cheese sauce and a few portions of my hidden veg pasta sauce to them both.

The cheese sauce can be used for macaroni cheese (pour over cooked pasta, bake, serve with salad) or as a gratin sauce (pour over cooked cauliflower and broccoli, bake, serve alongside minute steak or sausages).  The pasta sauce can go straight over pasta, be added to mince to make a bolognese of sorts, or spread on pizza bases.

Here are some ideas for other meal bases you could take. Marinate or part cook at home, then freeze, ready for your poor, tired new mum friend to just defrost and go.

  • Marinated chicken thighs. Defrost, bake, serve with rice or potatoes and frozen veg. I love BBQ chicken thighs
  • A vegetable soup base of roasted veg, cream and stock. Defrost, heat, blend
  • Generic mince, onion and tomato mix. Defrost and eat as is over baked potatoes; add beans and spices to make this into chilli; or add carrot, celery, a bay leaf and seasoning to make bolognese
  • Pie filling of cooked chicken or beef, with appropriate cooked veg plus a gravy. Defrost, top with a puff pastry lid and serve. Here’s my lazy chicken  pie recipe
  • Asian-style marinated prawns, beef or chicken strips. Defrost and stir fry quickly with a mix of green Asian veg
  • Sausage roll filling. Defrost, roll in puff pastry, bake. Try my veggie version
  • Burgers. Defrost, fry, put in bun with cheese and salad. I like the bean burger recipe here
  • Meatballs, Defrost, bake, serve with mashed potatoes or with pasta and tomato sauce. Try a turkey version

And don’t forget, while you’re visiting, make your own tea, do the washing up and fold any clean laundry you see sitting about.

What did friends and family do to help you when you had a newborn?

Hidden veg pasta sauce 

I freely admit that this is nothing new. There are hundred of recipes for hidden vegetable pasta sauce.

And that is because it works. You can hide a load of vegetables in a pasta sauce and feed it to your fussy eater and they will wolf it down and bang the plate on the table for more. Because every toddler likes pasta. And no toddler cares about the vegetables they can’t see.

So here you go: my completely unoriginal and completely successful hidden vegetable pasta sauce.

What you need

A mix of veg
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Seasoning
Stock
Pasta

What you do

  • Finely dice your veg. I used onion, celery, peppers, mushrooms, courgette and fresh tomatoes.
  • Heat some olive oil. If your kids will eat garlic, add some of that and cook off, then add all the chopped veg and cook gently over a low heat until soft
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and just enough stock to cover
  • Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens then season
  • Meanwhile, cook your pasta
  • Take a hand blender and smoosh the sauce up. How liquid you go depends on your child – you may skip this step all together. I left some lumps but blended it enough so the veg weren’t easily identifiable.
  • Serve the sauce over fresh pasta, with grated cheese if you like.

This sauce freezes well. You can also add mince to this, or ham or chicken.