Peace, Love & Lentils

Go through your pantry, cupboards, freezer, or fridge; what ‘treasures’ have you found? Pick an ingredient/spice/condiment that’s been hanging out for a while and give it the attention it needs. Share a healthy recipe made using your new-found pantry prize.

Spring cleaning the pantry my shelf in the cupboard. It doesn’t take long.

My share-house-pantry-space-restriction coupled with my disdain for waste means that I don’t often have a whole lot of things lying around for too long. A good thing I suppose. But this month’s Redux theme is the perfect excuse to share a great lentil soup recipe that only requires a few ingredients. I did in fact have lentils in the cupboard, too.

Lentils are simply wonderful. Not only are there a bunch of ways to use them, as mentioned in my previous ramblings, they are nutritionally impressive too. This recipe uses green lentils, which are a variety that retain their shape when cooked, rather than breaking down and going mushy. A cup of lentils gives you 16 grams of dietary fibre, and also provides you with a serving of protein. In addition, because lentils (and other legumes for that matter) are so nutritious, half a cup also count as a serve of vegetables as well. Nice.

Due to the high fibre content of lentils, and other legumes, a lot of people experience digestive discomfort (read: gas, bloating and other fun stuff), so if you’re not consuming them regularly, best to start off slow so that your gastrointestinal tract can get used to it. Whenever we make a major change to our diet, our bodies need time to adjust, so take it easy. It also helps to soak your legumes in cold water over night and give them a good rinse before cooking.

Thanks to Melbourne’s ice-cold chill as of late, I thought soup would be most appropriate. The recipe I’m sharing below is how I usually make it, although on this particular occasion I had to substitute for what ever I had available in the fridge, so it’s pretty versatile. Dinner was literally the other thing that could warm me up today!

kitchen

Lentil Soup

1 x TBS olive oil

1 x brown onion

2 x cloves garlic

2 x stalks celery

2 x carrots

1/2 x cup white wine (optional, but do it)

1 x cup green lentils

1 x lemon, juice and zest

1 x litre of vegetable stock

1/2 x bunch parsley (can sub in dill)

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lentil soup

  • Chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot finely
  • Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat
  • Add onion and cook gently for 5 minutes or until softened
  • Add garlic, carrot and celery and cook for another couple of minutes, giving it a good stir
  • Then add in the white wine, vegetable stock and lentils
  • Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour or until lentils are softened
  • Add in lemon juice, zest and parsley at the end of cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cauliflower Dhal -ing

This was one of the earliest vegetarian recipes I can remember cooking, and it’s stuck around for a while. I found it on Susan Voisin’s Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, the first food blog I had ever encountered, and was in awe of the encyclopaedia of knowledge I had at my fingertips. That was about five or so years ago now, and this recipe is always a fallback.

A ‘what-to-cook-when-you-don’t-know-what-to-cook’ kind of thing.

Dhal is an Indian recipe made with lentils. It can be as simple or as complex as you like, but either way it’s quick, nutritious and cheap. Lentils are classified as a legume, and there are a number of varieties to choose from. Dhal usually uses red lentils, which are a type that breaks down when cooking, giving a soup-y consistency. Other varieties include black, puy and green. These varieties hold their shape much better, and are more useful in salad based recipes. Lentils are a nutritionist’s dream: they are high in dietary fibre and also vitamins and minerals such as folate and potassium – and because they are so nutrient dense, the dietary guidelines consider a serve of legumes to be interchangeable with a serve of vegetables also. Pretty sweet!

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For those of us who don’t eat meat, lentils also provide an important protein source. In general, plant sources of protein are incomplete (with the exception of quinoa and soy), which means that they do not contain a complete amino acid profile. To get the full benefit of legumes, make sure you eat a variety of plant-based foods. For example, eat your dhal with rice or your beans with bread. This ensures that you are getting all the amino acids your body requires.

Back to the food. This particular dhal recipe is a stand out because of one ingredient in particular: Panch Poran (also known as Bengali Five-Spice). It really does make it spectacular. You won’t find it in any old supermarket though, I got mine from a speciality Indian grocer. If you happen to have the individuals spices on hand though, make it yourself! Panch Poran is made up of fenugreek, mustard, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds, in an equal ratio. I believe that I have made this recipe once before without the Panch Poran, and it was still good, just not as good. If you are feeling really lazy then I guess you can skip it, but hey- your loss. At the very least you want your garlic, ginger, chilli and cumin seeds for flavour.


 

Cauliflower Dhal with Panch Poran

Recipe courtesy of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.

1 x TBS olive oil

1 x large brown onion, finely chopped

3 x cloves garlic finely chopped

1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped

1 x small red chilli, finely chopped

1 x TBS Panch Poran

1 x tsp turmeric

1 x cup red lentils

1 x tin crushed tomatoes

4 x cups water

1/2 x head cauliflower florets

1 x tsp salt

lemon juice and coriander

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan
  • Add onions and cook for five minutes until softened, then add garlic, chilli and ginger and cook for a further minute
  • Add the Panch Poran and cook until you hear the seeds start to pop, about a minute
  • Then add turmeric, lentils, tomatoes and water and give it a good stir.
  • Leave to simmer for 20 minutes
  • Then add cauliflower florets and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  • By this stage the cauliflower should be tender and the lentils should be broken down, add salt to taste.
  • Serve with brown rice, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice.

 

Roast Veggies with Couscous & Yoghurt Dressing

Just something really simple with leftovers from Christmas (can you tell I started writing this a while back?). Apologies for the serious lack of posting as of late! Still in holiday mode.

I haven’t had couscous in ages, and I love Moroccan food. If you have never used couscous before, do it. It is the easiest thing in the world. Even easier than Easy Mac. Promise!

Roasted veggies

I had potato, pumpkin, beetroot, onion and squash left over. Whatever you have will work. Eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, carrot, parsnip. (If you don’t have anything left over, choose your favourite veggies, chop them up, drizzle them with olive oil and a bit of salt, give it a good mix and put in a hot oven. Roast till brown and cooked through.)

Couscous

Follow packet instructions – but essentially, cover with boiling water and let it stand for five minutes then fluff with a fork. I added lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt to mine. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some sultanas and chopped up dried apricots. Dried fruit + Moroccan = match made in heaven. I never understood those people who can’t have fruit in savoury food! Give it a try.

Yoghurt dressing

Mix:

1/4 cup greek yoghurt,

1/2 tsp minced garlic,

juice of 1/2 lemon,

salt & pepper to taste

1 TBS fresh parsley.

 

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If you are still in a post-Christmas/post-New Years/post-life in general haze and even this recipe seems like too much effort, go to Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy and get someone else to cook for you ;).

Broccoli Pasta and Getting with the Program

Ah so the weekend was momentous… I did two things that are almost entirely unheard of: 1) I ate pasta and 2) I joined Instagram. BIG deal.

It’s not that I have a problem with pasta – I am all for good carbs and wholemeal bread and grainy goodness…but I really just never eat it. A couple of years ago it was an entirely different story, I LIVED off pasta, literally, my pasta bowl would be the size of my head. I was running a lot at the time so it was entirely warranted…in addition to living with my then-boyfriend, so naturally dinner time became a competitive sport between us. Fast forward to now and my pasta love has waned entirely…but I just had a craving for it one evening out of the blue!

So this is a recipe I used to make a long time ago. If I remember correctly it’s an Italian dish that is traditionally made with anchovies. If you eat seafood then go for it and use anchovies because they add a lot to the flavour. But I omitted them this evening now that I am a boring, sad vegetarian (please note my sarcasm). Oh and don’t be shy with the garlic..(you also probably shouldn’t make this on a night that you have to go anywhere/interact with anyone you are trying to make a good impression on). Just a friendly warning.

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Broccoli pasta

(serves 1 if you’re really hungry)

75 g wholemeal pasta

1 x head of broccoli, chopped (include the stalk)

1 x garlic clove, finely sliced

1 X small red chilli, finely chopped

 2 TBS x olive oil

1 TBS x parmesan

1 x lemon (juice + rind)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

Blanch broccoli for 2 minutes until it turns green, remove from water

Using same pot, cook the pasta

Heat olive oil in a pan

Add garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute

Add broccoli and cook for a further minute

Drain pasta and add to pan along with lemon juice and rind

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with parmesan

Now I know wholemeal pasta can be a bit blah and often tastes like cardboard…but it really does have a lot more fibre than regular pasta and is higher in protein too..so I really do encourage it. If you couldn’t care less about fibre and protein content that go nuts on the white stuff, no judgement here! Traditionally the recipe suggests cooking the broccoli until it starts to soften and go a bit mushy..I love my  broccoli crunchy so I don’t cook it for too long, and the less you cook it the more vitamins it retains – vitamin c in particular quickly leaches into water- so the less cooking time the better 🙂 A lot of people throw the stalk away and just use the florets, but the stalk is good too! Just cut off the outer edges so you are left with the middle bit, slice it up and cook it as normal.

Oh and I almost forgot about the other major event: the Instagram bit! Encouraged by my dear friends I thought I would attempt to catch up with social media and jump on the Insta bandwagon. So follow me, friends. It will be fun! #themelbeanian #awkward #foodie #completelyoutofmyelement xxx

Tea & Toast [and easy pizza]

Ahh when it rains it pours, hey?

I feel like this is the most over-used saying in my life, but so true. I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands the past couple of months, but this week everything just came on at once. New writing projects to work on, more work opportunities coming in and a holiday that I keep forgetting about :/ Bottom line – not enough time for cooking, eating and writing about cooking and eating!

I have been living off tea and toast for the last three days. (By the way, tea and toast is definitely under-rated) So I figured this is what a lot of people’s relationship is like when it comes to cooking, read: ‘it takes up too much of my time’, and I can relate to that lately, I can, really! But I have a nice little recipe to make when you’re having one of those days when you get home from work and want to collapse on the floor: home made pizza! Yeahhh it makes it all better.

Home made pizzas are really simple to make, and they aren’t all that bad for you if you do it right 🙂

A few tips:

  • look for a tomato paste with minimal added sugars and salt,
  • go for lots of veggies on top,
  • try unusual combinations! potato, caramelised onion and rosemary is a winner,
  • use a reduced fat cheese and go easy on it, and
  • if you’re using meat, go for the less processed options (i.e: stay away from the salami and ham).

 

The How To … (not to undermine your intelligence but just in case):

Split a wholemeal pita bread in half so you have two bases

Spread each base with tomato paste

Throw some toppings on (I used red onion, mushroom, capsicum and basil)

Top with cheese (I used bocconcini)

Put in a hot oven for 10 minutes

Done!

And that’s pretty much it. A really quick, easy dinner to make that takes literally 15 minutes. Hardest thing to do is chop up your veggies.

pizza


If this all just seems too hard still, or it’s been a really, really extra exhausting day, then tea & toast is still definitely an acceptable option. Just put a bit of effort in with your toppings and make it extra awesome. Think banana, tahini and cinnamon (my snack right now) or, even better, can someone please tell me what tomato and peanut butter is like? Word is that it’s pretty amazing. I legitimately saw it on a breakfast menu the other day!

tea&toast

Happy toasting xx