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Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Dal

Jul. 23rd, 2010 | 06:51 pm
location: Cambridge, UK
posted by: susannahclark in cookery

This is a recipe I got from mostlyeating.com. Here's a lovely definition of comfort food - “food that hugs you from the inside”. Sums up this kind of food just right doesn’t it?

Dal is very special class of comfort food; it feels like a comfort food (all soft and squishy), it tastes like a comfort food (soothing but moreish) and you can dip your choice of bread into it or shovel with a spoon, bowl to chin. All good stuff. But unlike other comfort foods, dal need not have a touch of cheese, butter, chocolate or cream to their name. In fact they are positively brimming with nutritional benefits, especially when you combine them with a vegetable as in this butternut squash and red lentil variation.

The cinnamon, turmeric and cumin lend a very gentle touch here, imparting aroma to the lentils and squash rather than spice. A tarka is simply a garnish, in this case slow cooked red onion, fiery chilli and garlic. Tarka are generally made using ghee, a saturated fat heavy clarified butter, replaced here by olive oil.

All of those enthusiastic things I said about beans being “agriculturally sustainable and nutritionally multi-tasking” hold true for lentils and I plan to get to know them even better this year. Red lentils are a forgiving place to start if cooking with lentils is new to you, disintegrating into the requisite creamy puree whatever you do to them.

Recipe for Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Dal

Note: a medium squash cut in half takes about 35 minutes in a medium oven. Allow to cool very slightly then scoop out the flesh from the skin. Any reasonably firm winter squash will work.

Makes a big batch

For the dal
1 medium squash, roasted and deseeded
300g red lentils, rinsed and checked over
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
half a tsp turmeric
A small stick of cinnamon
1 litre hot water

For the tarka (optional)
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 red large chilli, cut into thin strips

Put the cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, lentils and hot water into a saucepan. Grate the ginger straight into the pan.

Simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, make the tarka if you are having it. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook the onions on a very low heat until golden and caramelised.

Once the lentils have absorbed all of the water and disintegrated, fish out the cinnamon stick and discard.

Stir the roast squash into the lentils and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps.

Add the garlic and chilli to the tarka and cook on a low heat for another 10 minutes, while the dal warms through thoroughly.

Serve the dal in warm bowls with spoonful of the tarka on top to garnish.

Susannah's extra little tip: wrap the caramelised onion in kitchen towel to soak away most of the oil - I usually do this twice just to be sure.

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Peach and Potato Curry with Spicy Beansprouts

Sep. 28th, 2009 | 05:29 pm
location: Berkhamsted, UK
posted by: susannahclark in cookery

Basically cut 4 peaches into chunks, and four new potatoes boiled for 18 mins. Add one diced red pepper. The next bit I cheated and stirred in a curry paste (it was getting late).

Meanwhile (while the potatoes were boiling) I sliced up 2 red onions and fried in olive oil, and added a finely diced red chilli. Once the onion had caramelised, I put a third of that into the curry mix.

Then I added beanspouts to the frying pan and fried with the remaining onions and chilli.

One tasty meal, ready to eat. I think fresh apricots are even better than peach, but I couldn't get any, and I was surprised how well the sweet peach, potato and spiciness all went together.

Susannah's Crap Cookery: 2: Peach and Potato Curry

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Apricot and Potato Curry

Sep. 13th, 2009 | 09:28 pm
location: Berkhamsted, UK
posted by: susannahclark in cookery

Susannah's Sweet and Spicy Apricot and Potato Curry. Ta-daaa!

This was meant to be for my aunt but she didn't trust my cooking so she faked a stomach upset.

Basically I bought the base which was a spicy apricot tagine paste.

I fried up red onions in olive oil, then added the tagine paste and 5 tablespoons of water. Next came about 10 really sweet tomatoes. Then I feeled and de-pipped about 25 really fresh apricots and added those to the mixture. Meanwhile I'd boiled up 8 good-size new potatoes until they were almost cooked. These were then added to the mix with a few spices and peppers, and the whole thing has been simmering (and slowly finishing off the potatoes, basted in the spices) for about 90 minutes.

While this was simmering I cut up a nice salad, to which I'm going to add balsamic vinegar at the last minute. In a few minutes I will enjoy this meal with white wine I've had in the fridge all day.

You see, this meal was meant to be for my aunt but she was feeling unwell from an over-greasy breakfast on her way here, so she only wanted a slice of toast (maybe she remembers my crap cooking from the days I worked at her hotel...)

There should be enough left over for another whole meal tomorrow.

So it has been a "good" day today. I hope yours has been also.

Susannah's Crap Cookery: 1: Apricot and Potato Curry

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Welcome to my Friendly Cookery Community!

Aug. 23rd, 2009 | 08:02 pm
location: Berkhamsted, UK
posted by: susannahclark in cookery

Hiya everyone,

Welcome to Susannah's Friendly Cookery Community. I'm hoping you may help improve my cooking and the food I serve my guests because - basically - I'm a pretty crap cook and I really need ideas.

I'll be grateful for all sorts of recipe ideas - starters, soups, main courses, desserts, snacks, bread, just about anything really.

I'm a vegetarian myself so veggie recipes are particularly welcome, but I cook for non-veggie guests too, and anyway, I'd like this little community to be a resource not just for me but for others with all sorts of food tastes and level of ability.

Please assume the worst when it comes to my own ability, but nevertheless, I really do *love* cooking and cookery, and one of my favourite things is cooking nice meals for friends, and sharing good food, and chatting and laughing, and - just occasionally - someone may say "Oh Susannah, this food is... rather nice!"

So as my slogan says: "Bad food just got better!"

At least, if you could help me :) So go on, I just bet you have a recipe that really works for you! I'd love you loads if you'd share it. Thank you!

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