Finally… Can you smell it? Spring! I am so excited for warmer weather and brighter days. The fact the days are longer now, after the clock’s recent change has helped my mood a lot. The other weekend I got inspired and cleared out a space for some vegetable growing, and then the following day (in the pouring rain) I drove to town to buy some timber to make a raised bed.
This will be my fourth year of growing vegetables. I decided to build a simple 2 x 1 m frame, which should be easy to dismantle the day I leave here, yet should give me ample space to grow some root vegetables for this coming season. The property also has an old disused green house so I’m hoping I will be able to have some tomatoes and a few herbs like coriander and basil in there. Next up, getting some manure + ordering some seeds. All the exciting stuff. It truly is such a rewarding thing to grow your own veggies. It is definitely an adventure which has helped me fostering some patience as well as trust.
You can’t will the seeds out of the ground. It takes nurturing, patience and a tad skill. Such a good metaphor for life in general I think…
On a totally different note though, the recipe I am sharing this week is one of those comforting, budget friendly and very versatile ones. And it is one I’ve eaten on repeat over the past few months. These long cold AND wet months had me craving foods that were more stodgy, warm and nourishing. As well as that I have also had a desire to eat other high energy foods like oats (especially in combination with sugar and butter…). I am beginning to feel ready to have some lighter meals soon, with more greens and raw foods. Maybe you are too?
However I thought now would still be a good time to share this recipe, whilst we are still note truly there yet, and if you are like me, feeling the pinch of heating bills… then something that is budget friendly and that can be made any day of the week from mostly store cupboard ingredients is hopefully welcomed!
I’m not sure “casserole” is actually a good name for this dish as it is more like a vegetarian bolognese and even a little meaty in texture. It could even be a good one to try out for Meat Free Monday or to serve those avid meat eaters, whom you’d like to introduce to some more plant based dishes.
Then on the other hand, how and with what you serve it is, entirely up to you. I have so far had it with rice, pasta, a fried egg (like in the picture) and with roasted sweet potatoes. I would imagine it can pair with “normal” roasted potatoes, even mash, or as a side dish to baked fish. One basic dish. Many options!
Lentil & Mushroom Casserole
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250g fresh mushrooms (I like chestnut mushrooms)
1 large yellow onion, peeled & chopped finely
5 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped finely
1 red or yellow pepper, washed & chopped finely
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
Approx. 1 cup cooked lentils such as beluga or puy lentils
Start with cooking the lentils. Exact measurements aren’t really important here, so measure out 3/4 cup. Then rinse well before placing in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. I usually add a bay leaf or two to this also.
Bring the lentils to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. If you let them boil to hard they will just cook apart. Simmer for about 35-40 min until they squeeze soft between your fingers. Drain, rinse and set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the chopped pepper and mushrooms and saute for another few minute or two until soft-ish. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the cooked lentils and the spices. Give it all a really good stir and then bring to a lively simmer for 20 min until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.
Let cool slightly and then serve with your choice of side (as suggested above) + some greens. Oh and some grated Parmesan is totally yum to add grated on top. If that’s your thing.
I don’t know about you, but almost a week after the American Presidential election and even though at present it does not directly affect me on a personal level, I still feel a little flat.
It didn’t feel right sharing pictures of food on social media amidst so much tumult and as much as I normally try to limit my intake of news, it’s been almost impossible to NOT get sucked into the whole debacle… But if you are starting to worry that this post will become all political, no need. I will leave it right here, though I felt like I needed to make a note of it, as whether you live in the U.S or not, we are all human beings living on the same blue planet in this vast Universe. And perhaps it is about time that we wake up to the fact that what effects one does affect the whole. Even if it is not always felt immediately.
This week I am planning on carry on from last’s week’s theme of Food + Love, but with a slightly different angle. The food (and friendship) angle!
This Lemony Lentil Dahl, is my take on a delicious meal that my dear friend Michele made for me this summer when I stayed with her in her home in Seattle, WA. It’s one of those simple and comforting type of meals / dishes that I love so much. Even though I first tasted it in June it makes a great winter warmer, hence why I am sharing it with you all now.
With all that is ever ongoing in this world, my intention for this particular post is to celebrate the beauty of friendship and connection. I haven’t known Michele for much more than a year, yet if feels like we’ve already established a connection that runs much deeper than what short time we’ve known eachother. You never know with whom you might connect, or where or when. Today we have perhaps more opportunities to connect with people than ever hadn’t it been for the Internet. Me and Michele connected through an online mentorship programme and after many hours of Skype we eventually got to meet in person.
Me & Michele on a hike in WA.
This whole experience brought it home to me again, that when it truly comes down to it, what matters most is people and the connections we establish with one another. It also highlighted the fact that even though we might come from different countries, with different backgrounds and upbringings, when we meet people who share the same values like ourselves, there’s an instant connection which goes beyond all of that, and one on which we can build a stronger bond going forward.
When I asked Michele for the recipe of this dish she told me that it was not “hers”. My understanding is that as long as, if you use someone else’s recipe word for word, (obviously!) full credit is due, but nobody has patent on ingredients or combination thereof. This lends itself to the beauty of creativity, possibility and change. Maybe even a celebration of the fact that nothing ever stays exactly the same…
So a bit like “Chinese Whispers” things can get lost in translation and we make our own interpretations. For better and for worse. This is my interpretation of Michele’s Lemony Lentil Dahl, and I’m sharing it here with you as a celebration of the possibilities that is connection and friendship (and food of course!)
*Please note that this recipe is one of those that has “fluid” measurements. So even though I have given some exact ones below, please feel free to experiment and adjust according to your own preferences both when it comes to taste and texture. More liquid will give a more soup-like consistency.*
Michele’s Lemony Lentil Dahl (With my interpretations)
Serves 2 (Double the recipe and make a large batch if you are feeding many or want to fill your freezer)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large or 2 small yellow onions
250g red lentils
450 ml stock
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds –optional
2 pods black cardamom – optional
4-5 large leaves of Swiss (Rainbow) Chard or Spinach
Sea salt and black pepper, to season
Place mustard seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds and the seeds from the black cardamom pods, if using, in a pester and mortar and ground roughly.
Peel and chop the onions finely.
Heat the coconut oil on a heavy based large saucepan. Once the oil is warmed up, add all of the spices and fry off on low heat until fragrant. Add the chopped onion and fry off until translucent.
Rinse and drain the red lentils and add to the pan together with the stock. Give everything a good stir and then bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 20 min until the lentils start coming apart.
Add the juice of the two lemons. Taste and season accordingly. If you don’t think it is lemony enough, add more juice.
Wash and chop the chard / spinach roughly, stems and all and add to the Dahl. Keep stirring the Dahl until all of the chard / spinach has wilted down.
Serve warm in bowls. This recipe is one of those which tastes even better the following day, so it is well worth making some extra!
I thought I would share this easy to and nourishing soup with you all as we transition from Spring into Summer. April is almost over and May is fast approaching. I still feel a little behind on the blogging front… Trust me, it’s not or the lack of ideas or not wanting to write. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s just that the past few months has been filled with work on my online programme and it is slowly coming together. I’m so happy to finally have a way of working with people from all over the world, who would like to heal their relationship with food.
This is a programme which goes beyond weight loss, giving you tools to deal with emotional eating and helping you becoming more in tune with who you are as an eater. Being healthy goes beyond having a “perfect diet”. We all have to eat every day but often we do it for a million other reasons than simply because we are hungry. OR, we eat out of shear necessity, completely disconnected to the food and the pleasure of the act of eating itself. ‘Distract-less’ eating is a powerful skill to master if you want to put an end to over eating and weight gain. Sound interesting? Find out more here.
The past few weeks has made me think. We currently live in such as fast-paced, high achieving society. Thinking BIG, going after your dreams and believing you can have what you really want is strongly encouraged. My FB wall and Instagram feed is full of positive, uplifting quotes. Which is great. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful that I live in an era and a part of the world where so much IS possible. However, all this positivity and achievement driven content can leave you a little flat sometimes, or even have the opposite effect…
Thing is, life move in cycles. It goes up and down. We succeed and we fail. It is ALL part of life. And ALL of it is valuable life experiences, not just the good times. One thing I’ve learnt from practising mindfulness is to simply be aware of what’s happening right here and now. To just be present. Noticing. When we do, we find that it’s all fluid, just like the four seasons. Nothing lasts forever. Good times come and go. But the DO come again. Just like the sun eventually reappears after the rain.
Perhaps the key to Happiness it simply to realise that? Then we no longer have to fight our feelings. We can stop worrying that when we are feeling down, it will last forever. It won’t. We can fully embrace when we are feeling happy, joyous and content. Because it won’t last forever either…
Maybe that’s why I like Spring so much. This season serves as a reminder that even after a long and dark winter, life slowly awakens again. It’s beautiful and it’s inspiring. And it happens every year.
The point? Simply; by all means, have BIG dreams, goals and intentions. Just don’t put your life on hold until your ‘get there’. Life is what’s happening right now. Embrace it ALL <3
Here’s few images from my current Spring experience.
Moving on to the recipe for this post. As it’s still a little chilly, soups are still on the menu in my house.
I use red lentils a lot. They are cheap and mega versatile. Perfect pantry staple!
This recipe is a slight adaptation from a recipe featured in a Swedish cookbook by Catherine Schück. Her recipes are beautifully simple, using basic wholefood ingredients. This type of cooking echo’s my own cooking preferences, using only a few simple fresh, wholesome ingredients.
The ingredients list for this soup is really short. It is a meat-free take on the Swedish classic Thursday staple “Ärtsoppa”, which is normally made from yellow split peas and served with bacon pieces and pancakes as dessert. Here we have skipped the bacon and used the fabulous red lentils instead. It is the marjoram which gives this soup that particular flavour that I remember from having “Ärtsoppa” in school. Trust me though; this one is so much nicer!
If you want to include the pancakes you can try these or these.
“Swedish” Red Lentil Soup
1 ½ cup red lentils, rinsed and pre-soaked for 1h (pre-soaking is optional, not necessary)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
700ml vegetable stock (fresh or made from stock powder)
A pinch of thyme, fresh or dried
A pinch of marjoram, fresh or dried
Sea salt & black pepper, to season
Heat the oil in a medium sized pan. Add onion and gently soften the onion. They should turn transparent. Add lentils. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce and gently simmer at a low heat for about 30 min until the lentils are nice and mushy.
If the soup is too thick, add a bit of extra water. Add the thyme and marjoram towards the end of the cooking for best flavour. Season with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
You can use either fresh or dried herbs. Quickly blitz it if you want the consistency to be smoother.
You may be right in the middle of the craziness, that seems totally normal this time of year. Or you may be like me, presents bough, wrapped and posted with just a couple more Christmas cards left to write. Chilling, in other words. Though I’m not sure why I still bother with the cards. It’s not like I a get a lot of them anyway. Oh wait, it’s all about giving you say? And less about receiving? Even in the midst of this digital / social media era, I think, you simply cannot beat a lovely card arriving in the letter box from someone you haven’t met in a long time.
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about giving more presence, rather than more presents. So while we are busy running around getting things done, buying presents, planning party menus and worrying about the cost of the heating bill – life happens. Our children grow up, our parents get older (we too of course), friends come and go. It’s all too easy to get caught up in this busyness and forget to be present. When we think back on our lives, it’s not what anyone gave us inform of material things that tends stand out. It’s those moments when someone was there for us. When we felt heard, listened too, respected and loved. All the things that we can give freely, no matter the size of our wallets… So perhaps its time that we all give a little more of ourselves to others. Time to give some presence. And not just for Christmas.
When I was going through my recipe archives recently, I discovered that there was only one (!) soup recipe up so far. Time to change that I think. I have another soup recipe waiting but today, I’m going to share this Classic Lentil Soup with you.
This soup is so incredibly easy to make. You can throw it together in minutes and it only takes 30 min to get ready. If you are not yet familiar with lentils, this is an excellent way to introduce them. Even the fussiest eater will like this soup, promise. Adding lentils to any soup will make it more filling due to their protein and high fibre content.
I found this recipe in the really excellent Rose Elliott’s New Complete Vegetarian. It’s one of those cook books with very few pictures so you actually need to read through the recipes. But there is many beautifully vegetable dishes to be cooked from it.
So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the thought of making healthy meals, while you have another thousand things to get through, just make this soup. It will both fill you up and fuel you over the next few weeks, in between shopping and partying!
Classic Lentil Soup
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
225g red lentils, rinsed well
1 litre vegetable stock or water. If using water add 2 level tsp stock powder or 1 organic stock cube.
1-2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 fresh lemon
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to season
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 min until transparent.
Add the lentil and the stock/water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 min until the lentils are soft and golden. They will break down into a mush when cooked.
Blend the soup with a hand blender. You can add more water if you like the consistency to be thinner. Cook’s Note – If you have any leftover the following day you may need to add more water again to thin it as the lentils tend to keep absorbing water.
Add a splash of lemon juice, to taste and season with a pinch of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Serve.