Friday 6 May 2011

Meals on Wheels - Pay it Forward

One of the things we look at in our NCT antenatal classes is how others can be helpful when you have had a baby.  The first few days are such a crucial time for new parents adjusting to their new roles and typically, all they can deal with is looking after and feeding the baby. Feeding themselves, meal options, cooking, cleaning etc just do not feature in your head space after you have gone through such a life changing experience.  Whilst family and friends are often excited at a new baby’s arrival and eager to see the little bundle of joy, the stress of having people over extinguishes the special time that the parents get to spend together adjusting to their new baby.   New parents generally need family and friends to turn up the door, deliver food and arrange to come back in a week or so when they are more ready to face the world.

Having been in that situation after giving birth, I know the moments that I remember are family and friends (generally fellow parents) who came to the door with freshly home cooked or ready meals for us to eat and just left us to it – Kind of like a meals on wheels service!.  I will always be immensely grateful to those who bought us food when we became new parents.

So now, when people I know give birth, as well as being excited at their new arrival, I am also excited as it means I can get busy in the kitchen cooking meals and preparing a food package for them.  I think of it as a “pay it forward” for the people who have done the same for us.

My signature food package dish is Vegetarian Lasagne, normally closely followed by Quorn Chicken in White Wine Sauce, and Mixed Pepper Quiche (recipes to follow).  I buy foil serving dishes to prepare food in so that people don’t have to worry about returning the dish.

Additionally, on the flip side unless you live in a Disney film, no-one’s life is completely perfect.  Everyone has tough times and times when they need the help of others – even if they don’t want to ask for it.  When we have been ill or going through a tough time, we are so lucky that people have loved and supported us by turning up on the doorstep with food, to show that in the words of Woody from Toy story - “you gotta friend in me!”

Recently, I have found myself cooking meals for not so happy reasons - when people have been ill or need support as they are going through a tough time in their lives.  Cooking in this situation is a real labour of love, as the sentiment of the dish is so sincere, that you want it to be completely perfect.  When people are going through troubled times, an act of kindness to help or cheer up someone can mean the world.  Often,  there is not much you can do to change their situation, but cooking a meal is something you can do to let them know that you really care, make their day a little bit brighter and make meal times one less thing to have to worry about.

So if you know someone who would appreciate a food package, for whatever reason, get in the kitchen, prepare your favourite dish and take it round to them.  If you don’t want to expose yourself as the cook, just leave it at their door with a note “Sent with Love xx”

Recipe for Vegetarian Lasagne
 (Adapted from the Quorn Kitchen)

Olive Oil for cooking
400g Vegetarian Mince
1 Onion, finely chopped,
2 Peppers finely chopped (any colour)
2 Cloves of Garlic
100g Mushrooms – diced
400g Passata
1 Tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp Red Wine
1 Tsp of Tomato Ketchup
1tsp Oregano
1tsp Sage
1tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp sugar
2tbsp Fresh basil leaves, torn
9 Lasagne Sheets (depending on the size of your dish – enough for 3 layers of pasta)

Cheese Sauce
30g Butter
Heaped Tbsp of Plain Flour
300ml Milk (whole or semi skimmed)
100g Grated Cheddar


1)      Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic on a low-medium heat for 5 minutes until soft
2)      Add the pepper and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes
3)      Stir in the Mince – you may need to add a little more oil at this point to coat the mince evenly. 
4)      Fry for a couple of minutes with the vegetables, stirring well.
5)      Add the passata, tomatoes, wine, ketchup, sugar, oregano, sage and mustard seeds.  Stir well until combined and then simmer for about fifteen minutes.
6)      Season to taste and Stir in the basil.  Heat for a further 2-3 minutes and then remove from heat.
7)      If I am making the dish to give to someone else, at this point I typically leave the mince to cool so that it assembles well with the cheese sauce.  
8)      Make the cheese sauce (either whilst the mince is cooking or once it has cooled).  Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.  Gradually add the flour and stir slowly until mixed in.
9)       Add the milk gradually, stirring continuously to avoid lumps until it thickens.
10)   Stir in half to three quarters of the grated cheese, reserving the rest to decorate.
11)   Assemble your dish – lightly grease and then completely cover the bottom of the dish with the lasagne sheets.  Add half of the mince over the lasagne sheets and then repeat with the cheese sauce.  Add another layer of Lasagne 
12)   Add the remainder of the cheese sauce.  Scatter the rest of the cheese liberally over the dish (you may want to add extra).
13)   Either bake in the oven at 200 degrees/Gas Mark 6 for about 25 minutes, or cover and chill/freeze until the lasagne is ready to be delivered to your chosen location.
14)   When heating from chilled allow 30 minutes and from frozen around 40-45 minutes at 200 degrees/Gas Mark 6

1 comment :

  1. Yes, I remember after my Mum died (Dad had died earlier that year) our Pakistani neighbours brought my new husband and I dinner for quite a few nights. It nearly burned his mouth off, but we still remain touched by their actions, which are far more common in their culture than ours.



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