Red lentil curry coconut dahl

A scrummy lentil recipe for you to try, plus some quirky facts that take the lowly lentil to an altogether new level.
This recipe’s become a fast favourite.  We’ve eaten it as part of a meze feast, as a side to fish & veg as well as a stand-alone with wild basmati rice and a huge bowl of crunchy mixed leafies.

Lentils have certainly come a long way since I first spied them decades ago, an overcooked brown mound heaped beside some dry nut roast.  It took the deliciously exotic recipes from Asia and the Middle East to spark my interest and open up all sorts of lentil possibilities.

They’ve actually come an even longer way.  Not just the oldest cultivated legume but they’re also mentioned in the bible.  And as I was wading through lentil articles online I stumbled upon a blog, ‘The History of Lentils’ that claimed archeologists found lentil artifacts dating back to 8000 BC from the banks of the Euphrates.
Lentil artifacts?!  Can’t imagine what that means, can you?  I think of artifacts being ancient urns, crudely made stone weapons or broken bits of corners of obscure things… but not lentils.  [I have, however, since learned that organic material, when found alongside ancient artifacts, do have a name: biofacts.  Who knew?]
Whatever this dig on the Euphrates banks found, I now have an image I can’t shake from my head of an ancient cooking pot with petrified lentils stuck to the base (‘coz we all know how easy it is to overcook & burn them, even back in the day…back in the ancient day).

At different times over the milennia, and in different global cultures, lentils have see-sawed between poor man’s supper and sumptuous king’s feast.  What’s remained steadfast and certain is that they’ve always been nourishing, packed with fibre and protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium…

If you’re thinking split lentils are the same as split peas because they look so similar, they’re not.  The name says it all.
Split peas come from dried field peas and lentils are seeds found in pods on small plants with branching vines that love dry, warm climates.  This is one reason they’ve not been traditionally grown here in UK (although this, too, has changed.  Hodmedod’s, a Suffolk company specialising in pulses, seeds and grains, were the first to successfully grow them back in 2017, and since then it seems everyone’s giving them a go).
Undoubtedly lentils’ first love must be the prairies, since Canada’s production and export of the not-so-lowly lentil far outstrips the rest of the world’s production by thousands of tons.

Lentils come in all sorts of colours, another reason to love them  – how many foods have this talent?  There’s black beluga here on the left of the photo (looking a little like caviar), and then various shades of brown, including the smaller puy ones (and a packet from Greece).  Plus green, red and yellow, and no doubt more I haven’t come across yet.

Pulses, even lentils, should be soaked overnight before rinsing and cooking in water.  Soaking, cooking and sprouting helps break down the oligosaccharides in the tough outer skin, that can cause bloating and gas for some.  Soaking also reduces the phytic acid, which can block absorption of important minerals in our foods.

The split red lentils in this recipe are smaller than the more common brown and green variety, and because they’ve been hulled (outer covering removed) and split, those hard-to-digest carbs have already been removed so they do not need soaking, just a rinse before cooking to ensure no small stones within are masquerading as lentils.
If you’re using canned pulses, give them a thorough rinse as they’ve been canned in firming agent, an additive that stops them turning to mush (another good reason to choose dried rather than canned).

Here’s the recipe and bravo for getting to the end of this lentil story.  I don’t know about you, but after discovering all these snippets I actually love this little pulse even more!

Ingredients

(serves 4 as a main)

100g dried red lentils
One 400 ml tin coconut milk
olive oil to gently fry:
3 large banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
5 cms peeled fresh ginger,  grated
Optional: 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (or dried chilli, as much as your tastebuds enjoy)
20 dried curry leaves, crumbled and stems removed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp mild curry powder (or sharp if you want more zing)
200g very ripe tomatoes, or 200g from a 400g can tomatoes – OR 2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
a pinch of sea salt
500ml water, more or less (depends on what tomatoes you use)

Method

Pour the olive oil in a large pan and heat on medium.  Add the shallots until they’re transparent, not too coloured, then the grated ginger, chilli and curry leaves.
Stir through and heat for a few minutes.
Next add all the spices and chopped tomatoes (or paste) and the lentils.  Mix for another few minutes then pour in the coconut milk plus c 500ml water and that smidgeon of salt.  Check regularly as you may want to add more water if you used the tomato paste and not the fresh & juicier toms.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and the lentils are done.  Stir occasionally throughout to stop them becoming future lentil petrified artifacts!

Let me know if you love it too 🙂

 

 

Kedgeree, the appleaday way

I didn’t know this dish actually had a name.  For years I made a version of it with leftover rice and fresh fish, shredded greens and various curry ingredients.
One day a friend, a nutritional therapist colleague staying with us, sat back after dinner and said, ‘I like the way you make kedgeree with fresh fish and no egg.’
And that’s when I discovered my leftover rice-fish dish was called something.  I’d prepared it with more leafies, more antioxidants, and taken away some of the smokey flavour.  A tasty and healthier version, this kedgeree-ISH dish.

I use mainly fresh fish fillets with a nod to the original smoked recipe by adding a small fillet of lightly smoked salmon.  Sadly, studies show that smoked foods contain nitrates & nitrites that convert to cancer-causing compounds.  I’d recommend that if you want to eat anything smoked, enjoy it as a rare treat and not something to keep in your weekly diet.
When I look at traditional kedgeree recipes what stands out is the lack of colour.  Admittedly we don’t want every meal we eat to look like the same rainbow.  However, adding some leafy greens and broccoli to this dish livened it up yet didn’t detract from the fish and curry flavours.  More leafies = more phytonutrients and immune support.

I don’t always add boiled eggs, which of course is one of kedgeree’s hallmarks.   As delicious as they are (& such a fab protein & nutrient source, especially if the chickens are fed on a rich omega 3 diet), eggs are quite a common intolerance food.   I’m seeing more and more clients who say they sometimes feel ‘off’ after eating them.  However, if they’re a friend of your digestion by all means add them when serving up.

Here’s a snapshot of most of the ingredients in the recipe.  Please imagine a leek lying horizontally at the top, and real fish not photos, laid out on that plate.
I only thought of taking this shot after we’d scoffed it all!

Ingredients
Serves 4 – 6

250g lightly smoked salmon
250g white flakey fish like haddock or cod.  Or wild salmon if you don’t mind salmon… and more salmon
250g mixed rice (eg. basmati brown, red, black or whatever blend you can find)
500ml water or vegetable broth for the rice
2 or 3 small red onions, finely sliced
1/2 leek, green part, sliced
100g shredded spinach
100-150g broccoli, broken into tiny florets
100g frozen peas
1 heaped tsp hot curry powder (or mild if you prefer)
10 dried curry leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 – 1/2 tsp dried chilli (optional)
200-250g plant milk;  I’ve used coconut or oat
2 boiled eggs (for 4 servings, 3 eggs for 6)
olive oil for cooking
freshly ground pepper
sea salt if needed
4 tbsp flat leafed parsely, chopped

Method:

In a pot gently heat the olive oil then add the sliced onion.  Cook until translucent.
Add the rice and stir until coated then cover with 500ml vegetable broth or water.  Bring to the boil, uncovered, then lower the heat, replace the lid and allow to cook for about 15 mins.
Check the rice near the end to make sure it isn’t catching.

Meanwhile boil your eggs if you’re adding them to the dish.  Rinse in cold water and peel ready to quarter.

In a deep pan, or large pot that will take the finished meal with rice, heat 3 tbsp olive oil.
Gently fry the leek then add the crushed curry leaves, curry powder and other spices.  Gently fry the fish on both sides.  Note that if your fish has skin, fry it skin-side down before using tongs or a fork and knife to remove it.

Add the vegetable milk to the fish-spice-leek and simmer.
Most fish fillets will be cooked within 10-12 minutes.  Even though this is a forgiving dish you don’t want your fish overcooked and turning into a mush when you add the rice and mix them together.
For the last 5 minutes of fish cooking time add the tiny florets of broccoli, frozen peas and spinach.
Once the fish is cooked, gently break it into chunks to your liking.

Add the cooked rice to the pan of fish, spices and greens.  Gently fold in and do a taste check.
Do you want more curry powder or perhaps some chilli?   You may need sea salt if you haven’t used vegetable broth, or smoked fish.

Serve in large bowls, top with chopped parsley and divide up the quartered eggs evenly.

Finish with ground black pepper –  and enjoy.

Finding positives, sharing passions

Reflections on a challenging year

I hope this finds you all safe and well.  As we near the end of what’s undeniably been a difficult year, I thought I’d try to share some thoughts and ideas that have helped me through these past challenging months.
It’s understandable that our focus has been on this pandemic and everything that it has brought with it.  And yet, for so many, bright moments have managed to shine through.

A lot of clients and friends have commented that Covid has made them reset priorities, whether it’s been spending more time with family or reconnecting with old friends, changing jobs, healing rifts.   More quiet time to think about what’s important.
The countryside tracks and fields around us here in Dorset look so different!  More people are out and about in nature doing daily walks, runs or cycles when they’d never found time in the past.

Our internet world has opened up all sorts of possibilities.  Some amazing online classes and workshops are now so easy to access.  I’ve loved the virtual tours of art exhibitions, and YouTube instructional videos have never been so important!
Zoom and phone consultations have meant I’ve been able to carry on working with clients.  Webinars and online – virtual – conferences have made my CPD accessible and stress-free.
How have you found all these new online offerings?  Are you part of a zoom reading group or quiz gathering?

We’ve all been given pause for thought; all of us have faced our own vulnerability and humanity.
I know I’ve been more grateful than ever for the caring people in my life who’ve checked in to see how things are going.

A new year is about to happen, and with it new hope.
On January 7th I’ll be back at my work desk with zoom and phone in hand.  As always, an appleaday Christmas gift is here for you, a 20% discount for appointments in the month of January.  Please book via email mentioning this newsletter.

Below are some photos, clicks and thoughts on health which show a few of the many silver linings I found this year.  Hopefully there are some here for you as well  x

There’s so much evidence on the health benefits of being in nature.  I certainly felt those positives on free July days when I’d go outside and check on our new bed of dahlia babies, or tackle yet another weedy garden patch.  I’d often have headphones on, listening to a podcast.
I love the discussions on Rangan Chatterjee’s ‘Feel Better, Live More’ app.  Here’s a link to a talk he had with Dr Tara Swart that was recorded around the time of UK’s first lockdown.  So much invaluable food for thought.

https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-plan-the-post-lockdown-future-of-your-dreams-and-coping-with-emotions-with-dr-tara-swart/

Another more recent episode I found very interesting was with Arianne Huffington.  It was about the value of microsteps and rituals, both such integral parts of my clinic practice.  The discussion seemed to embrace more and more fascinating topics as it went along.  I came away feeling so inspired (although it did take me a wee bit to get used to her voice!)

https://drchatterjee.com/arianna-huffington-microsteps-and-rituals-to-help-you-thrive/

Since Covid kicked off I’ve seen many clients having problems with poor sleep, stress, anxiety or depression.
The trauma of this year is having a huge impact on our inner lives.
There are so many effective ways to help our emotional well-being but when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to figure out which ones to try.
If you’d like some helpful pointers and health recommendations as a first step,  I still offer free short calls.  Not enough time, of course, for a full health check, but certainly enough to have a chat.
Just email or call to sort out a time to suit us both.

Meanwhile, I’ve mentioned The Calm app to many clients and friends over the years.  It’s certainly been my safety net when I wake up in the early hours with thoughts buzzing.
There’s a plethora of different relaxation and sleep supports on it, from stories to mindful practices, music and sounds in nature.  All help move thoughts to a calmer space.
Here’s a taster, but remember there are lots more choices on the app to cover all preferences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4x9ssJ0jfM

This photo made me laugh!  An Australian family finding a baby koala amongst the decorations in their tree.  Oh how I’d love to find a koala in our Dorset Xmas branches, but it’s highly unlikely even if borders open!

Here are some fave Xmas recipes from my website.  We’re keeping it simple this year so we have more time to chill, but the soup and orange cake are definites!

https://www.appleaday.org.uk/christmas-butternut-porridge/

https://www.appleaday.org.uk/orange-xmas-cake/

https://www.appleaday.org.uk/christmas-vegan-chestnut-and-sage-soup/

https://www.appleaday.org.uk/chestnut-butternut-and-mushroom-pie/

Finally, a last share for those wanting to sit back, forget the cooking and read a good book instead.  These are just a few of many good books I read this year, both fiction and work-related.  I’d love to hear what your favourite reads were, so please email or message me here or via social media.

Mind Wide Open, by Steven Johnson
Rewilding: A return to nature, by Isabella Tree (what a great surname!)
Patch work: a life amongst clothes, by Clare Wilcox (curator of fashion at the V&A)
The Unmapped Mind:  A memoir of neurology, MS and learning how to live, by Christian Donlan.
Always hard to decide but I think this last one is my book of the year.  It’s not a textbook but a poignant, funny and very illuminating memoir I simply couldn’t put down.

I wish you all the very best in the coming days, weeks and months.
The world is sharing the same Christmas wish this year I’m sure: good health to everyone.

Be safe, be merry!