sheep lover from an early age!

sheep lover from an early age!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How's it cooking dahl?...


"What's dahl?"

Check out Wikipedia for a bit of a run down...

Dahl, besides being a great author of kids' books, including Charlie and the Chocolate factory, is a dish of lentils or pulses, a real staple in India, and I bet in some of it's neighbouring countries too.

They are tons of different dahls and I'm sure tons upon tons of different ways of preparation and flavouring. Some recipes I've seen in snazzy cookbooks seem ridiculously time consuming for such a staple everyday dish. But judging by the piccys they probably taste downright exotic.

However, over 20 years ago when I was in India for some months, I fell in love with the simplest of dahls, dutifully prepared every week by the cooks at the Meher Baba Pilgrim Center, outside of Ahmednagar, in Maharastra state.

This dahl was simply made of little yellow hulled split moong beans, and seasoned only with salt, garlic and ghee. I cannot tell you how that warm creamy dahl mixed with a little plain white basmati sang love songs in my mouth. It was the taste of home, of comfort, of peace. Salt, garlic and ghee? Maybe I was just succumbing to the spiritually charged atmosphere? Or maybe the simpleness of it was a welcome change from eating spicy Indian food everyday.

For a long time I played with dahl making, frying the dahl first to enhance the nutty flavour, adding complex masalas after spending a whole arvo hand roasting one spice at a time and grounding it up in my old coffee grinder. Then one day it hit me, why don't I just make dahl with salt, garlic and ghee?

Tonight I made some, and then, I just have to confess, I added turmeric (strictly for it's anti-inflammatory properties of course) plus a tiny pinch of asafoetida (hing), which I am addicted to the smell of. Try it... It's a love or hate kinda thing, is hing.

Also, I made a tadka, which is extra bits and spices fried in oil and popped on top of the dahl. Now don't be mad, but I just had to use up the homegrown red onion, a lonely leftover jalapeno, plus farmer's market tomatoes and cilantro just sitting in the fridge... and the cumin... well, that was just for kicks, I promise.

I didn't even serve it with rice! Oh my gosh... you must be so disappointed with me. It's just that I had some lovely new spuds and zucchinis to use, so I couldn't very well not, could I?

So much for that simple comforting dahl... Okay, I blew it, but it still tasted homemade and nourishing. Just the way I like my tucker!

Here's how to make a dahl:

Put some split moong dahl (also seen as mung dal) in a pot
Let soak for a while in water. Drain and cook in fresh water or broth
Bring to a simmer and remove scum that forms
Then add ghee, tumeric, fresh garlic (fresh ginger is good too)
More water may need to be added as it cooks
Once it starts going creamy, be careful, it can easily burn.

Season generously with salt (& pepper too if you want)
It's ready when it's consistancy is totally creamy.

Serve as thick or thin as you like. Eat like soup or pour over rice.
Very nice with an Indian pickle such as hot mango or lime.

If you want to dress it up with a tadka, just fry up a little onion, garlic, cumin seeds, tomato, cilantro... whatever you like and throw it on the top of the dahl just
before serving.

So, get cooking dahl, darls....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fruit Bush City Limits

I'm fortunate enough to be living on a tiny vineyard, and I've found a delish-kiss way to use up the extra fruity bits that are hanging around here in the outer city limits of Sunny Sonoma. There's a couple of peach trees, lots of blackies growing madly along the creek, plus after the October harvest (here in wine country), they'll be tasty seedy leftovers on the cab sav vines.

I don't partake of the vino anymore, (but don't worry, I've had my share) so I'm glad to have happened upon a delightful little summer drink that I can home make with this fruity abundance, called Coconut Fruit Shrub. It's from a book on my recco'd list called "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the reskipees in this book. Fabulous, with a big coconut influence - afterall, I am a South Pacific girl!

Anyways, here's the way to make fruit shrub or bush as I call it:

Any fruity bits... 'bout 2 cups, and crush it up
(I use peaches & blackberries together or grape alone)
1 cup Coconut Vinegar
(available in Asian stores and now at Whole Foods)
5 cups of water (I use filtered creek)

Mix it all up in a glass container. Cover tightly and leave at room temp for a couple of days. Strain and then put the bush juice in the fridge. I like to freeze the fruit pulp leftovers and use it as a garnish for porridge or yoghurt, etc. It's kinda soury sweet and I think very delish-kiss... but! don't keep the grape stuff 'cause of the seeds.

Whoops... back to the bush: To serve, mix 1/2 a cup of bush juice with 1 to 2 cups of plain sparkly water, add a pinch of celtic sea salt and I like to add a squeeze of lime. For me on a hot summers day, it works like an electrolite drink, and if you stick it in a fancy glass with ice and a mint sprig, your mates will think you're rather posh. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ratatat -touille

Ratatouille... that delight-filled french veggie stew. What a great way to get those important servings of veggies in your tummy. The smell of sensual summer veggie roasting intoxication, wafting off the stove, and up your nose it goes!

The most important ingredient in a ratatouille, imho, is that you make homemade roasted red peppers to go in it. I know you can buy 'em in a jar, but they just don't compare.

It's easy to roast peppers, here's how:

Get your hands on some nice ripe red ones, deep red, not wimpy pale ones. Getting them in season from a farmer's market is pretty important. Hopefully you have a gas stove (if not I feel sorry for you and just oven roast or broil them). Turn on the flame and lay the peppers directly on it to slowly blacken them bit by bit. You must stay in the kitchen while doing this, otherwise it's unsafe. Once blackened mostly all over, pop them in a brown paper bag, seal and let them steam in their own sauna for a little while.

Once cooled down a bit, pull them out whole and gently scrape off the peel and remove seeds and pith. Leave in their natural state of pulled apart sections or slice. Soak in a nice bath (you always bath after a sauna, right?) of really top notch extra virgin olive oil & good sea salt (I use celtic). They will keep in the fridge for several days.

Mine kept long enough for me to use today to make ratatouille for a bbq. We have to take a dish and a story to go with it. My story will be about rats... But at least my ratatouille won't taste like 'em!

Basic ingredients for ratatouille are:
extra virgin olive oil
fresh garlic and basil
eggplant and tomatoes
zuchinni (I use a mixture of green and yellow and cut them into different shapes for each color just coz it looks good).
roasted peppers (red are best, but yellows are nice too)

and I added red onions and portabellos to mine today.

Hope you are having a lovely storybook dish of your own today...
I'm off to a barbie!!!