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 feel like it’s been ages since I’ve posted something here. And in a sense it has. There’s not all that much left to January so it’s about time I got going with the blogging for 2016! I really enjoy the creative process of it all. From thinking up recipes, playing in the kitchen, taking the photos and doing the writing. And I’m so grateful to all of you who check in here, take the time to read my ramblings and try out my recipes. So thank you 🙂
Though time seems to fly, it always does(!) this is going to be the year I really practice on being more present and living in the here and now. With an emphasis on practice, be cause that’s just what it is. Some days it works better and seem easier, than others, but in the end all we can do is practice. And when we do, practice that is, regardless of what it is you are practicing – meditation, mindfulness, cooking, weightlifting, running, yoga – we all get better, little by little through the dedication to practice.
I think if we are looking to change anything, whether is something about ourselves, add in a daily selfcare ritual to our lives or learning a new skill, the secret to success goes as follows: Acknowledgement (you want something different to what you have / where you are), Awareness (you need to know where you currently are at, what your patterns are and what it is you need to do different in order to change), Trust (put faith in the process, that if you consistently follow through you will, get there, even when it doesn’t feel like you will) and finally Devotion (because what you want to change and become matters more to you than staying the same).
I suppose one can see Devotion and Discipline as almost synonyms, however I don’t know about you but discipline too me feel a lot harsher and more rigid than devotion. So I stick with the former… So from here on in, for this year I’m going to honour my devotion to staying present in my life (and to blog regularly.) These are my intentions for 2016.
What are your intentions for this New Year? If you need some help to get clarity around where you need to focus, feel free to download this practical sheet I’ve created HERE. It’s yours to play around with.
“Where attention goes, energy flows and result show”.
And what about being more present? Have you ever noticed how how perceptive time can be? Like when you actually slow down, it almost feels like you’ve got more time, because in that moment you have more time to experience everything that’s going on around you as well as what’s going on inside you… Sounds counter intuitive, I know, but let’s try it. The opposite is certainly true when you surf the internet or scroll through Facebook…
So what about cooking and eating? Excellent times to practice awareness, mindfulness and being present I think. Perhaps easier said that done, but if you are going to make the effort of cooking from scratch, using all the colourful foods you bought you might as well actively engage in the process. It is so much more rewarding that way!
Last week I had the opportunity to play in the kitchen, as well as with my camera. To make it even better one of my lovely friends came over and was my handmodel for the day. So that made it extra fun!
This is a true, yellow, fiery soup to warm you on cold winter days. Even the bright yellow colour brightens my mood, especially as there still seems to be no end in sight to this current Irish wet winter weather… So as “sunny looking” bowl of hearty goodness has to make up for the lack of the sunlight.
This soup is also highly antiinflammatory as it is full of antiinflammatory foods like, onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger. The main star of the soup is the butternut squash which is a type of pumpkin, readily available in most supermarkets these day. This pumpkin is a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C and the yellow coloured phyto-nutrient beta carotene.
It is a really wholesome, wholefood soup made from just a couple of basic ingredients + stock. Of you are battling a cold, need some warming up or are looking for some antiinflammatory support then here’s one way to do it! You’ll have this colourful beauty whipped up in no time.
This is the third recipe in the Winter Soup Series, and I have at least one more lined up before the winter is over…
Fiery Anti inflammatory Soup
1 yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 buttenut squash, roasted (whole), deseeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
2 fresh roots of turmeric, chopped or 1 tbsp dried powder
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Sea Salt & Black pepper, to season
Vegetable stock, about 1 litre – I never really measure out my stock but use enough to cover my veggies and then add more as necessary to thin the soup when blending it
For the toasted seeds as topping:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp tamari, wheat free soy sauce
Start by heating your oven to 200°C. Place the butternut squash on a oven tray and then leave it to roast in the hot oven for about 30 min or until the skin is lightly burnt and the squash is soft. This is by far the easiest way to deal with butternut squash as it is a complete pain to try to peel or chop it when fresh! You can even roast it the day before if you have the oven on anyway.
Whilst the butternut squash is roasting, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Then gently heat some olive oil in a heavy based saucepan. Once the oil is warm, add in the onion, garlic and ginger and saute until soft.
Add in the turmeric just before the end and stir through but be careful not to burn it.
When your butternut squash is ready, take it out of the oven and let it cool before you cut in in half and remove the seeds. If you are feeling enthusiastic you can clean and save these for roasting later…
If you are using an organic squash you can leave the skin on, otherwise peel the soft skin off and add the pumpkin flesh to the saucepan.
Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and bring up to boil. Then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 min. Allow the soup to cool down a little before you blend it smooth. Add more stock as necessary to thin to your preferred consistency.
To make the toasted seeds;
Heat the oven to 150°C. Or toast the seeds once you are done with the squash.
Place the seeds on a lined baking tray. Add the tamari and toss until evenly coated.
Roast in the oven for 15 min, until they look just about dry. Give them a stir with a spoon every 5 min too. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool down.
Top each bowl of soup with a descent table spoon of toasted seeds and store any leftover ones in a glass jar in your store cupboard. The seeds are also delicious as a little snack on their own or as a salad sprinkle.
What are your favourite yellow foods? Please share below 🙂
Since we had a Summer Salad Series, I thought it I might treat you to some Winter Warmers over the coming months. Soups are such an amazing way to enjoy seasonable vegetables and to ensure you eat your minimum of 5-a day. Enjoying a big bowl of soup daily is a surefire way of making sure you get at least your minimal dose.
I’m one of these odd people who don’t like having soup as a starter, as to me it’s a meal in itself. However, if you’re having soup as a single meal, make sure you have enough. Otherwise it’s not going to keep you fulled to your next meal. A measly cup won’t cut it (well not for me anyway!), if you’re not pairing it with a whole lot of bread or something…
I think sometimes we become so consumed with what we eat, or simply eat to “fill the gap” as we notice an urgent hunger sensation or running out of steam. But what if we actually took the time to stop and “smell the roses”? Or as in this case, the apples. Perhaps it’s then we really can appreciate the intensity and depth in flavour eating seasonally gives us.
Have you noticed how much more the apples that are around this time of year smells? I love these kinds of winter apples with their sharp and crisp flavour. They pair so well with green salads or as a small snack with some nut butter. Lately I’ve also added finely chopped fresh apples to my morning porridge + some ground cinnamon. Or I’ve used them as a bold pairing, like here, with beetroot.
After getting over my past dislike of beetroot there’s been no holding back! I’ve had it raw, cooked in salads, in hummus, cakes and now soup. It’s such an incredibly powerful vegetable with its liver and blood supporting nutrient content, in form of glutathione, nitric oxide and iron.
I’m also tying this recipe into my last blog post talking about the ROOT Aspect of health. Beetroot, being both a root vegetable growing deep in the earth, being the colour red and being beneficial to the red blood cells kind of IS the perfect “cover face” for the ROOT Aspect. I think there’s nothing more grounding when it comes to food than pulling a beautiful root vegetable out of the ground. It’s a direct connection with the soil, which nourishes us all… Having dabbled in some GIY this year, which I really enjoyed, I’ve discovered for myself how de-stressing it actually is to literally stick your fingers in the soil and to get your hands dirty, when your head is feeling frazzled. I’m sure those of you who already are avid gardeners know this, but I couldn’t believe actually HOW beneficial I found it to be to my own health and wellbeing. Especially these days when a lot of time is spent in front of the computer.
This very bright red soup was something I tried and tested already last year but it never made it to the blog before the seasons changed… I think there’s a picture of the first attempt somewhere waaay back over on Instagram. (Be warned, you will have to scroll back a few hundred images!) Anyway, at that time I didn’t write down the recipe so I’ve made it a few more times since, taking notes (!) with the intention of sharing it here with you all. So now after a few more test rounds, here it is, ready to share!
It may seem like a bold choice of flavours but trust me, it works. The sweetness of the apples marry with the earthiness of the beetroot. I added some shaved coconut on top as a fnish here, but you can use yogurt too.
Apple – Beetroot Soup
3 medium sized beetroot, peeled & finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 small apples, cored & finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
700 ml vegetable stock
Start with grounding the spices with a pester and mortar. Gently heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan, then add the ground spices and fry off for a few minutes until fragrant.
Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until soft and transparent, but not burnt. Add the finely chopped beetroot and the chopped apples. Let the beetroot and apple soften by gently mixing them with the onion and spices over medium heat, for about 5 min.
Then add the vegetable stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the soup simmer for 45 min until the beetroot is soft. Allow it to cool somewhat before blending it smooth. I use my handheld blender directly into the saucepan (I’m a little lazy like that!)
Serve the soup warm in bowls, topped with some shaved coconut flakes.
P.S If you want to know some more about the health benefits of apples check out this great article!
What is your favourite Winter Soup? Please share, I’d love to know!
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.