Much like the rest of the western population, after over-indulging for the whole month of December (ok….and half of November if we’re really being honest with each other), I’m two and a half weeks into this new me, healthy, clean eating, no wine, no processed foods, no junk (blah, blah, blah….yawn) lifestyle.
Although we haven’t faired too badly so far, I can feel myself on the verge of a breakdown. Those cravings are starting to creep up on me and no matter how much I tell myself that an apple will be perfect for a post dinner snack or how the superfood salad will leave me feeling positively glowing and thoroughly cleansed, there are definite cracks appearing in my willpower.
Let’s be honest, a salad (no matter how ‘super’ it may be) is really not going to hit the spot on these cold, wet January days, is it? So, to motivate you through the last hard slog of a healthy January, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite comfort foods – dahl.
Dahl is probably one of the most common dishes in an Indian household. And rightly so – there are at least over twenty varieties in the Indian repertoire. The word Dahl means dried legume (lentil or pea). But dahl encompasses a whole host of other dried beans and chickpeas as well as legumes.
Most people are aware that dahl is an excellent source of protein, low in calories and fat. However, did you know that dahls are also packed with an array of vitamins such as iron, folic acid and magnesium (to mention just a few).
More importantly, it is absolutely delicious, warm and filling so you can enjoy it guilt free which makes it perfect for your January health kick.
The recipe I’ve provided is made from a lentil called Urad, also know as the black gram or black lentil. The popular and tasty dish Dahl Makhani is made from this lentil. Although not commonly known, you will find this lentil available in most grocery stores in the world food aisle.
However, for this recipe we will be using the split urad, which essentially means that the lentil has been skinned leaving it a gorgeous golden colour. This recipe has a unique and beautifully buttery flavour, which always satisfies my comfort food cravings, but in fact there is very little butter or fat used to cook the dish.
It’s also very easy to cook and can be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes (once the dahl is cooked through).
Enjoy…. And please do let me know whether it helped you stay on track for your healthy Jan!
1 ½ cups urad lentils (also known as split urad)
4-5 cups water
½ tsp salt + a little extra to season to taste
1-2 tsps rapeseed or olive oil
¼ tsp ground red chilli
Pinch of turmeric
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp crushed garlic
¾ tsp garam masala
15g unsalted butter
Small handful of chopped coriander
Place the lentils in a large pot, cover with water and rub lentils through your hands to give them a wash. Rinse the lentils through a colander until you see the water runs clear.
Return the lentils to the pan and cover the lentils with double the amount of water. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil.
At boiling point, you should notice a thick layer of white froth covering the lentils. Turn down the heat and with a large spoon, remove the white froth.
Now add ½ tsp salt and a ¼ tsp oil to the lentils and stir through. Half cover the pan with a lid and allow the lentils to cook on a medium heat until they are soft – this should take about 25-30 mins. Keep the water topped up enough to cover the lentils at all times.
After 20 mins, test the lentils by pushing them against the side of the pan with a spoon. If they break under the pressure easily, they are cooked.
Once cooked, add the ¼ tsp crushed garlic (leave the other ¼ tsp for tempering*) ground red chilli, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir through and allow the spices to cook for a further 5 mins.
The last step is to the temper* (see note below) the crushed garlic and add to the dahl. Heat oil in a very small pan for 30 seconds and add the remaining ¼ tsp crushed garlic. Keep the garlic moving either by swishing the oil or moving it around with a spoon. Just as the garlic is starting to brown, carefully add the tempered garlic to the cooked lentils and stir through.
Now, add a little more water if required – the dahl should be the consistency of thick soup. At this point you can whizz up the dahl (with a handheld processor) to provide a smoother dahl or you could leave it if you prefer a more textured consistency.
At this point, you can leave to cool until you are ready to complete the final steps or after cooling, freeze for future use.
Immediately before serving, warm the dahl, add the garam masala, butter, coriander and salt to taste.
Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander and warm chappatti’s or pitta bread.
*Tempering – Widely used method in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and then added to a dish. The hot fat has an amazing ability to extract and retain the essence, aroma and flavor of spices and herbs and then carry this essence with it when added to a dish.
It has been a busy few months in the Sass & Spice world…. Primarily to do with that fact that I’ve been prepping and have recently taught my first course in Healthy Indian Cookery at the WI Cookery School. It was fantastic fun, although a little unnerving at the beginning! However, it was very rewarding to open people’s eyes to the fact that Indian food doesn’t have to be the greasy, heavy food that is often typical of curry houses.
To help prepare for my course, I asked a few friends over so I could practice my teaching skills. It was a tremendous help and I felt much less stressed at the WI course.
During the trial courses, I served this Jewelled Channa Chaat (Spicy Chickpea Salad) as a snack to replenish the cooks after doing a hard slog in the kitchen. I was surprised at how well it went down and a few asked for the recipe, so here it is.
It completely keeps in line with my Healthy Indian theme too. The dish is very nutritious as it includes a variety of veg and the super pomegranate (full of vitamins not to mention the natural antioxidants) but so satisfying as it has so much flavour.
Chaat, essentially is a loose term used in India to describe a multitude of savoury snacks. They are typically served on roadside or market stalls, where you will find the ingredients have all been prepped in advance. The dish is specifically made to order and its made up exactly the way you like it.
The reason why the Chaat is made up fresh is because it isn’t something you can make and leave hanging around for very long – it is best eaten fresh.
Most traditional Chaat’s I’ve tried have at least one element of fried food involved. Typical of my way, I’ve taken the best elements of the dish and added a healthy fresh twist to it so you can enjoy it guilt free. Its also very quick and easy to make-up (there is minimal cooking involved), using some basic pantry items and whatever veg you have lying around.
Perfect for friends dropping by at short notice or great for an afternoon snack (served with the mandatory cup of hot chai)!
Enjoy…… let me know how you like it.
For the Coriander Chutney
Small bunch of coriander
1 red chilli, deseeded, chopped roughly (optional)
2-3 tbsps yogurt
For the Tamarind Chutney **
¼ pack of dried tamarind or 1.5 – 2tsp tamarind paste
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ginger powder
4 tsp jaggery or 6 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
For the Chaat
1 medium potato or sweet potato washed
10g unsalted butter + Splash of olive oil
1 can of chickpeas, drained
4-5 Carrs Table Water Black Pepper Crackers – broken roughly into medium size pieces
1/2 red or green pepper, chopped finely
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
2-3 tsps of chaat spice *
Salt to taste
3 tbsp of pomegranate seeds
* Chaat spice (also known as Chaat Masala) is a key ingredient to a Chaat dish. It is a spice powder mix that can differ subtly by region in India but typically includes some unusual spices such as dried mango powder and asafetida as well as some of the more common spices such as cumin, coriander and ginger. You could make the full recipe from scratch but I have found very good versions in the supermarkets (such as Tesco and Morrisons) or you can get it in ethic stores.
** You can also use the ready made Tamarind Chutneys that are readily available in good supermarkets
- Prepare your chutneys in advance using the methods below.
- Peel and cut the potato down the middle and parboil with ½ tsp salt for 10 mins. Once cooked, cool the potatoes enough so you can cut them up into small cubes.
- Now fry up the potato in the butter and oil. Cook on a reasonably high heat so they are crispy on outside and soft in the middle. You could also roast in oven with a little oil if you didn’t want to shallow fry them.
- To prepare the dish (do this immediately before serving so the crackers and potatoes don’t get soggy), combine the chickpeas, potatoes, crackers, peppers, red onion, and half of the coriander chutney and chaat spice and mix well.
Tip: It is best to add half of the chutney and chaat spice initially, taste, then add more as required.
- Spoon into a serving bowl. Chop the remaining coriander roughly and scatter on top with your pomegranate. You can also drizzle some of the remaining coriander chutney on top.
Feel free to play around with the vegetables in this dish. I’ve used sweet potato and tomato in the pasts that have also worked well.
- Leaving a few stalks of coriander aside for garnish, in a food processor, whizz up the remaining coriander with the chilli and a splash of water until you get a smooth paste.
- Now, add a spoon full at time of the coriander mix to the yogurt until you get a spicy, tangy chutney. Don’t add all the coriander mix to the yogurt as it may end up too spicy.
- If using the dry tamarind, you will need to soak it with the required amount of water (as per instructions) until it becomes soft and mushy. Use a sieve to separate the liquid from the pulp, using a spoon to push out as much of the liquid as you can.
- Heat the oil on a high heat in a small pan and add cumin seeds. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and allow to fry until the seeds begin to pop.
- Add the strained tamrind pulp or tamarind paste, ginger, red chilli powder and enough water to create a thick paste. Stir through gently.
- Now add the jaggery/sugar and salt and allow to cook through for 4-5 mins. The mixture will thicken but you can add more water to loosen it. Once cooled it will be ready for use.
Tip: Both chutneys freeze well so any remaining chutney can be frozen for use at a later date or it will keep in the fridge in an air tight jar for a few days.
I’m now into week 6 at Leiths and it has amazed me and most of my fellow students just how much we’ve learnt in such a short space of time. All of the little things that you do while cooking but you aren’t quite sure why – well these have all have started to make sense now. It’s true – there is science behind cooking!
One of the key skills that I’ve learnt over the past few weeks (which I thought was beyond me) was jointing a chicken. Following a few demonstrations by the teachers, I approached the task with much trepidation. However, once I started I felt in complete control. Much simpler then I ever thought it would be. You also get quite a sense of power brandishing a big knife around!
So, three chickens down and I quickly realised that I would be cooking a lot of chicken over the coming weeks. I have to say my Spicy Roast Chicken recipe came immediately to mind. For me, this meal is the ultimate in comfort food. It reminds me of lazy Sunday afternoons with the smell of the chicken emanating through the house. It’s such a quick and easy recipe and all the hard work is done by the marinade.
The chicken has a lovely spice finished by the tang of the lemon. I normally serve with rice and a lovely fresh salad, topped off with the cool mint chutney to even out the spice. However, it’s also great with some fresh chappati’s (if you really want to push the boat out) or pitta breads. My mouth is watering as I type this!
Anyway, its very easy to make and super delicious.
Enjoy…. And let me know how you like it!
Spicy Chicken with Mint Chutney (Serves 4)
For the chicken marinade
1 medium chicken jointed or 3.5llb chicken with different jointed pieces
½ red pepper, sliced
½ yellow pepper, sliced
1.5 tsp crushed garlic
1.5 tsp crushed ginger
¾ tsp crushed green or red chilli (if you like your food spicy, you can add more)
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground corriander
1 tbsp of olive oil
¾ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of garam masala
Pinch of turmeric
Juice of half a lemon
¼ tsp of finely grated lemon zest
Small handful of chopped coriander
For the mint chutney
250g greek yogurt
½ handful of mint leaves, chopped finely
1 shallot, finely diced
½ tsp of cumin
Pinch of salt
In a large bowl, combine all the wet and dry spices with the olive oil into a smooth paste.
Add salt to taste.
Once the marinade ingredients are properly combined, add the chicken pieces and ensure each piece is coated well with the marinade
Leave to marinade for at least 30 mins but you can leave overnight too
20 mins prior to cooking, add the lemon juice and zest
Heat the oven to 200c/Gas mark 6
For the chutney, place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste and add more salt if required.
Arrange the marinated chicken in a shallow roasting tin, skin side down. Lay the sliced peppers on top of the chicken
Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins (depending on the size of the pieces). Do not cover the chicken. Place larger pieces on the outside of the tray (as this is where there will be more heat).
After 20 mins, turn the chicken over to skin side up, arranging the peppers back on top if possible. Bake for another 15 mins or until the chicken is cooked through completely
Remove from the oven and place under the grill to brown the top of the chicken. Serve immediately with a fresh salad, rice and mint chutney