As I write this, the sun is streaming through the window, trees are budding and birds are singing – making it even more difficult to stay indoors. For those of you haven’t, don’t ever think that I don’t appreciate how lucky we are to have a garden. I can still go out and potter in my shed, weed and plant, sit with Pookie and the hens sunbathing and smile in the fresh air. However, needs really must and I urge you to listen to advice, think of our amazing NHS and continue to only go out when necessary.
To cheer us up (I know, only a little) my kitchen is filled with the lovely warm smell of tarka dhal, cooking slowly away on the stove top. I’m using lentils from the store cupboard and spices from my rack (Don’t forget, though, that you can also buy them frozen so that there is no wastage if you are only using a little). You can eat it as is with rice and a flatbread as a vegetarian meal – or add some prawns – or serve as a side dish to roast chicken pieces or lamb chops (you could even make a meat curry – but that’s another story!)
This will make enough for 2 – 3 but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and is lovely cold with hot pitta bread as a snack – or you could add some stock and whizz it up into a spicy lentil soup. Or you could share it with a neighbour, of course!
- 75 grams lentils
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 -2 cloves of garlic, grated
- small knob of fresh ginger, grated
Rinse the lentils well and put into 1/2 litre of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum. Add the turmeric, garlic and ginger and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes with an occasional stir till the lentils are soft – you may have to add a little more water as you do.
Meanwhile . . . .
- 2 tablespoons vegetable/rapeseed oil
- 1 dessertspoon butter
- 2 dried chillies
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 small tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or to taste
Heat the oil and butter and add the chillies and cumin. Once sizzling, add the onions and cook till brown. Add the tomatoes, masala and some salt and pepper and cook down till soft and mushy.
When the lentils are cooked, mash them a little and add to the onions, mix around to pick up all the spices and then combine them all together in one dish.
To serve, I fry some more onions in oil and butter till crispy and tip over the dhal.
FLATBREADS – makes about 4 – 6 (you can freeze any left over)
- 200g/7oz plain
- ¼ tsp salt
- 100ml/3½fl oz warm water
- 2 tbsp oil (olive, sunflower or vegetable), plus extra for cooking
Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and trickle on the water bit by bit. Mix the water and flour mixture together. Add the oil and knead the dough – you are aiming for a soft dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour or if it is too dry, add a splash of water.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes. You can cook the breads straight away or leave the dough to stand for about 30 minutes. Divide the dough into four balls (or six if you have a smaller frying pan). On a clean surface, roll each ball of dough one at a time using a rolling pin. If you pick up and move round the flatbread often you know it hasn’t stuck. (You may need to sprinkle a little flour on the surface but only use a little as too much will dry out the dough.) Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect circles! Heat a large frying pan. Take a sheet of kitchen paper and rub a little oil onto the surface of the pan. Cook each flatbread for about 2 minutes on one side – it should puff up a little. Flip the flatbread over using tongs and then cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. The flatbread should have turned lighter in colour and may have a few spots of brown. Keep the cooked flat breads warm, wrapped in foil or a clean tea towel, until the others are cooked. If you want crisp flat breads rub them with a little olive oil, chop into strips or triangles with scissors and fry them for 5–10 minutes, or until crisp.