Yellow Dal with Panch Phoran Spice Mix

I always think it’s kind of magical how certain tastes, smells and sounds can immediately transport us back to forgotten or treasured memories. It’s incredible how our bodies store these moments inside us - just one scent, song or flavour can evoke so many different feelings from the past.

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For us, the scent of spices cooking in the kitchen always gives me a sweet nostalgia for our days in India. It spins me off into long daydreams about our adventures. Using our hands to scoop up dhal and rice. The sweet, comforting smell of chai dancing through the train carriage. Thick clouds of steam drifting off our plates of biriyani.

Being the foodies that we are, we talk about these moments (and food in general) a lot. But we also spend a lot of time trying to recreate these special flavours in our own little kitchen. This Yellow Dal is one of our favourite dishes to make at the moment; it’s simple to make, has incredible flavour and is perfectly comforting without being too rich.

Even if you haven’t been to India, we hope the scents and flavours of this dish transport you to some place warm and special …

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Ingredients

1 large onion, finely sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
4 gloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
½ inch ginger root, crushed or chopped
250g red lentils

2 ½ tsps panch phoran (spice mix equal parts cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and mustard seeds)
1 hot dried red chili
½ tsp turmeric

In this dal we often make a spice paste first, then add the lentils, then finally add a tadka (or tempering) of fried spices and onions right at the end to create a more intense flavour. If you want to skip the tadka then you can cook all the ingredients in the paste from the beginning and it will still be delicious. If you’re doing the tadka, reserve a third of the chopped onion and half of the panch phoran mix for the end.

Celery and carrot are not traditional in Indian dal recipes but I love the rich sweetness they bring to our recipe.

Method 

First rinse the lentils, and then cook until completely soft and mashable. You can use a pressure cooker or just a saucepan. Small red lentils usually only take 30-35 minutes or so in a pan.

In another pan heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil on a medium heat and add half of the panch phoram and red chilli, fry for 30 seconds to a minute until fragant and the mustard seeds begin to crackle. Take care that the pan is not so hot that the cumin seeds burn.

Then immediately add 2/3 of the chopped onions and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the celery and continue to fry until the onions becomes slightly golden and the celery soft.

Add the crushed garlic, ginger and turmeric powder and fry for 30 seconds, then add the finely chopped tomato and carrot. Fry on a medium heat for 5 or 6 minutes until the tomato softens and you begin to see the oil separating from the masala at the sides.

Then add the cooked mashed lentils and stir the whole mixture well. Add enough water to get the dal to the consistency you like, I like it to be fairly runny and soup like. Add salt to taste and simmer for another 7 to 8 minutes until it thickens again slightly.

Take the dal off the heat and make the tadka. Heat 2/3 tbsp coconut oil in small non-stick pan, add the remaining panch phoran mix, then the remaining onion (at this point you could add another dried red chilli if you want your dal to have more spice). Fry on a medium to high heat for 5 or 6 minutes until the onion is soft, then pour this mix including the oil into the dhal, stir well and cover for a few minutes so that the flavours are well combined.

Finely stir in plenty of chopped fresh coriander and enjoy!

What smells/flavours/sounds remind you of special memories? 

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San Agustín, Huila (Colombia)

After 3 months in the city we had itchy feet. We could hear Mother Nature’s call echoing in the wind… convincing us to set off to some place more wild. Also, we just really wanted to go on a nice holiday – drink wine in hammocks, read our books and dreamily throw away our alarm clocks for forever more.

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So we planned a mini adventure during our week off for Semana Santa. First a few days in San Agustín before heading to Putumayo to the edge of the Amazon!

As soon as we arrived in San Agustín we felt this huge sense of relief and calm that we’d been missing in the big city. It sounds cliche, but we needed a big dose of Colombian countryside to magic us back to normal. So the sweet little village of San Agustin seemed like the perfect place for our wine-in-hammock daydreaming...

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Surrounded by hills of forest green, the air felt perfectly fresh and crisp as we ventured from our bamboo cabin each morning. The town itself is quiet and pleasant, with a mixture of quaint streets, artisan shops and friendly locals.

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San Agustín is famous for its archaeological parks and somewhat mystical past. Over 500 ruins and tombstones have been discovered in this area, but incredibly, very little is known about the people who once lived here.

Many of the ruins and carvings here are up to 2000 years old, resembling a mysterious mixture of human, monsters and sacred animals. Visiting the ruins is a pretty nice day activity and is perfect for getting out into the town’s picturesque green surroundings.

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There are a few archaeological sites  to visit, but we just opted for the main one (Parque Arquelogico) which is UNESCO world heritage site and has the main collection! On day two, we did a mini hike to la chaquira, which ends with incredible hillside views that make you feel small in the best way possible. 

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Aside from this, we have to admit that the rest of our time in San  Agustín was happily spent in this little spot...

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But that's what holidays are for, right? 

3 Pulse Stew with Sumac and Thyme

I remember when I first stopped eating meat, everyone under the sun wanted to know where I was getting all my protein, calcium, iron and all that jazz.

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Despite all the doubts for my survival, 5 years later I’m still breathing – and we both genuinely feel healthier and brighter with this conscious way of eating. Luckily for us, plant-based food has become more and more popular over the past few years. The raised eyebrows and invasive questions are less frequent occurrences, but we’re also quicker in our responses. And more importantly, in tune with what our bodies are in need of.

So in search of a dish that is high in protein but also incredibly delicious, Joe spontaneously created this fragrant 3 pulse stew with sumac, thyme and a precious mix of spices. With chickpeas and two types of lentils, this dish is perfectly rich and fulfilling for even the strictest of meat eaters. But it’s the blend of flavours that transform the stew into something special; with dried herbs, sweet cinnamon and lemony sumac combining to create a nourishing bowl of mini-heaven!

Ingredients

2 Medium Onions (Sliced)
5 Tomatoes (Diced)
2 sticks of celery (finely chopped)
200g of dried chickpeas (can be substituted with 1 tin of chickpeas – however these should be added in after the dish has been simmering for roughly 1 hour, or else they may break too easily)
3 tablespoons of split red lentils
3 tablespoons of whole green or brown lentils
5 gloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

A bundle or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sumac
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 All spice berries
Sea salt to taste
Fresh Parsley to garnish

 Instructions 

1. If using dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

2.In a large saucepan, cook down the onion and celery in plenty of olive oil or coconut oil. When the onions are just beginning to turn brown, add the spices to the pan and fry for roughly one minute.

3.Next, add the tomatoes, garlic and a large pinch of sea salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

4. Add your chickpeas and lentils to the pan, stirring well. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on.

5.**While cooking, you will occasionally need to add more water to the pan as it gets absorbed by the lentils. We normally let the water cook off so that the stew catches slightly on the bottom of the pan, and then add in the extra water. We find this process really enhances the richness of the dish. **

6..The stew will be ready once the chickpeas become tender and you can mash them with a fork. The final dish should be saucy, but not with too much liquid. By now, it will smell amazing!

7. Before serving, garnish with a little dried oregano and plenty of fresh parsley.

8.Enjoy! We love to eat ours with polenta and dark greens.