07 July 2014

Masoor dal, yellow pepper & coriander puree (baby food that the grown ups will be fighting for!)

So I've become one of THOSE bloggers. The type who posts rarely during pregnancy and then virtually abandons her blog post-baby. In case anyone still follows me, you'll note that the last and only time that I posted anything since the birth of our baby prince (8 1/2 months ago...where has the time gone?!?!?) was on January 1. More than six months ago. I don't make any excuses for the silence, because I imagine (or rather hope) that you all understand that I've been quite occupied with the little one (whose name is Rohan), as well as work which I returned to at the beginning of March. However since he started sleeping through the night starting in the middle of May (woooohooooo!), freeing up my evenings, I've been telling myself that it's high time to resurrect the blog. So here goes (though I won't promise quite yet to post with any real regularity)...

Before turning to the recipe at hand, let me tell you that motherhood is all that people say it is and more! An exhilarating, life-changing experience. One that you have to experience to understand (and I'm only at the beginning of the adventure!). It brings you to new levels of feelings and emotions that you didn't even know existed before - unadulterated joy, neurotic worry, unbridled wonder, hope for the future. Among the many things that being a mom has taught me so far...
  • I am stronger than I ever knew. I didn't think I could do it until I did, but I ACTUALLY pushed a little human out of me. And I had a natural, totally unmedicated birth, much to my amazement and shock. I don't think I've fully processed it in my mind even all these months later, but yes. I'm a ROCK STAR!  
  • Those initial weeks of motherhood were damn hard. The soreness, the exhaustion, the endless breastfeeding, the hormones, not being able to leave the house, the feeling that your entire world has been turned upside down...it's so very intense! Everyone kept saying that that phase would not last long, and even though it didn't seem that way when we were in the throes of it, indeed it was just a heartbeat of time. We made it through that difficult first month, then the first 3 months, then...well you get it...
  • Nothing is really that gross. Newborn diaper blowouts, projectile vomit, being peed on. No.big.deal.
  • Babies change and grow so fast. I now find myself looking back at Rohan's newborn photos and videos and thinking how different he is now. And part of me feels all nostalgic and misses those early days.
  • There's nothing sweeter in the world than our little boy's smiles. Especially now that he has his two little bottom teeth. His giggles and look of triumph when he masters a new skill come pretty close though.
  • It is possible for a natural night owl such as myself to become a morning person. It was tough at first, but now I actually enjoy it. When you start the day with the smiles and giggles noted above, you actually begin to look forward to those pre-dawn wake-up calls. A nice, big latte helps too ;-)

Another thing I've learned? I absolutely adore making Rohan's food! He started solid food at 6 months (avocado mixed with a little breast milk was his first food, which he gobbled up), and I absolutely adore discovering new baby food recipes, concocting my own creations and seeing how he reacts to them. Except for during travel, we've managed to avoid commercial baby food. Why bother when it's so easy to make your own (just set aside an hour or so a week to make up big batches of stuff which you can freeze and store for later), and also when you live in a place like Thailand with such amazing fruits and veggies!

There is something immensely satisfying in knowing that your baby has enjoyed something you made yourself, meaning you control all the ingredients and cooking process. We do a mix of purees and baby-led weaning (BLW), and I'm happy to note that Rohan: 1) has quite the appetite, 2) has already gotten quite adept at feeding himself, thanks to the BLW approach and 3) is quite open-minded about food and seems to enjoy most things (here's hoping he stays this way!). Among his favorites: mango, banana, green peas, cheese, carrots, Greek yogurt, baby pancakes & French toast, mangosteen, baby mac & cheese and dal (lentils).

Though I'm not hung up on him being vegetarian, the latter (dal) is a great source of plant-based protein and iron, which are of course very important for a growing infant. Thus dal (often mixed with rice) is a very typical Indian baby food. Because iron is best absorbed when you combine it with foods rich in vitamin C, I came up with this Indian-style puree which combines split red lentils (known as masoor dal) with vitamin C-packed yellow bell pepper (it's good with red bell pepper as well, though we prefer yellow). Masoor dal cooks quickly, meaning no need to soak or cook for a long time. For an extra Indian touch, I cooked the dal with a pinch of hing (asafoetida) and turmeric, the former of which is supposed to combat gas. Between that, the fresh coriander and the cumin powder I added just before pureeing the mix, this was technically Rohan's first exposure to spice! Needless to say that this was a proud moment for this spice mistress!

And I'm happy to report that he gobbled it right up, and in fact it was so good that I've decided that this is excellent adult food too! It would make a great accompaniment to any kind of Indian kebab (think paneer tikka masala on skewers plated on top of some of this puree). With some toasted pita bread or crackers, it would also make a great dip! You shouldn't add salt if you're making this for your baby, but feel free to do so (as well as adding some chili if you wish) for an adult version. And also please note that since dal, onions and spice can cause gas, it's best to serve this to a baby who's already established on solid food (meaning probably 8 months +).

Stay tuned for more baby food (and adult food) recipes coming soon!

Makes 2-3 baby servings

1/4 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped bell pepper (I prefer yellow)
1/8 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
Pinch each of hing (asafoetida) and turmeric
Salt (optional - omit if making for baby)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
Pinch of toasted cumin powder
Butter or ghee (clarified butter), for serving

1. Wash and drain the lentils three times, or until the water runs clear (be sure to use filtered or mineral water if cooking for baby). Technically you don't need this step, but I wanted to get my lentils nice and clean and also help the cooking process.

2. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil. Add the bell pepper and onion and saute until the onion is translucent (but not brown).

3. Add the drained lentils, water, hing, turmeric and salt (if using). Mix well and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils get nice and soft (mushy, if you're making for baby). Depending on the strength of your stove/flame, you may have to add a bit more water. Add coriander towards the end of the cooking process. The process should take about 10-15 minutes.

5. Depending on the consistency you want, either drain the lentil mixture totally or keep a bit of water in it. Add a pinch of cumin powder and puree in a food processor or Baby Bullet until you get a puree or mash, as per your preference.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature, with some melted butter or ghee swirled in for extra taste.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this post about how you have fallen in love with your little baby and how much you enjoy taking care of him. Your precious little son has very good taste and loves the food you make for him. I also hope that he will continue to readily taste and love new food. I wish you more and more happy cooking for your little prince! - Mom