Mushroom, spinach and lentil daal

Is there a correct way to spell this dish: daal, dahl, or dal?

I love daal. Or dahl. It’s so soul-satisfyingly hearty, in any weather, that I’m finding that I just can’t get enough. I’ve tried several variations, and my favourite as of yet is this sweet potato and red lentil variety, by BBC GoodFood. The two of them – sweet potato and lentils – soften to become what I can only describe as glorious orange mush, but it’s so delicious that the aesthetic matters not one jot. GoodFood accompany it with curried vegetables, which is a nice addition, and makes for a very healthy and filling meal. I’d recommend giving it a go.

In my opinion, though, daal is best when cooked in coconut milk. It adds another few fathoms of depth to the dish, which cooking in stock or water doesn’t quite match. On my quest for the perfect daal, I want to see if anything can match sweet potato as the perfect partner to the lentils – and mushrooms have come close to matching it.

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This recipe uses this one from Annie’s Kitchen as its base, and curiously, she spells it ‘dal’. Is there any end to this confusion?

You’ll need:

  • 100g mung lentils – which I didn’t use: I went for 200g red lentils, for two portions.
  • half a red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one green chilli
  • a small knob of ginger (this and the chilli wasn’t called for, but I love spice, and ginger is never a bad addition)
  • six chestnut mushrooms
  • three-quarters of a bag of spinach
  • half a tin of coconut milk (I froze the remainder in a freezer bag)
  • two pinches of vegetable stock
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a tsp cumin seeds
  • a tsp fennel seeds
  • a tsp mustard seeds
  • naan breads
  • salt and pepper

Start by finely chopping the onion, garlic, and chilli. Using a knife, carefully cut off the outside layer of the ginger, and chop.

In a dry frying pan, toast the spices over a low heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Take the pan off the heat before they fly all over the walls. Put the spices into a mortar and grind (or use the end of your chopping knife in a hummous pot, like I did.) The aromas released small fantastic.

In a saucepan, heat a glug of olive oil and fry the onion and garlic over a low heat, for around five minutes. In the meantime, slice the mushrooms, weigh out the lentils, and boil the kettle. Then add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk with the spices and lentils. Add the vegetable stock powder, and top with boiling water: incorporate well, making sure to break down any clumps of coconut. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for half an hour, or until the lentils are mushy. You’ll most likely need to top up the pan with water, and stir to prevent the daal from sticking.

When the daal is done, begin wilting in handfuls of spinach at a time. Put the naan bread in the oven for five minutes to warm up, or until slightly toasted around the edges. Finally, squeeze in the lemon juice, season well, and stir again before serving.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Avocado and sweetcorn quinoa salad

In the midst of exam season, food is one of the only things which keeps me sane. Taking time out to cook a decent meal after a day of revision is therapy to an over-saturated mind, and really helps me to shake off some of the stress. Bulk-cooking ensures I’m not eating beans on toast when I come home, too tired to do anything else.

Thankfully, the worst of my exams are now over, and I’ve been enjoying some well-deserved downtime: cooking, going for coffee and cake, eating out. Also, I can get back to blogging without feeling as though I’m committing some kind of sacrilege against my degree.

So I thought I’d share one of my favourite salads, one of many lunches eaten at a desk in a crowded library, or outside for ten minutes of snatched sunlight. I’ve tried many combinations of veggies, and have managed to isolate a few which really work. Avocado and sweetcorn is one: the former is a good source of fat to fill me up for longer, and the sweetness of the corn compliments the balsamic vinegar very well.

In general, I eat every weekday lunch at uni, so every night I pre-prepare something to eat to take with me the next day. Although food outlets on campus aren’t too bad, there’s no way I can afford to buy food everyday: spending £3 on a reasonable meal would equate to £15 per week – over a ten-week term, that’s £150, guys.

So it’s become part of my evening ritual to throw together a sandwich or a salad ready to put in my bag the next day. Quinoa and couscous are gloriously versatile as the basis of salads – they’re easy to cook, and go well with just about anything. (I used to hate quinoa, until I realised that eating it cooked simply in water was doing it no favours. Simmering it in vegetable stock is a good way to go, or letting it absorb the flavours of salad dressings. With couscous, you can pour boiling water over the top, cover, and leave to stand for a few minutes, before fluffing it up and seasoning it well.)

For the salad, all you’ll need is:

  • quinoa / couscous
  • half an avocado
  • a few tablespoonfuls of sweetcorn
  • salad leaves (ideally, rocket or another peppery leaf)
  • red onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

 

If you prefer quinoa, simmer for ten minutes on a low heat. I tend to go for half a mugful. Once it’s absorbed all the water and is fluffy,  add a good squeeze of lemon, season, and mix. If you prefer to cook it in vegetable stock, go for it.

Simply chop the avocado into rough chunks (if you’re keeping the other half in the fridge, add a few drops of lemon to stop it going brown). Cook the sweetcorn in the microwave or in a pan, drain, and add to the pan – or heap everything straight into a container. Chop or tear your salad leaves, along with a quarter of a sliced red or spring onion. Drizzle with olive oil, dress with plenty of balsamic vinegar, and season. Incorporate everything, pop the lid on the container and shake it round, round, and all around.

Place in the fridge until it’s needed – and voila. An easy, healthy, and tasty lunch, with no hefty price tag.