Simple Lentil Dal

lentilescorail

I could live off Dal (I think quite alot of people do in India !)…  Isn’t it wonderful when “healthy” also falls under the heading of “comfort food” ?

Dal (daal, dhal etc.) is a broad term that refers to legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) that are cooked and spiced.  I’m sure there are an infinite number of recipes for Dal though one of its endearing qualities is the lack of need for a recipe.  Get the water to lentil ratio about right and play with it from there.  One of my favourites is this base, made with red (actually orange, go figure ;)) lentils.  PS :  red lentils are a great source of iron ….

lentillesred

The most exciting bit of this dish lies just before serving. . . TEMPERED OIL. Once you try tempering spices in oil, you’ll be flavouring all of your curries this way….

ghee8

Oil, or even better Ghee is heated, spices are added and the whole sizzling lot is poured into your finished dish.  Total transformation, trust me 🙂

Dal

Simple Lentil Dal

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup (200 g) red lentils (picked over if needed, and rinsed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 cups (235 ml) water

Tempering Oil

  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons oil or Ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (lightly crushed in a mortar & pestle)
  • Finish the dish with the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime if you like

Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water.  Bring to a boil and skim the foam that rises.  Simmer, covered on a low heat until the lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so.  Add more water if necessary and taste for salt.  Some like their Dal thick some like it soupy, its up to you.

For the tempering oil, combine the oil, coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a small pan and heat over a moderate heat, stirring until they colour slightly (1 minute).  Add the chilies and cook, stirring for another 30 seconds.  CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE SPICES.  Pour the oil and spices into the Dal, add the lemon or lime juice if using  and simmer for another 5 minutes before serving.  Serve on its own, with rice or Naan bread, or as part of a curry feast.

Bon appétit !

Some yummy variations to play with:

  • Before adding the lentils, fry a grated onion until soft adding chopped ginger and garlic just before the lentils and water go in.
  • Add a chopped fresh tomato just before the lentils are done.
  • Replace half the water with coconut milk.
  • Top with fresh coriander (cilantro).
  • Play around with other spices, either added with onion at the beginning or in the tempering oil; cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, garam masala, black mustard seeds, curry leaves etc…
  • Top the dish with crispy fried onions or leeks just before serving.
Advertisements

Garlic Confit

ail-confit

I suffer when garlic season gets to the point where the cloves become soft, dry and past their prime.  The green shoot in the middle changes the taste. . .   I love young garlic, or even “young-ish” garlic.  Since coming to live in France, I have never eaten so much garlic.  Our family of four easily get through 2 heads per week.

ail

In the spring I wait impatiently for the first fresh new garlic on market stalls.  Then the garlic party starts and we eat masses of it until its gone until the following year.  This is my favourite way to preserve garlic. This couldn’t be easier ! I may be addicted to this stuff.

I also freeze a bag of peeled cloves to use during the “down time”.  They can be grated (using my handy microplane) straight from frozen.  The fresh skins and stalks of new garlic can be kept in the freezer as well to pop into meat stocks.

ail2

Peel one or two heads of garlic and place the cloves in a heavy bottomed pan.  Cover them with olive oil and slowly heat the oil.  Cook on a very very low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are knife tender.  Leave to cool, pour into a clean glass jar and store for several weeks in the fridge.  Make sure that the garlic is always covered with oil.  Don’t forget to use the oil for cooking when the cloves are all used up  🙂

A few ways to use your garlic confit (though you will easily find ways to use it !) :

  • spread the cloves on toasted bread and sprinkle with salt flakes and/or chili flakes
  • toss the cloves and some of their oil through pasta
  • mixed in with roasted vegetables
  • blended into a home made mayonnaise (very delicious)
  • spread over a piece of fish or meat
  • flavour soups, sauces, dressings and dips

ailconfit1

Solar oven notes: We do this in our solar oven whenever the sun is out and we have nothing else to cook.  Almost fill a jam jar with garlic and pour over enough olive oil to cover the cloves.  Place, uncovered in your solar oven just until some of the cloves start to rise to the top or they are knife tender.  This could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.  When I do this in the solar oven their is a thin film of yummy stickiness that forms on the surface and sticks to the sides of the jar.  My husband calls this “caramel d’ail” or garlic caramel 😉

 

Preserving Chili peppers – 3 ways

carribeansauce.JPG

Its the long awaited chili season so out come my three (or four) ways to preserve them.

jalepenosauce.JPG

 After over-wintering a few of my chili plants in the greenhouse, the Jalapenos are ready first. So the Caribbean Sauce is first in line.  Its pretty tasty this year.  I never use the same amount of each herb, so its never quite the same.

jalapeno.JPG

 

Next up is chili jam but my “sunburst” chili’s are still green.

chilisunburst.JPG

GOOD food from the good life . . .

chilis

Actually “4 ways” !  One of my favourite things to do with my garden Chili peppers is to make Chili Butter.  My Chili Butter is a sound favourite in this house, especially when spread on toast and topped with a boiled egg for breakfast.

Rural France = no fresh chili peppers for sale !  This has led me to grow them myself and to be creative and find ways to preserve that addictive heat to get me through until the next Chili season . . .   This years harvest includes Jalapeños and Calabrese peppers.

chili

In chili season I pick a few and finely chop them (followed by thorough washing of my hands) to have them freshly chopped, ready to use in the fridge.  Next step is to preserve the bounty !

ChilisaucesI have added 3 new additions to my “preserved chili pepper” larder this year.  Chili Jam which is…

View original post 113 more words

Crispy Cauliflower

choufleur1

Following at a close second to Kale as the “wonder vegetable” of the moment, cauliflower is being used in ways unheard of before.  I’m  not a fan of ALL of these new ideas.  A notable failure was Cauliflower “bread sticks” or pizza base !  NO !    Maybe if you haven’t eaten bread in a while or for those who are truly gluten intolerant (ie have Celiac Disease), but this is not better than real bread .   Cauliflower Fried “Rice” is another that I’m not a huge fan of.  Its nice, but lets not call it . . . rice 😦

choufleur

So back to the basics with good old cauliflower, which I do love !  The kids fight over this.  So so easy to make and great as a side dish to many things or eaten on its own as snacks with drinks.  Its also nice, if cut smallish, to sprinkle on top of soup for a lovely texture.

choufleur2

I usually make this with “Indian” spices, but it would be just as nice with simpler flavorings such as dried oregano and chili flakes.  Make it Middle Eastern with sumac and allspice.

Today’s crispy cauliflower was served with Pea and Paneer Curry with home made paneer, Brown Rice (for feeling a bit virtuous 😉 ) and a selection of home made chili sauces.  Sooooo good on a drizzly winter day.

choufleur3

I used the first spice mix for this recipe.

Crispy Cauliflower

  • 1 cauliflower (as much as will fit into your pan without over crowding)
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Seasonings of your choice (feel free to make up your own versions):

  • A good sprinkle of turmeric, black mustard seeds, chili flakes and garam masala
  • Dried oregano and smoked paprika and feta when it come out of the oven
  • A good sprinkle of ground sumac and ground allspice
  • A good sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander with black onion seeds
  • A bit of lime juice at the end would be nice

Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F)

Cut the cauliflower into smallish pieces (size of your thumb) and put into a roasting tin.  It’s important to not pile them up (or they will steam instead of go crispy), try to keep spread out evenly.  Add your chosen spices and your olive oil and toss.

In the oven they go for around 30 minutes, stirring halfway or until crisped to your liking.

TIP:  If you want to serve this as finger food with drinks, don’t use too much stalk (keep them for making soup !).

Bon appetit !

 

Harissa

harissa4

30°C  in the shade. . . mid-November !  Nice, worrying maybe and great for this years chili harvest 🙂

I thought I had come to the end of transforming my gardens Calabrese (below) and Jalapeños with 3 different chili sauces when my friend Carol Reid strikes again by giving me a mountain of chili peppers and “vague” instructions on making HARISSA.  Harissa is a common spicy condiment used in North Africa.

peppercalabreses

We had conducted a very intense Harissa tasting at Carol’s house (yellow, red and green versions) and Sylvain (though head about to explode) was convinced that we needed this in our own fridge ….

So armed with wine (naturel si vous plaît) induced discussions around the table, I had enough information to make my own version which turned out fantastic and just beautiful to look at.

harissa1

To keeping with the vagueness of Carol’s recipe, I just sort of winged my version as well 😉  Here it is:

Filled up my blender jug about half way with partially seeded Calabrese Chili Peppers.  Added a very good glug of lovely Olive Oil, about 2 teaspoons of sea salt, a rounded teaspoon of both toasted and ground coriander and cumin seeds and a handful of fresh coriander leaves and stems.

Blend away and pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge.  Apparently keeps for months ! (not quite months, see update below)

harissa2

harissa3

We should be able to keep warm through winter now 😉

UPDATE:  Well maybe not through the “entire” winter as this sauce kept for only about a month in my fridge….  So make in small batches and eat it on everything 😉

Bon appetît !

Preserving Chili peppers – 3 ways

chilis

Actually “4 ways” !  One of my favourite things to do with my garden Chili peppers is to make Chili Butter.  My Chili Butter is a sound favourite in this house, especially when spread on toast and topped with a boiled egg for breakfast.

Rural France = no fresh chili peppers for sale !  This has led me to grow them myself and to be creative and find ways to preserve that addictive heat to get me through until the next Chili season . . .   This years harvest includes Jalapeños and Calabrese peppers.

chili

In chili season I pick a few and finely chop them (followed by thorough washing of my hands) to have them freshly chopped, ready to use in the fridge.  Next step is to preserve the bounty !

ChilisaucesI have added 3 new additions to my “preserved chili pepper” larder this year.  Chili Jam which is sweet with a fairly mild heat, a Caribbean Chili & Herb sauce  which tastes like Jamaica to me and makes me want to make Jerk Chicken with Rice & Beans !  The third sauce, and the fiercest, is a Trinidadian Hot Sauce which is not for the faint hearted !

All three sauces should keep many months in the fridge . . .   My first batch of Chili Jam was made 3 months ago and has not moved a muscle in the direction of going “off”.  It is gorgeous served alongside these “Thai” Green Bean Fritters !

Et voila !  Here are the recipes (in order of FIRE power) :

Chili Jam

Makes approx. 1 jam jar

  • 300g ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 large red chilies (or more if small), seeds in if you want the heat
  • 3 cm chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 150g organic sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 5 Tablespoons cider vinegar

Blend half the tomatoes with the garlic, chilies and ginger in a food processor or with a stick blender.  Pour into a heavy based saucepan.  Add the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar, bring to the boil, stirring slowly then reduce to a simmer.

Dice the remaining tomatoes (to leave some texture in the finished sauce) and add them to the pan.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring from time to time.  The mixture with go darker and sticky.

Pour into a hot sterilized jar and seal !  Once cool, store in the fridge and enjoy 🙂

**adapted from Sarah Raven’s Food for friends and family

Caribbean Seasoning Sauce

This is a delicious RAW sauce that oooozes flavours of the Caribbean.  The amount of FRESH herbs here sound pretty immense but that is where the flavour comes from !  Don’t worry about using “exact” amounts.

  • 4 cups basil leaves
  • 1 cup oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup chives
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 large onion
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 3 Jalapeños (seeds in if you want the heat)
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt

All ingredients in the blender and whizz until smooth.  Pour into clean jars and store in the fridge for at least 3 months.

**adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Cookbook 

Trinidadian Chili Sauce

This sauce is pretty HOT HOT for my taste so beware 😉

Makes about 250ml

  • 115g fresh hot chilis (with or without seeds to taste)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 5 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1 rounded teaspoon organic sugar (or palm sugar)

Place all ingredients into a blender and whizz until nice and smooth.  Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer very gently, stirring for 3 – 4 minutes.  Take of heat and allow to cool before pouring into clean jars.  Stored in the fridge this sauce should last for months.

**adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Cookbook

Bon Appetît !

Sun cooked rice

ricesolar

I left my husband at home alone with no children for 3 weeks this summer (doesn’t that sound great ?) and he said he was going to “rough it” and only cook using the solar oven.  No sun?  Raw food diet !  Well it was a heat wave most of the time we were gone, so the raw food was not on the menu as often as he had hoped.

He did get inventive with the solar oven though….  From heating water for his morning tea to making . . . RICE !

I didn’t believe that the rice was not “over cooked” so he made us a batch the other day.  The most exciting part is that the little rice grains “stand up” to the sun like little soldiers 😉

He was right, I was wrong….  AGAIN and the rice was perfectly cooked !

1 part rice to 2 parts water directly into the solar oven without pre-heating.  How long?  “depends” is his answer… at least an hour, maybe more !

Bon appetît !