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!
Let’s finish the year off with a bang! Following on from the last post about the FLOW, and the winter theme AND the soup theme, here is one filling spicy Dahl to keep you warm. Hopefully you’ve had enough of Christmas cake, minced pies, mulled wine, ham, turkey, nut roast and / or rice pudding at this stage. My body always calls me back to fresh, wholesome food if I stray to far. Whether it is by choice or because my healthy food intake has been due to limited option, which can easily happens when we either travel, eat out or are away from home for any other reason.
It’s like when you’ve lived on mostly fresh unprocessed foods for a long time your body is so use to it and you will notice how different you feel when you don’t. These days I don’t tend to stress too much about if I have to eat something, I’d rather not because I have no other option. I either try to plan to eat well as much as I can before or after, or make the best choice I can. Stressing about the food itself can bring its own problems as the body cannot distinguish what is registered as stress by the hypothalamus. The physiological response is the same. So I try to be gentle with myself instead.
Thing is though, my tastebuds have become rather snobbish (!) And I no longer enjoy eating certain things, especially if any negative physical reactions may follow and I don’t even get to have a fully satisfactory eating experience to make it worth my while! Have you noticed anything similar? I remember a client of mine who used to have a diet high in sugar, especially a lot of soft drinks, telling me that once she cut them out and reduced sugar elsewhere she started to taste food so much better. This is really interesting and may be due to a number of reasons. One for starters may because sugar is such a dominating flavour and we have many taste receptors for sugar on our tongue. So if we eat a lot of sugar on a regular basis our tastebuds kind of become “flattened”. Same goes for if you cut down or even out refined sugar for a few weeks. All of a sudden everything is so much more sweet tasting. Less becomes more.
Even when I didn’t eat a predominately wholefoods diet, red lentils was always part of it. I think it’s because I grew up with a mum who was a vegetarian so I was introduced to them at an early age. I know not everybody tolerate legumes and lentil well, but if you do, keeping red lentils as a cupboard staple in your house is seriously handy as it means you can whip something nourishing and filling in a short space of time. This favourite ingredient of mine has featured in two soups here already. Like this Swedish Lentil Soup. And this Classic Lentil Soup (which I often make when I’m seriously stuck for time and / or ingredients!)
Though not technically a soup, I’ve decided to still include this Dahl in my soup series. Sure why not? It fits with the winter and the orange theme at least 😉
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 was to cook more from the cookbooks I already have. And I already have a lot of them… So even though I have my eyes set on a few which are coming out next year, I still need to get back to using some of the ones already gracing my shelves. This Winter Spiced Dahl is an inspiration from the beautiful cookbook A Modern Way to Cook, by Anna Jones. It’s a great vegetarian cookbook which will also work well for those who do eat meat but are looking for tasty ways to increase their vegetable intake. What I really love about this book is not only that the recipe are varied but also that Anna has included some really great charts on how to make up your own combinations with vegetables, nuts, grain, pulses and spices. I LOVE that way of cooking and sometimes when you’re not feeling all that kind of imaginative a chart like that is just what you need. Or when you have a fairly well stocked pantry but are left with some random fresh ingredients and you don’t know how to make them match… Kind of like a wardrobe malfunction. Then it’s so handy to have someone with way more insight than you suggesting some great pairings.
I’ve pretty much stuck to Anna’s recipe except for the addition of red lentils and the substitute of butternut squash for carrots, so it’s a full on orange theme going on here. Perfect for FLOW 🙂 This Dahl also contain a plethora of warming spices, perfect for this time of the year. I particularly like the addition of cardamom, which I love in almost anything. Sweet or savory or in tea. It’s almost borderline obsession. Hmm, maybe my body is trying to tell me something? Anyway, here is the recipe.
Wishing you a Beautiful and Loving New Year. Let’s start 2016 with a beautiful winter warmer!
Winter Spiced Lentil Dahl
4 large carrots, washed, peeled & finely chopped
1 red onion or one leek, peeled (wash the leek) & finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed & finely chopped
1/4 cup dried red lentil, well rinsed
1 small or 1/2 large sweet potato, washed, peeled & chopped into cubes
2 star anise
6 cardamom pods, shell discarded & seeds ground – Or use 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp coriander seeds, finely ground
1 tsp turmeric
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
500 ml vegetable stock + more if too thick
Start with adding a bit of olive oil to a warm saucepan (heating the pan first prevents the oil from getting too hot and going rancid) Add the chopped onion / leek, garlic and ginger and saute for a few minutes and till soft and transparent. Then add in the spices (except the star anise) and continue to stir for a few minutes over low heat until fragrant.
Add in the carrots, sweet potato and lentils and coat in the spice-onion mix. Add in the vegetable stock and the star anise. Bring to a boil and thereafter reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 35-40 min until lentils are falling apart and the carrot and sweet potato is soft. Add more stock if necessary, but remember this is a Dahl so you want it to be thick.
Once the all the vegetables and lentil are cooked through remove from the heat and when the Dahl has cooled a little give it a whizz with your hand blender. Feel free to leave it a little chunky if you wish and prefer that type texture.
Serve with cooked rice, a few fresh coriander leaves and sprinkle some seeds on top. I’ve used black sesame seeds here.
Recipe inspired by Anna Jones’ book A Modern Way to Cook.
What is your favourite way to enjoy red lentils? Please share below 🙂
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.