It has been a while since the last post but that doesn’t mean that lots hasn’t being going on in planet Gastrotastic . Our private dinner service has gone from strength to strength, where meals are created in the comfort of people’s homes and personalised recipe workshops are led by me to get anyone and everyone kitchen confident. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org and your home could be my next stop!
Recently, I have been feeling the love for some neglected ingredients that are delicious, healthy and easy to prepare. I am talking lentils. Keen readers will note that I have plugged lentils before, but in a special two- parter I am moving away from the usual suspect Puy and green and heading east in a culinary sense, for two easy and often ignored varieties. The Red Lentil dish takes me back to student days, when a 20 kilo sack of lentils sat in a corner next to my vinyl collection and turntable, whereas the black lentil dish is a more recent addition when I was in search of alternative accompaniments to baked fish. Both take no time to prepare and excess lentils can be stored in the freezer for another meal.
In the Gastrotastic kitchen we are still playing Pharrell’s Happy. What’s not to love about this awesome track and what’s not to love about Lentils?!
Red Lentil, Spinach and Coriander Dhal with Chapattis
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Peasy
220grams of Red Lentils
2 Echalion Shallots (finely chopped)
2 Cloves of Garlic
Thumb nail sized piece of chopped Ginger
30grams of Ghee
100grams of a block of coconut cream
1 Tablespoon of All Purpose Seasoning (I’m a fan of Rajah’s brand)
100grams of Coriander (roughly one large bunch)
200grams of Fresh Leaf Spinach
1 Tin of Tomatoes
1 Bird Eye Chilli
250mls of Vegetable Stock
2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
Salt (to taste)
For the Chapattis
250grams of Chapatti Flour
150mls of water
2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon of Salt
Chapatti flour for dusting
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based pan and add finely chopped shallots and cook until they begin to clarify. Add the chopped garlic, chilli and ginger later as this will ensure that it doesn’t burn and cook for a minute or so, next reduce the heat and add the all-purpose seasoning. In my quest to discover the best All-Purpose seasoning that saves you the drama of crushing a million and one different spices to create the same effect, I have found Rajah to be the best brand. You can get Rajah in big supermarkets that have an ‘ethnic foods’ sections, or in South Asian speciality supermarkets, but whatever you do not omit, as it really does make a big difference especially in this dish.
Next add the Red Lentils to the pan and cook dry for a minute or so. Unlike other varieties, they do not need to soak overnight before cooking. I always dry fry first so that the Lentils have a coating of the onion and other assorted goodies before adding anything else.
Now add the tinned tomatoes, stock, coconut cream and coriander. Bring to the boil so that it reduces for fifteen minutes or so and cover to simmer. You will know the lentils are cooked when they are soft to the touch. It is at this point you add the spinach and ghee and ghee and stir in. Putting the spinach in any earlier and it will discolour and not make the pretty contrast with the Red Lentils on the plate. Once the spinach is wilted the lentils are ready.
For the Chapatti:
I have always loved chapattis. I was introduced to them as a child as a result of the Indian influence in Ugandan cuisine, which has seen this become the snack of choice for many. Chapatti flour is very easy to get hold and the dough itself is a doddle to make.
First put the flour in a large bowl and gradually add the hot water. As they combine, add some oil so that the dough has a bit of give and knead for ten minutes or so. At this point I always pre divide the dough into balls, so that when it comes to rolling out the chapattis they will be of a similar size and shape. Roll out with a rolling pin, dusting the dough with flour so that it doesn’t stick to the pin now and the pan later.
Next heat a heavy based frying pan with a drop of oil. Wait for the pan to get smoking hot before adding the rolled out chapatti and lightly frying. A minute or so normally suffices, but the chapatti should be dry to the touch rather than oily when cooked. I normally make a few extra than are needed, as I said before they are great as a quickie snack, but heat of the pan is paramount to getting the right consistency.
To serve I always have a couple of chapatti per serving of Lentils – and this is definitely a no cutlery affair!