Homemade Chapati and Simple Dal

My goal with sharing recipes on this blog has always been to focus on simple dishes. I’m happiest making and eating fresh, simple, and (mostly) healthy meals and I like sharing how easy that can be to achieve. There are beautiful blogs out there which will guide you through making complex recipes and which challenge and push boundaries. I don’t think I’m pushing any boundaries here, except to offer a (currently) meat and dairy-free approach to cooking that focuses on whole food, plant-based recipes.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that cooking from scratch has to mean time spent frantically dashing around the kitchen trying to whip up something chef-fy and impressive. I think there’s a chance that rather than encouraging people to cook, the current glut of competitive cooking shows on TV only alienates us normal folk and makes cooking delicious food at home seem impossibly complicated and unachievable.

Dal with fried onions

We don’t spend a huge amount of money on food – we’re on a budget and I like the challenge of making delicious meals without spending a lot. We do buy mostly organic produce although the fact that I don’t eat meat or dairy has shrunk our food spending massively. Organic fruit and vegetables certainly come at a price, but it’s nothing compared to meat and dairy, organic or not.

I also don’t have a huge amount of time to spend cooking most days. If I’m lucky, after work there’s an hour available to make something before it’s so late that only toast is practical. At the weekends, more often than not we prefer to be out in the world, exploring this new city rather than hunkered down.

Homemade Chapati

So, inexpensive, simple, quick, and nutritious are my priorities these days and this dal and homemade chapati fall squarely into those categories. Many people assume you need a full cabinet of spices to make good Indian food but this dish is here to prove that theory wrong.

Dal is an excellent dish to make on a budget, requiring only red lentils, water, turmeric, an onion, and cumin seeds. You can’t really get more thrifty or simple than that and yet it packs an almighty flavour punch. Chapati also requires minimal ingredients to create soft, chewy, earthy-tasting, and perfectly charred breads that are lovely alone but perfect with a little chutney spread on them to scoop up dal. Since they require no rise, they are completely practical for a weeknight dinner too. Being lighter than their cousin, naan bread, I find that I can also eat more of them, which is one distinct bonus in my book.

Homemade Chapati and Simple Dal

Simple Dal
from River Cottage Veg

Ingredients

  • 250g / 1 ⅓ cups red lentils
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • a small bunch of parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Put the lentils in a saucepan with 800ml (3.5 cups) water and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum, then stir in the turmeric and salt. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, whisking vigorously occasionally. The lentils should break down and have the consistency of thick puréed soup. Keep warm in the pan.
  2. When the dal is just about done, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for a couple of minutes, until browned and fragrant. Add the onion and fry quite briskly for 5-10 minutes until golden brown, with some crispy edges.
  3. Tip the onion mixture into the hot lentils in the pan, cover and leave for 5 minutes, then stir them into the dal. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve with fresh parsley or cilantro on top and homemade chapati on the side.

Homemade Chapati (Indian Flatbread)
adapted from Saveur

Notes
If you can find chapati flour, by all means, use that. It’s a finely milled whole durum wheat flour called atta in Hindi. I used an organic wholemeal flour which turned out really well.

Ingredients

  • 240g / 2 cups organic plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp organic canola oil
  • 250ml / 1 cup water

Directions

  1. Whisk together the flour, salt, oil, and water in a bowl until dough forms. Transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth, for about 4 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough sit for about an hour.
  2. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 12cm / 5″ round. Try to maintain a circular shape, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  3. Heat a dry cast-iron skillet or frying pan over high heat. Add a dough round and cook for about a minute before turning once, until cooked through and charred in spots, about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining rounds. Serve hot. Makes 10 flatbreads.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

February 20, 2014

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

Maybe you’ve noticed more vegetables around these parts than before? As I click back through the last half dozen recipes, I see a lot of green. It doesn’t surprise me but maybe you’ve wondered where all the cheese and cake has gone? I haven’t eaten any meat or dairy for going on nine months now so there’s your answer.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

Eating a plant-based diet has done absolute wonders for me but I’ve been hesitant to delve into the whys and hows here. Food choices are rarely simple. Health, personal beliefs, ethical principles, tastes, and upbringing all play a part. For this reason I’ve shied away from talking about my own food revolution and from labelling myself in any way, which I think oversimplifies a complex personal choice. There’s so much evangelising about food out there in internet land and I don’t have much interest in throwing my hat in that ring. I’d rather focus on sharing the dishes and foods I’m excited about, like this killer salad.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

Having decided not to eat meat or dairy it would be easy to focus on what I am not eating and to feel all womp-womp about missed cheese burgers and the lack of steak. But I decided from the start that I would instead concentrate on all the goodness I am adding and how flipping awesome it’s making me feel. And really, it was not anywhere near as hard as I imagined. The health issues I was dealing with for years have disappeared as a result of eating this way. If anything, I’ve become more creative in the kitchen, and incase these pictures don’t shout OMG DELISH to you, let me tell you that it’s mega satisfying to eat food like this, full of crunchy green vegetables, fragrant herbs, chewy noodles, and zingy dressing.

I’ve made this salad several times now. It hits the spot when you’re hungry for something a bit more substantial than a raw salad but still want to see a rainbow of goodness on your plate. And like all good salads, the dressing really makes it. It has a moreish saltiness and zing that makes it hard not to wolf down the entire thing in one sitting. You have been warned.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad
adapted from River Cottage Veg

Notes
You might also use vermicelli rice noodles but I personally love the relative chunkiness of soba. Other crunchy green vegetables can replace the snow peas, and if you use Tamari and 100% buckwheat noodles then this dish is gluten-free as well as vegan.

Ingredients

  • 75g (1/2 cup) raw unsalted peanuts
  • 200g (7oz) buckwheat soba noodles
  • 150g (5oz) snow peas
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 6 green onions
  • a small bunch mint, coarsely chopped
  • a small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), coarsely chopped

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
  • 1 small fresh red chile, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce or Tamari, plus extra to serve

Directions

  1. Toast the peanuts in a dry pan until a little dark and fragrant. Remove and coarsely chop. Set aside.
  2. Cook noodles per package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Toss the cooked, cooled noodles with the dressing and leave to sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  4. Add the snow peas to rapidly boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking longer. Drain again and then cut in half on the diagonal.
  5. Thinly slice the green onions on the diagonal. Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and then slice into half moons.
  6. Add the snow peas, cucumber, green onions, and chopped herbs to the bowl with the dressed noodles. Scatter the roasted peanuts on top.
  7. Serve with soy sauce or Tamari at the table for people to add to their bowls. An extra drizzle when serving really makes this salad sing. Enjoy!

7 comments     posted in:   Healthy Food, Recipe



Parsnips

I’m totally a New Years resolution person. I love a fresh slate and a clean start, and boy do I love a list. Resolutions couldn’t have been further from my mind this year though. There has been enough “fresh start” in the past four months to last me a while I think. As much as I planned for this move, of course I couldn’t really anticipate what it would be like.

I didn’t foresee getting incredibly ill for several weeks when I first arrived back in England and I definitely didn’t anticipate that it would take four months to be reunited with my husband while we applied for his visa. When you take a huge leap like this, leaving a country, city, job, and much loved people, turns out life is not super predictable. Control is not yours for the taking so you may as well stop trying.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil Salad

One of the things that helped to keep me sane amid the constant uncertainty was cooking and eating well. Having eaten out for the entire first two months of living here I was beyond ready for some home cooked fare when I moved into our flat.

I’ve fallen for lentils in a big way this winter. From hearty soups, to lunchtime salads, and simple dal, lentils have been playing a big role in my cooking. They’re packed full of protein and rich in iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium, making them a wonderful staple to include in your diet and they’re endlessly adaptable.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil and Cress Salad

This is a perfect rainy day lunch for winter. Parsnips become sweet and caramelise slightly when roasted, playing off against the other ingredients in this salad beautifully. Lamb’s lettuce has a distinctive, tangy flavour which I think works really well with the sweeter elements and of course they add a lovely colour contrast too. The dressing really pulls it all together – it’s a classic combination of tart lemon, garlic, and hot mustard, all mellowed out by sweet honey.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil Salad
adapted from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Note: the onion, parsley stems, and bay leaves aren’t essential in the cooking water, but they will add a lovely extra flavour so don’t skimp if you have them.

Ingredients

  • 5 medium parsnips
  • 2 tablespoons organic rapeseed or canola oil
  • coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2/3 cup / 125g green lentils (known as Puy lentils in the UK)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion
  • A small handful of parsley stems
  • 2 large handfuls of lamb’s lettuce

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup / 60ml organic rapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (from about 1 medium sized lemon)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp stone ground/ Dijon mustard (I think any mustard would work just fine)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with some coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F. Peel the parsnips and cut them in half crosswise. You’l want to cut the wide tops in half again so that ultimately you end up with similar sized chunky pieces. Put the parsnips in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, then toss with the oil. Roast, turning once, for about 40 minutes, until they’re tender and crispy at the edges.
  2. While the parsnips are roasting, begin the lentils. Put them in a saucepan and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for just a minute before taking them off the heat and draining them. Return to the pan with the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems and add just enough water to cover them. Simmer very gently for about half an hour, until tender but not mushy.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, and garlic in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the lentils and remove the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems. Toss the lentils with the dressing while still warm to coat.
  5. Arrange the lentils on plates with the lamb’s lettuce and parsnip chunks, tossing gently to combine. Serves four as a side dish or two for lunch with some crusty bread.

5 comments     posted in:   Farmers' Market, Recipe