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Sophie shares her go-to recipes to get you through this festive (exam) season.

This time of year is defined by the descent of dark chilly mornings to early misty evenings. As I spend too much of my time twiddling my thumbs waiting for social approval to enter the festive season, indulging in cooking comforting hearty dahls are a means to deflect from premature excitement. Also, for those of you finding yourself in a tide of deadlines, these delightful dishes represent a fantastic distraction. Both cooking and eating this recipe gently ushers me to embrace this cosier time of year, slowly stirring simple ingredients full of flavour tends to put me right at ease. 

This recipe relies on store cupboard ingredients and can be adapted by adding any leftover bits and bobs of veg you have around.

Dahl 

You’ll need:

250g red lentils

1 onion (red or white)

Small piece of ginger

2 cloves of Garlic

A few cherry tomatoes (optional but four or five work well)

700-800ml vegetable (or chicken) stock (two cubes should work fine)

1 tin of coconut milk

1 tin of tinned tomatoes

Ground cumin

Mustard seeds

Ground turmeric

Ground cinnamon

Chilli powder

Steps

  1. Dice the onion, garlic, and ginger (and tomatoes if using).
  2. Heat a large frying pan or casserole dish to medium heat and add the onions for about two minutes till they lose their rawness, then add garlic and all the spices.
  3. Mix everything for a few minutes then add the ginger (and tomatoes if using).
  4. Stir for a few minutes then add the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk, stir again and bring to a boil.
  5. Turn the temperature down, add half of the stock, and leave to simmer.
  6. Keep stirring until all the liquid is incorporated then add more stock bit by bit. This step requires a bit of patience and stirring, but leads to a nice creamy texture.

After about half an hour or so of stirring, the dahl should have thickened and ready to eat. Serve with coriander, a dollop of yoghurt, and rice or flatbreads.

Spiced carrot falafels

These makeshift falafels are really useful to have in your fridge; I find adding them to wraps or even warm salads spruces things up and adds substance and flavour. However, they do make a satisfying snack on their own dunked in hummus.

You’ll need:

1 tin of chickpeas

1 carrot chopped/diced

1 tablespoon of flour

2 cloves of Garlic

Any of the above spices for dahl

Steps

For the falafels, preheat your oven to 220C, and either oil a baking tray or line one with some baking parchment. Firstly, pop the carrot, chickpeas, garlic, and spices in a bowl and whizz them up. This should form a creamy paste, to which you should add a tablespoon or two of flour, making it less sticky and easier to shape. Have a little taste to see if the spices are to your liking, then shape with your hand into a little less than golf ball sized moulds and lay on the baking tray. Next, you slightly press them down to flatten so they look a bit like small patties and then pop in the oven. Cook the falafels for about half an hour and turn them over halfway through so both sides get a little crispy.

Tips: If the mixture is having a hard time blending, add a little of the aquafaba (chickpea liquid) to help it get going. Gram flour works best if you have some - otherwise, pretty much any flour works fine here. You can also use dried chickpeas - in which case, soak 100g overnight and substitute.


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