Quest for the perfect – dhal recipe

Another one of my long running quests is the search for the perfect dhal. Perhaps a bit shamefully, my favourite to date has been from one of those all you can eat, buffet style Indian ‘restaurants’ – so creamy, spicy and delicious. But how to replicate this at home? All of my previous efforts had been too soupy – I like my dhal thick, and stew-like – ready to be scooped onto waiting papadums.

When the nights turned cold again, I wanted something spicy and comforting. Time to add another contender to the quest for the perfect dhal recipe.

I think this time I got closer than ever before, especially in terms of texture. This dhal was definitely ‘healthier’ than what you would get if eating out – a lot less oily, and more of a fresh tomato flavour. I also added some kale to get some greens into the meal, which was a great addition – the robust nature of kale can stand up to quite a lot of cooking and so worked well.

Dhal in progress - clearly I lack the ability to cook small servings!

Dhal in progress – clearly I lack the ability to cook small servings!

Red Lentil Dhal 

(adapted from ‘Red lentil dhal with spinach’)

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and drained

1 cup chickpeas or kidney beans (I used canned because I had them; feel free to use dry, or omit altogether)

a decent shake of cumin

1 tbsp turmeric

1 red chilli + a few shakes chilli powder (adjust to taste)

1 tbsp sunflower, or other vegetable oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

400g canned chopped tomatoes + 4 finely chopped fresh tomatoes (again, the fresh tomatoes can be omitted; I wanted to use some up!)

1 tsp caster sugar

150g kale (or baby spinach)

rice, papadums, naan bread, chutney to serve (if desired).

Let’s Cook!

1. Rinse the lentils. Once rinsed, put into a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain.

2. Put the rice on to steam. In a large frypan, add oil and spices, with onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onions soften.

3. Add the tomatoes, sugar and drained lentils, and other beans if using. Simmer for 15 minutes, adding kale about 5 minutes from end. Stir regularly to ensure it isn’t sticking – add water if needed.

4. Once everything is tender, serve with rice and other goodies if desired.

warming winter goodness

warming winter goodness

Finally a dhal I can feel good about eating! This hit the spot, but I have a feeling the quest for the ultimate dhal will continue until I can replicate the unhealthy oily version… but for now this is a good start 🙂




Sydney Adventures – SUFF launch, ‘The Room’ screening and more vegie burgers

Cult movies are a big love of mine, especially those with audience participation. Almost everyone has had the ubiquitous Rocky Horror Show experience, complete with dressing up, singing the songs, and yelling at the screen.

Last night I was super excited to be attending the launch of the 2013 SUFF (Sydney Underground Film Festival) program, complete with FREE pizza, drink AND screening of The Room, which is turning 10 this year. For reasons unclear even to me, I am a huge fan of this film.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, this film is almost indescribable – overwrought, tragic melodrama is probably the best I can do. It must be seen to be believed. A film that cost $6 million to produce, but looks like it should have been made for $2.50. A lead man so repulsive the budget was probably blown on the lead actress’ (and I use the term ‘actress’ loosely) salary, to convince her to shoot the frequent, repulsive love scenes.  A ‘narrative’ which is so non sensical that audiences members are frequently heard to yell ‘Who the f*!k are you?’ to previously unseen characters. Set decorations which have led to audience members bringing their own plastic cutlery to screenings. Not to mention the game of football, whilst wearing tuxedos.

If these teasers haven’t tempted you to seek out the film, the audience participation might. Like The Rocky Horror Show, the films’ perceived deficiencies have led to ‘call and response’ amongst the audience, where, when a certain line or action occurs onscreen, the audience responds in kind. Thus the plastic cutlery.

As the audience consisted of supporters of SUFF and a number of repeat viewers, this was a particularly rambunctious, and thus, extremely enjoyable performance/screening. Prior to the screening, a preview of the 2013 SUFF program was shown, and there is a number of really great features that I look forward to seeing there – I’d encourage you to check it out!


The aftermath of 'The Room' screening

The aftermath of ‘The Room’ screening

All of the melodrama, yelling and laughter made myself and Mr A. hungry for a late dinner. We ended up at Grill’d World Square, which was one of the limited late night options on a school night.

Grill'd World Square - very keen on the industrial decor!

Grill’d World Square – very keen on the industrial decor!

But hey! This gave me the opportunity to indulge my on going obsession with vegie burgers. And I had quite a good one the ‘Garden Goodness’ burger, a mixed veg pattie on a really delicious, super fresh bun with some quality condiments, like a avocado/basil-y sauce, and crisp salad. Although on this occasion I think Mr A.’s choice was superior – the ‘Field of Dreams’ burger. It’s hard to go past a giant mushroom on a burger. I’d rate it a 7/10 (a bit expensive, and does not come with chips, they have to be bought separately). The chips were pretty awesome though, chunky with herb mix? Tick.

Grill'd Garden Goodness burger and chips = top late night eating

Grill’d Garden Goodness burger and chips = top late night eating – loved the red tin jug too!

All in all, a really enjoyable night out, especially for a Wednesday (school night!). Also appreciated the lights decorating the concrete courtyard at World Square on the walk to the station.

Blurry 'art-sy' pic of the lights at World Square

Blurry ‘art-sy’ pic of the lights at World Square



Projects – Knitting WIP – a jacket for Rusty

It’s been a busy couple of weeks – finishing up my thesis draft to hand in for a (hopefully!) last read through; welcoming Rusty home and relishing the pace of his recovery; and a surprising amount of knitting. Pretty happy about the last one on the list, even though it has come at the expense of blogging.

I started making this jacket the day Rusty had his surgery and we heard it had gone well. Being a senior citizen in dog years, he gets quite cold and shivery, so this jacket is a type of ‘welcome home’ present from me. I tested the length by laying it over him last night, with quite amusing results:


He seems pretty happy with the results thus far! If all goes well it should be finished this week (I am dreading the ribbed collar and edging and have previous failed attempts at these when they are cast on and knit up separately). But it has been an otherwise easy knit – if it goes to plan I will make a matching jacket for his sister Magenta so they go walking together as twinsies! Hilarious!

Completed knitting project – chunky cardigan

I don’t usually knit for myself. Now that I think about it, that’s a little strange – who else but the maker can truly appreciate the sweat and (often) tears that go into a hand knit?

So after a recent spate of large scale projects for others were finally completed, and with a wee bit more time on my hands these days, I decided to break into the wool stash (which let’s face is, is substantial) to make something that has been on my ‘knit list’ for a while – a chunky cardigan.

I have been wanting something that is hard wearing enough to be worn around the dogs, and to warm me up while I study (since I am prone to wearing fingerless gloves during writing marathons – yes, it is that cold in my study!).





Wool used: Patons Inca – Black

Pattern: ‘Jacket Wrap’ from Patons Inca – Contemporary Fashion, Book 1231

This was marked ‘Easy’ and was quite a simple knit on large (7mm) needles which I really appreciated – particularly after a stack of recent projects on 3-4mm needles which seemed to take an eternity to finish! I am a lover of (somewhat) instant gratification. The body was all knit in one piece which added another layer of convenience, so there was not much sewing up, which I do find a bit of a chore. My only caution with this knit is that even after steam blocking with the iron, the arm holes were a bit big for the completed sleeve edge join, so mine looks a little ‘rustic’ when on the hanger. When it is being worn it isn’t really a problem. The sleeves could have done with being a little longer, but I hoping they may stretch a little with wear.

Here is how it looks being worn – hopefully you can not see the small flaws I just mentioned:


I added the kilt pins (the largest one is a stitch holder which I am using to fasten it ) – I love kilt pins, and I think they add a bit of a military type edge to the cardigan – but it would definitely lend itself to using something ‘prettier’ to fasten it, or you can leave it open.

After wearing it for the first time today, I think this cardigan will do the trick nicely. Warm and cosy, thick and quite heavy; the weight is not felt whilst wearing it, and most importantly, soft and not at all itchy around my neck. I’m particularly happy with the high neck band which sits right up to the bottom of my hair, which is especially great if you have forgotten your scarf (as I did today).

So yes, one happy wearer:


Final update on furry son

For those of you who have asked – thank you so much for your well wishes!

I finally received the results of Rusty’s pathology sample this afternoon and he has been given the all clear!!! PHEW!!!

This is such a huge relief to myself and hubby Mr. A.! We are so thrilled and will cherish our time with him even more (if that’s possible – our dogs are pretty spoiled 😉

Thanks again everyone!

Renee xxx

Strange stress relief tactic #1 – baking cookies

It’s strange that I had never baked cookies before… I’ve had plenty of stress in the past year.

But apparently it took the health scare of darling hound #2 (DH2) to bring out the strong need to bake. Immediately. Despite the fact my stomach was in knots. And I hadn’t eaten anything else. So last Monday was the start of ‘bake cookies to forget’ week.


While it didn’t help me forget, it did (at least temporarily) soothe the savage beast within, and I did eat (several) of these.

Here is the recipe if you want to give these a go – they have that wonderful soothing ‘rustic’ homemade look and feel (i.e.: they are very unprofessional to look at, but they *are* tasty) … and really, in times of ‘need’ that’s all that matters!

Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

adapted from How it all Vegan! by Sarah Kramer

(a note – while I am not vegan, I did stick fairly faithfully to the vegan ingredient list, with the exception of the chocolate chips – feel free to exclude, or use vegan chocolate chips if desired. I also excluded cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger because I wanted something plain, and did not have these items on hand).


1 cup flour

3/4 cup rolled oat flakes

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup olive oil spread (or other margarine/butter)

1/4 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)

2 eggs, or replacement (I used 6 tbsp apple sauce)

a few drops vanilla essence

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

N.B – 3 tbsp apple sauce = 1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients (feel free to sift all of the dry ingredients and mix the wet in a separate bowl and then combine; I wanted speed and less washing up 😉

2. Once well combined, drop mounds (one heaped tablespoon should do it) on a non stick baking tray, leaving room between them for expansion (don’t follow my lead here and cut corners, or you will end up with one giant cookie – perhaps not a bad outcome?). You will note here that I used baking paper – I was using ‘old school’ non stick trays – however you won’t get that really crunchy underbelly on the cookie.

3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. If you like your cookies crunchy, leave in the oven for a few more minutes.


Enjoy with coffee or tea and hopefully your troubles will seem a little further away.


Update on my furry son

Firstly, thank you so much to all of you who have asked after my furry boy Rusty… 

It’s been quite a week, but the good news is that we brought him home last Friday! 🙂

He spent much of last week at the vet. Last Monday, the day of my last post, after his x-ray revealed the ‘large mass’ in his abdomen, Mr A. and I had a night of pure anxiety, thinking that he may have been at the end of the road… after all, Rusty is due to turn 12 in 2 weeks, so having to put him through surgery (which we weren’t even sure was an option) is not ideal.

However, come Tuesday, an ultrasound was done which revealed that his spleen was severely enlarged, and that surgery *was* an option. Of course we were extremely heartened by this news and signed off on the surgery for Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon I was allowed to go and visit with my boy – he was very woozy and so I spent three hours with him asleep on my foot:



Wednesday was pretty awful, just waiting around for the call to say he was out of surgery and that (we hoped) it had gone well. Trying to work on my thesis was near impossible, but I was proud of myself for getting some work done under the circumstances. He did indeed come through the surgery well, and not only was his spleen removed, but also part of his small intestine. They sent these extra ‘bits’ to the lab, and we are *still* waiting for the results…. but the impression I get from the vets is that if the ‘mass’ was more sinister, it would have burst long before we even had the chance to take him in. Still – *fingers crossed* we should have the results tomorrow.



This was Rusty after the surgery when we visited on Thursday. Poor little fella, he was all wrapped up like a bandaged bear (the leg bandage was to stop him chewing out his drip, as he did on the first night of his stay) – his stubborn nature on full display 🙂 He made quite a name for himself with the vet nurses with his wicked ways (soiling his bed, and ‘chatting’ to them) – everyone up there is on a first name basis with Rusty now 🙂

Thankfully we were able to bring our boy home last Friday – and within literally, 5 seconds of entering the house, he had marked his territory on the kitchen floor, as if to say “I’m Back!!!”. It was a real laugh out loud moment 🙂

He seems to be back to his normal self the last few days, hoovering down the cooked chicken, trying to steal food off our other dog, and sleeping in his bed in the sun. His checkup today went well and he had his bandage removed. The vet who performed the surgery gave me a truly disgusting picture of what they took out of him, it is fascinating how large the spleen had become (and also, really gross). I won’t be posting those here, don’t worry!

I must also say a huge thank you to Greencross Vets in Petersham, for being so kind, loving and skilled at looking after Rusty – highly recommended if you need someone to attend to your furry kids!

Here he is, back on the couch where he belongs:




So now I just have everything crossed that his test results come back clear and we can get on with the business of cuddles on the couch, afternoon walks and plenty of treats. Thanks again to all of you for asking after my boy!

Renee x





Paralysed with fear this afternoon, my beautiful old staffy boy Rusty is at the vet, and has to stay over night. They have found a big ‘mass’ in his abdomen. Waiting for the ultrasound in the morning to reveal more. 

I just wish humans and animals could communicate at times like these! (actually, most times!) Beating myself up – could we have got to it sooner? Have we been so self absorbed we didn’t notice some small sign?

I know with all the problems in the world this might be insignificant, but he’s my furry son and I love him. 

*Fingers crossed*