Hot Spiced Tomatoes with Spinach

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Cooking at the end of the day when you are tired and exhausted can be a bit of a chore. I always have loads of tomatoes in my fridge – probably my favourite ingredient of all time – so am often coming up with inventive ways to use them – Indian style tomato chutney anyone?

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This recipe uses them as the star ingredient and as I always like to eat greens, a handful of fresh spinach  complements the dish perfectly. If you have some fresh fish, place it in the oven for 10 minutes (you may need a little longer if you have a large fish/portion) then you can quickly whip this tomato side dish to accompany the fish. Easy and no fuss.

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It’s also great to use alongside more on an Indian feast if you are feeding a crowd. It adds zing and heat in equal measure.

Hot Spiced Tomatoes with Spinach

Serves 4 (accompanied with another dish or two)

2 tbsp rapeseed/vegetable oil

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

450g large tomatoes (works out to be about 6), quartered

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (less if you like it less hot)

1 tbsp jaggery (or sugar if you don’t have jaggery see note below)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1 handful of fresh spinach

  1. Gently heat the oil and when it is hot place the cumin and mustard seeds into the pan. They will sizzle immediately. Keep the heat low. After 10 seconds add the quartered tomatoes and move around the pan so that the spices cover them.
  2. Add the spices, salt and jaggery and then after 20 seconds add the water. Keep on a low heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and take off the heat. The spinach will wilt from the heat of the tomatoes. Do not overcook the tomatoes as you want them to have soften but still to have held their shape as much as possible.

Serve with freshly cooked fish or chicken or as part of a large Indian feast.

Jaggery – also known as palm sugar – check out the health benefits of using jaggery instead of sugar here.


Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

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Don’t ever throw away coriander stalks as they are bursting with flavour and are perfect for making a delicious paste to go in all manner of curries. Today I wanted to show you one of my Vietnamese inspired prawn curries that combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks, jaggery (palm sugar – or you can just use caster sugar), fresh mangoes and coconut milk.  To say it’s sublime would be an understatement. It is so downright delicious that you’ll be wanting to make it on repeat.

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I always seem to have frozen prawns in my freezer as, once thawed, they are hugely versatile to make all manner of curries or prawn cakes and generally speaking I find that most people like prawns. I had some fresh mangoes and lemongrass that were needing to be eaten so I thought that I would work the recipe around my three main ingredients – prawns, mangoes and lemongrass.

My hand blender is back in action (rejoice – how I missed it) so it took no time to whizz up a paste that tasted of the exotic Far East. By adding a little coconut milk allowed the paste to become smooth, whilst retaining its thickness.

My mother-in-law modelled the mangoes and I bought king prawns that had already been deveined and peeled to save time. So all in all from start to finish this is definitely a 15 minutes tops kind of meal, unless you are slow at peeling and cutting up your mangoes, which in that case might add on another 5 minutes or so.

If you love prawns you might also like Bengali Chingri Maach or perhaps Keralan Prawn and Kokum or my Prawn and Tamarind Curry or if you buy prawns with shells on don’t forget to keep the shells and heads so that you can make a heavenly Prawn Bisque

Happy Easter All.

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Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

paste

40g coriander stalks

2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed and finely chopped

1 red chilli

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp jaggery/palm sugar or caster sugar

a little coconut milk from a 400ml tin

*****

2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

15g shallots, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

700g king prawns, deveined and peeled

2 mangoes, cut into bite sized pieces

the remaining coconut mil from the 400ml tin

  1. Place all the paste ingredients into a hand blender and whizz them up to form a smooth paste. Adding a little of the coconut milk will loosen up the ingredients and help the paste to become smooth.
  2. In a deep pan or karahi add the oil and when it is hot add the shallots and salt. Move them around the pan for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Now add the paste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Let the coconut milk heat up before adding the prawns.
  4. Move the prawns around the pan until they become pink. This will take no more than a few minutes. Simmer for an extra couple of minutes before adding the mango.

Serve with rice with some fresh lime on the side and a sprinkle of fresh coriander on the top.

If you like this recipe I am sure you will love my Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Coriander Curry


Sauteed Chicken Livers with Madeira, Capers, Parsley and Red Onions on Toasted Sourdough

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Christmas beckons and you are now, most probably, all sorted on what you are going to cook over the coming days, well on Christmas day at least. I don’t know about you but I find the week between Christmas and New Year is filled with feasting and if you have family or friends stopping by you want no fuss food that tastes divine with minimum preparation effort.

This is where my sautéed chicken livers come in. They are so darn tasty and can be rustled up in 10 minutes. Seriously folks, 10 minutes and you have a perfect appetiser or relaxed lunch. If you have a mental block over chicken livers I urge you to put it to side this once and dive right in. Sauteed in Madeira and capers these chicken livers are totally transformed and I love the flavours coming from the crunchy red onions and fresh flat leaf parsley. Served on toasted sourdough and you have yourself a real treat.

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If, like me, you adore chicken livers then do try my chicken liver curry here.

I’m going to be checking out now until mid January, but you can find me on Instagram and twitter as I work my way around Kerala in Southern India. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year full of festive cheer, merriment and of course feasting.

I’ll be back in 2016 with lots of Keralan treats to share with you.

Sauteed Chicken Livers with Madeira, Capers, Parsley and Red Onions on Toasted Sourdough

Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 banana shallot, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

400g chicken livers

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp Madeira or Sherry

2 tbsp capers

1 red onion finely sliced

a generous handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

4 this slices of sourdough bread, toasted under the grill on both sides

  1. Turn on the grill so that it is ready to toast your sourdough bread in a few minutes.
  2. In a frying pan heat the oil and then add the diced shallot and garlic.
  3. After 3 minutes add the chicken livers and a little salt and pepper and let them brown in colour. Gently turn them over so that they heat through evenly. This will take around 6 minutes.
  4. Whilst the livers are browning, slice the red onion and remove the leaves of the flat leaf parsley. Place to one side.
  5. Place the  sourdough bread on a baking tray and lightly sprinkle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Grill it so that it is lightly bronzed on both sides. It happens quickly so keep an eye on it.
  6. Add the Madeira and capers and gently moved around the pan. Turn the heat down and simmer for a further couple of minutes.
  7. To plate up cut the toasted sourdough in half and lay evenly on a serving plate. Sprinkle with a few red onions and parsley. Lay the chicken livers and capers over the toast and then scatter with a little more red onions and parsley.

Eat immediately so that it is still hot.

 


Prawn Bisque

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For those of you who read my last post on ‘tamarind prawn curry‘ I mentioned not to throw away the discarded prawn heads and shells. By cooking a simple stock with the prawn heads and shells will create the most amazing tasting broth. Seriously it requires very little effort and you have yourself yet another culinary feast. It freezes well if you want to eat it at a future date.

The photo above sadly does not do justice to the delicious tasting bisque. Next time I use shelled prawns I will reshoot and hopefully have a more temptingly attractive photograph of the bisque. Just trust me when I say that it tastes darn good. Happy eating.

Prawn Bisque

serves 4 

All the prawn shells and heads from the prawns you used in the above curry

cover the prawns completely with boiling water

1 red onion,  chopped

1 garlic, chopped

4 bay leaves

5 black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

juice of quarter of a lemon

1 tbsp tomato puree

1.2 tsp sugar

salt to taste

1 tsp cornflour – 3 tsp cold water

  1. Place the prawns shell and heads in a deep pan and cover completely with boiling water.
  2. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, red onion and garlic to the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a hand blender blend the contents of the pan. This might sound unusual to blend the shells and heads, but trust me the flavour that comes from them is incredible.
  4. Place the contents of the pan through a fine sieve. Use the back of a spoon to push all the goodness through. What comes through should be a completely fine liquid. Discard the remaining shells that have not gone through the sieve. Overall it will make around 800g of liquid.
  5. In the same pan add the butter and when it is melted add the tomato puree, smoked paprika, lemon juice and sugar. Add the prawn broth liquid and stir gently. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  6. In a small bowl add the cornflour and cold water to make a smooth paste and then add the broth to thicken slightly. Simmer gently for a further few minutes.
  7. Season further to taste and then serve. You could also easily freeze this once it has cooled ready to use on a separate occasion.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

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I often think that cauliflower gets a little overlooked as a vegetable, unlike its more ‘superfood’ cousin, the broccoli. Boiling it can be bland, like most things, but roast it and add a little spice and textures then you have a truly delicious treat. I wrote a piece a few years ago on the merits of the humble cauliflower here so do check it out.

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This recipe is quick, extremely tasty (ok I know I am biased), full of goodness and great as a lunch to take to work in a tupperware or as an evening meal. It can be eaten hot or cold so is hugely versatile. A slight chill is now in the air in London, although I am still hopeful for an Indian summer, so the warming cumin and cinnamon gives the dish autumnal comforting notes. The sweetness come from the cinnamon and the saltiness from the feta so no extra salt is necessary.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

serves 2 or 4 if serving with another dish 

1 cauliflower, chopped into florets and greenery removed

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pine nuts, toasted

30g raisins or sultanas

1 small handful of fresh coriander

30g feta, crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if using fan). In a large mixing bowl add the cauliflower florets and add the cumin and cinnamon powder along with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently with your hands so that the florets are evenly coated.
  2. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges are nicely charred.
  3. Meanwhile heat a heavy frying pan and toast the pine nuts so that they begin to bronze. They bronze quickly so keep an eye on this. Add the raisins/sultanas to warm them and allow them to become soft. Place to one side in a bowl.
  4. Once the cauliflower is cooked add to a new mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, sultanas, coriander and crumbled feta. Toss gently and either plate up or leave to cool before adding to your lunch container.

I have also made this with prunes instead of raisins/sultanas, which works really well. Dates would also be another option.

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Simple Chicken Curry – when your spice cupboard is bare

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If you are starting out cooking curries or if you are running low on spices, then this is the curry for you as it only requires chilli powder – I tend to opt for the Kashmiri chilli powder for it’s deep red colour and its subtle heat. It also includes onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and chillies, which are pretty much fridge staples for me and I’m guessing you too! So it is ridiculously straightforward to make with minimum fuss.

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I like to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs for this curry, but breast meat is fine too – it’s really up to you. Like with most curries it can be cooked well in advance and then slowly reheated adding a little water if necessary. You can reduce the amount of fresh chillies if you want it less hot, but I find adding two fresh green chillies is fine for my 9 year old – I would cook a separate curry however for my 5 year old.

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Simple Chicken Curry

Serves 4

9 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 red onions, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, skin removed and roughly chopped

2 fresh chillies, roughly chopped

4 medium sized tomatoes roughly chopped

1 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder

2tbsp water

*****

2 tsp groundnut oil

800g boneless and skinless chicken thigh, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 tsp salt

coriander to garnish (optional)

1. Using a blender add the garlic, onions, chillies, tomatoes, ginger and chilli powder. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are you may need to add a little water to make the paste smooth.

2. Heat the groundnut oil in a pan and add the chicken. Move it around the pan for a couple of minutes so that it whitens. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place to one side.

3. Using the same pan add the paste and gently fry for 45 minutes so that it thickens and allows the flavours to come through.

4. Return the chicken to the pan and add the salt. Simmer gently for a further 7 minutes, coating the chicken in the spiced tomato sauce.

5. Serve with a coriander garnish with either rice or flat bread.

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Speedy Homemade Hummus

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 Ok ok I know, I admit I’m on a bit of a chickpea roll at the moment. Apologies to readers out there who don’t share my enthusiasm on the humble chickpea. I always have tins in my store cupboard so am constantly thinking of new ways to use them. This recipe is certainly not a new one – in fact I was convinced I had popped it up on my blog a couple of years back, but I was thinking of my baba ganoush recipe – click here, which if you haven’t tried….shame on you. Seriously give it a go. You’ll thank me for it.

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Going back to the more ubiquitous hummus – or the more affectionate name that we call it in our house ‘whole mouse’….it is equally straightforward to make. The only unusual ingredient that you may not have come across, but that you can easily get hold of at any major supermarket, is ‘tahini’, which put simply is sesame paste. It’s most commonly used in North Africa, the Middle East and the Levant. You’ll find it sitting next to the peanut butter in most stores. In my opinion you do need this necessary ingredient to give your hummus a more authentic taste so please don’t leave it out.

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The other key ingredients are extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, lots of lovely garlic, salt and a little water. How easy!

Now you can jazz things up a bit, which I often like to do by adding one of the following: paprika, sumac, zataar, fried onions or shallots, fresh herbs, roasted beetroot, roasted carrots, cumin powder, black or green olives, turmeric, chilli flakes, sun dried tomatoes….the list is endless. Play around with flavours and find a new version to suit you. I’d love to hear from you if you find a new combination that’s a hit!

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 I’ve kept things simple for my one today by simply adding some fresh pomegranate seeds to give a ruby red jewel effect.  I like the fresh sweetness of the seeds with the hummus. It works really well and looks really pretty too. We eat with our eyes and nose as well as our stomachs after all.

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Homemade Hummus 

Serves – at least 6 (see bowl in photo)

2 tins of chickpeas

3 tbsp tahini

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 lemon, juice only

8 tbsp olive oil (plus a little extra to drizzle at the end)

5 tbsp water

salt to taste

1. Strain the chickpeas and then add them to a blender along with all the ingredients except the olive oil.

2. Blend the ingredients adding the olive oil gradually until smooth.

3. Taste and add more salt/lemon if needed.

4. Place in a bowl and scatter the pomegranate seeds on top along with a drizzle of olive oil.


Sardinian Fregula with Courgette, Mint, Lemon, Parmesan and Pine Nuts

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Surprise! I have given my blog a new lease of life by making it a little fresher, with bigger food photographs – to tempt you into making my recipes of course. How do you like it? I’ll probably tweek it here and there as it is not exactly how I want it but it will do for the mean time. It’s also probably at it’s best looked at on a computer as opposed to a mobile or iPad but any device will do. Leave a comment below once you have had a little look around.

Now back to the important stuff…. the recipe. This week I want to tempt you into making this wonderful dish that can be eaten hot or at room temperature, perhaps for a picnic. It requires a little effort in as far as locating the wonderful fregula, but once you have done that making the recipe is a doddle.

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So what on earth is fregula I hear you all ask? Well in a nutshell it’s a Sardinian pasta, which is similar to couscous in appearance, and comes in a variety of sizes. It’s made from rubbing semolina and water to create a crumbly texture that is then rolled into balls. It is then sun dried and toasted briefly in the oven.IMG_0990

This process allows the fregula to have that ‘al dente’ texture giving it a slightly nutty taste. I am not suggesting you make the fregula from scratch, far from it. You’ll find it most Italian delicatessen and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the larger supermarkets may well stock it. If they don’t then I am sure they will very soon.

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The overall dish is healthy, takes under quarter of an hour to prep and cook and is really delicious. The flavours are fresh and cleansing, coming from the mint and lemon and this combined with nutty fregula and pine nuts, umami parmesan (check out my article on umami here) and the bright green courgette. It’s a winning recipe if you are entertaining and want no fuss with cooking as it can all be prepped before guests arrive, aside from the boiling of the fregula and courgettes.

For those who like shell fish I will be doing another fregula recipe again in the next few weeks – that leaves you more than enough time to hunt down a packet from your local Italian deli.

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Sardinian Fregula with Courgette, Mint, Lemon, Parmesan and Pine Nuts 

Serves 3

225g fregula (75g per person)

3 courgettes, cut into thin half moons (1 courgette per person)

1 lemon, juice and zest (to taste)

4 stems of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

60g parmesan

1 large handful of pine nuts

salt and pepper

1. Place the fregula in boiling water so that it is completely covered for 12 minutes.

2. Prepare all the other ingredients, whilst you wait for the fregula to cook. After 12 minutes add the half moon courgettes, adding more boiling water if necessary, and cook for 2 more minutes.

3. Drain the courgettes and fregole and place in a large mixing bowl.

4. Add half the lemon juice and zest, most of the parmesan, the mint leaves, pine nuts and season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice and zest to taste.

5. Serve in one large bowl/platter and allow everyone to serve themselves.

Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.


Fragrant Lemongrass and Ginger Salmon Broth – full of goodness

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I have a weakness for broths, pho and laksa. Seriously I dream about eating hot, steaming broths in road side cafes in some Asian country that has been lovingly created by the mama or papa of the household. My favourite eating experiences have been these low key affairs that are often quite unexpected. It’s the balance of sweet, sour, spicy and saltiness that gets me every time.

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I regularly try to replicate them here at home in London. The flavours, smells and textures take me to those foreign lands without the need for stepping foot on a plane. I guess that generally is the way I like to cook – foods from foreign lands that excite the taste buds and give you a warm inner happy glow. It sounds cheesy but it is so true. One of my mini me’s is a bit under the weather but has not lost her appetite so I said I would cook her a feast for lunch that would perk her up. Ok, it was kind of an excuse for me to have another broth pick-me-up too in all honesty.

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I decided to work with some big bold flavours such as the lemongrass, garlic and ginger and give them the centre stage in this dish. The sour came from the lime and kaffir lime leaves, the saltiness from the fish sauce and salmon, the sweetness from the tomatoes and a sprinkling of caster sugar and the spiciness (for me only) with the red chilli. I then added layers of crunch and flavour with the spring onions, fresh coriander and fried shallots. Instead of adding fish stock I added chicken stock which I think works far better for this type of dish.

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Crispy shallots are seriously addictive and add a wonderful crunch and flavour to the meal. I chose to add rice noodles that partly filled the bottom of my bowl and then added the broth on top. It wants to be 3/4 broth 1/4 noodles.

 

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Take a look at that close up. It’s making me hungry again just looking at. I adore fresh coriander and mouthfuls of that with the broth, sweet tomatoes, chilli, shallots and spring onions is absolutely sublime. Seriously you have to try it.  You heard it hear first. Give it a go and let me know. My kids LOVE it so don’t presume that because it’s a little ‘exotic’ they won’t. I just leave out the chillies of course!

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Fragrant Lemongrass and Ginger Salmon Broth

serves 4

1 banana shallot, finely sliced

vegetable oil to fry the shallot

2 lemongrass, roughly sliced

4cm fresh ginger, peeled and roughly sliced

5 garlic cloves

1 tbsp groundnut/olive oil

2 kaffir lime leaves

1 litre boiling water (or 500ml if using fresh chicken stock)

1 chicken stock cube/500ml of  fresh chicken stock

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tsp caster sugar

10 small tomatoes, halved

60g sugar snaps

4 handfuls of fresh spinach

juice of 1/2 a lime

200g fresh salmon, thinly sliced

150g rice noodles

To Serve

fried shallot (from above)

handful of fresh coriander

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

2 red chillies, finely sliced (optional)

 

1. First warm a small pan with vegetable oil and heat. Add a small slither of shallot and if it fizzles it is ready to add the whole sliced shallot. Keep it at a high heat, but not so hot that they burn, and stir at intervals. After around 6 minutes the shallots will bronze and crisp up. At this stage remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with kitchen paper to soak up the oil.

2. Place the ginger, garlic and lemongrass in a small blender and blend. Add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tsp of oil and blend into a smooth (as possible) paste.

3. In a large, deep pan add some oil on a medium heat and then add the lemongrass paste and kaffir lime leaves and move around the pan for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, boiling water, fish sauce, lime juice and caster sugar and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet and place to one side.

5. A couple of minutes before serving add the fresh tomatoes, sugar snaps and spinach.

6. A minute before serving add the salmon so that it just cooks through completely but still holds together well.

7. To serve place the noodles in a bowl followed by the broth, vegetables and salmon and then place the spring onion, fresh coriander, fried shallots and red chillies (if you need some extra heat) on top. Serve immediately with chopsticks and a spoon.

Slurping encouraged.

 

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Tomato and Garlic Red Lentil Dal

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This recipe is for all of you lovely people out there who claim you don’t have time to cook. It is super quick, satisfying and great for cold winter nights. It literally takes no longer than 15 minutes to cook from beginning to end. To be fair it is very similar to this dal of mine although it differs in that it has a tin of tomatoes in it, loads of fresh whole garlic (great for ridding those horrible colds and coughs we pick up in winter), and a sprinkling of cumin powder.

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I had a bunch of friends over for lunch the other day and as well as cooking some tasty winter salads had a huge pot of this on the stove. It seemed to go down a treat as there was very little left over once they had gone, another sign that it’s worth giving it a go.

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I like to add a splash of lemon juice liberally at the end, but it’s up to you. Like with all dals they can be made more soupy or firmer depending on personal choice. For this dal I like to make it more soupy so that I can spoon it out of a bowl. If you are cooking it with rice and another dish then maybe you want to add less water. I never really measure the water that goes into it. I always go on how it looks, so my advice is to put in enough water so that it covers the dal by half an inch and then keep adding more boiling water once  the water has soaked up. It’s a winner and so simple. Give it a go and leave me a comment below.

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Tomato and Garlic Red Lentil Dal

Serves 4-6 (4 as a main 6 as a side dish)

300g red split lentil

water, enough to cover the red lentil

1 tbsp groundnut oil

5 (or more) garlic cloves, gently crushed but kept whole

1 tsp panch phoron

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp salt (to taste)

400g tin of tomatoes

1 lemon, quartered – optional to serve

1. In a deep pan place the red lentils and cover with cold water. Gently wash the lentils using your hand and pour out the murky water. Repeat three times.

2. Add boiling water to the red lentils and cover so that all the lentils are submerged by 1/2 inch. You can add more boiling water once this has soaked up if need be. Boil on a gently heat, skimming off any white residue that comes to the surface. Stir at intervals so that all the lentils cook through and turn from orange to a more yellow colour. Add more boiling water if you prefer it to have a more soupy consistency.

3. In a separate pan heat up the oil and then add the panch phoron. Once they start sizzling add the garlic and move around the pan. After a minute add the turmeric and cumin powder. Keep on a low heat, making sure the garlic and spices do not burn.

4. Add a spoonful of the now yellow lentils to the panch phoron and stir into the spices. Pour the contents of this pan into the pan with lentils and stir in thoroughly. Add a little water to the saucepan to make sure the spices pan is now clear of spices.

5. Add salt to taste and the tin of tomatoes and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, or until the garlic has softened.

Voila. That simple. Enjoy.