My son, Russell, turned two on April 3rd, 2013 and long before that date I already had his birthday menu all planned out. I knew I wanted him to have a home cooked birthday dinner because at his age, he doesn’t have a favourite restaurant (perhaps we don’t take him out often enough?) and to be honest, going out for dinner with two young kids in tow when it’s so cold outside is just such a dampener.
I’m usually not all that efficient of a mom but as my son absolutely loves meatballs, it’s quite a no brainer for me when it comes to devising his birthday menu. The only two possible foods vying for top spot on his list of Favourite Mommy Approved Things To Eat are plain yogurt and salmon. Since I don’t cook red meat often (and since my son eats plain yogurt everyday and roast salmon once a week), I decided that it has got to be meatballs for his special birthday treat.
My go to recipe for meatballs is the one by Nigella Lawson, found in her book, Feast. I’m not sure what it is about that recipe but it produces a tender and flavourful meatball every time. I like to pan fry my meatballs instead of cooking them in a tomato sauce so they can develop a delicious brown crusty exterior. And a huge plus about this cooking method is that eating meatballs becomes an almost mess-free endeavor for Russell. No red sauce smooshed all over his arms, hair, cheeks, high chair, floor and clothes. No clean up nightmare for mommy and daddy. All is good.
I rounded out the meal with sides of baguette (bread – another favourite of Russell’s), sautéed green beans and a spiced tomato sauce (inspired by one that is found in the Ottolenghi Cookbook) as a dip for the meatballs. For my vegetarian daughter, I made Puy lentils as her main and dressed them with the spiced tomato sauce. Mmmmm, I have to add that everyone was pretty pleased with their meal.
And for the main event – the Birthday Cake – I made a banana cake (Dorie Greenspan’s super duper awesome Classic Banana Bundt Cake recipe from Baking: From My Home To Yours) that I baked into two 9-inch layers and sandwiched them together with a chocolate sour cream frosting (I used my favourite recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake). Chocolate frosting on banana cake? It can only be pure nirvana. The half portion you see in the picture is what’s left on the second day after servicing the greed of two adults and two toddlers.